When we looked a couple of weeks ago at some of our finest literary heroes, it wasn't a surprise, to some, to see that a great many of them were women – notably in that most contested area of fiction writing.
So, where are all the men? Well, they're definitely there – and in genres such as poetry, playwriting and criticism, they're very well represented – and they're not too shabby when it comes to fiction either.
One of our most distinguished men of letters is Witi Ihimaera. Perhaps his most famous work is Whale Rider, which incidentally was written in New York in just three weeks, but he also made television history when one of his short stories, Big Brother, Little Sister, was adapted for the groundbreaking 1976 series Winners and Losers.
You can see Big Brother, Little Sister in full here:
Another Māori writer who has gained praise both here and internationally is Alan Duff. His work has been adapted for the screen and perhaps the most hard-hitting example is Once Were Warriors. The original novel and the film adaptation have featured in NZ "best-of" lists since the book was first published. The film provided career-defining roles for Temuera Morrison and Rena Owen as Jake the Muss and Beth Heke. It remains NZ's most watched local release in terms of bums on seats.
Watch the trailer and an excerpt from Once Were Warriors here:
Another screen adaptation which opened the world's eyes to our treasure trove of novelists was that of Mr Pip. Author Lloyd Jones was shortlisted for the 2006 Booker Prize for the tale. Set in war-torn Bougainville, the story centres on an isolated English school teacher who finds a unique way to create hope – by giving his students Dickens-infused survival lessons. The film version starred Hugh Laurie as Mr Pip and was directed by Kiwi Andrew Adamson, who also directed Shrek.
Watch the trailer for Mr Pip here:
On the smaller screen too, our writers have shone. For Kiwi kids of the 80s, writer Maurice Gee will always hold a special place. Gee, who was made an Arts Foundation Icon in 2003, terrified a generation with his alien Wilberforces skulking under Auckland's volcanoes in the television series of Under the Mountain.
Watch an episode of Under the Mountain here:
Also set in Auckland was Bruce Mason's The End of the Golden Weather. Set over a Christmas beach holiday in 1935, The End of the Golden Weather chronicles the friendship between a teenage boy and the wild-limbed Firpo, who is both a dreamer and a social outcast. Writer/director Ian Mune spent more than 15 years "massaging" Bruce Mason's classic solo play into a movie, before assembling a dream team to bring it to the screen. While the screenplay was written in co-operation with Mason, the film wasn't completed until after the writer's death.
Watch an excerpt from The End of the Golden Weather here:
Denis Glover emerged on to the literary scene in the 1930s bringing with him a new voice and an independent publishing house (The Caxton Press) for the poets and writers of New Zealand. He's best known for his poems that celebrate nature and for personifying the "man alone" archetype that so many New Zealand writers excel at. Arguably, his most famous poem is the onomatopoeic The Magpies.
Denis Glover's celebrated work The Magpies can be seen here:
These shores have had their fair share of poets and along the banks of the Jerusalem River lived one of our brightest and best, James K. Baxter. In his short life he produced plays, poems and essays that became hugely influential for the following generations. He himself was heavily influenced by the romantic poets and by classical mythology, but perhaps the most enduring influence for Baxter was his interest in both Christian and Catholic theology.
Watch James K. Baxter in The Road to Jerusalem here:
Another of our most recognised poets was Hone Tuwhare. Named as one of New Zealand's greatest living artists by the Arts Foundation, Tuwhare was also awarded the Robert Burns Fellowship twice. His first book of poetry, No Ordinary Sun, was published to great acclaim in 1964 and has since become one of the most widely read collections in New Zealand history. In 2007, Tuwhare's poem Rain was voted New Zealand's favourite poem by a clear margin.
See Hone Tuwhare in the short film Tuwhare here:
Cantabrian Allen Curnow has been called "the poet who helped define New Zealand". A satirist by nature, he began his career by writing a weekly poetry column for the Press and subsequently the New Zealand Herald. But his publication of The Book of New Zealand Verse in 1945 was a landmark moment for literature and he went on to win many honours and awards for his work which, again, dealt with themes of isolation and the New Zealand "condition".
Watch Alan Curnow in Early Days Yet here: