Kendrick Smithyman


Kendrick Smithyman was born in Te Kopuru, a small town near Dargaville, in 1922, but he spent most of his life in Auckland. After serving in the New Zealand armed forces during World War II he worked as a primary and intermediate school teacher before being appointed Senior Tutor in the English Department of Auckland University, a post that he held from 1963 until his retirement in 1987.

Smithyman was a prolific poet as well as a critic and editor and was honoured for his contributions to literature by the award of an OBE in 1990.

When he died in 1995 he left five unpublished collections of poetry (three of which have now been published by AUP and the Holloway Press), as well as the vast archive of his ‘Collected Poems’. Peter Simpson is currently engaged in the task of placing those poems on a website sponsored by The Holloway Press and Auckland University.

The following note on the poem was provided by Margaret Edgcumbe:

‘ “Nadi” [pronounced: nandi] is the second poem in the unpublished book Festives/ People/ Book/ Places/ Pictures, where Smithyman describes his travels in October and November 1981 as a guest at Toronto’s Harbourfront International Authors’ Festival. He left Auckland on a night flight and the first stopover was made at midnight in the airconditioned lounge of the Nadi International Airport, Fiji. There he recalled his previous, longer, visit to Fiji in 1969.

‘As the son of an Englishman who had worked in the Fiji sugar plantations before World War 1 (see Imperial Vistas Family Fictions, Auckland University Press, 2002) he was accustomed to feeling “our colonial/ guilt’s leftwing indignation”, and sensitive to signs of inequality and the decay of the indigenous culture. In 1969 he noted an unemployed canecutter cadging money, while tennis playing accountants exchanged outdated schoolboy slang. And there was the ironically named Bula (Fijian for “welcome”) Festival, with its tired and uninviting stalls. However, on that first trip he did enjoy the windowless Fijian buses, which reminded him of his childhood in Northland and the vehicles produced by two famous American companies of the Depression years. (Their horns made a most satisfying “ooraoora” noise.)

‘In the “jazzed up” modern airport in 1981, unable to work up any enthusiasm for the shops and entertainments, those feelings of guilt and indignation remain, and he finishes by considering Fiji’s experience in the light of other examples of colonial enclaves in Asia and the Pacific. He asks, “Was it at all like this/ in the Treaty Ports?” ’


Poem: Nadi



New Zealand Book Council writer file

Smithyman Online

Auckland University Press

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