The life of poet James K Baxter was celebrated in Wanganui over the weekend with poetry, song, drama and story-telling.

More than 50 people turned up to the Alexander Library on Saturday for an event that marked the 40th anniversary of Baxter's death.

Baxter lived at Jerusalem, on the Whanganui River, for the last three years of his life.

Joan Rosier-Jones from the Wanganui Literary Society said a wide variety of Baxter's literature was aired.


Members of Wanganui Repertory read scenes from Baxter's play, Requiem For Sebastian, Deborah Wai Kapohe sang some Baxter poems that had been set to music, and Baxter's life story was told through his poetry.

Ms Rosier-Jones said people who read his poetry included school pupils and teachers. "The poems began in Baxter's teenage years and progressed through his life stages, so we had a real snapshot of his life. The poems had many themes, from domestic life when he married, to children's poems when he was teaching, to the desperation of alcoholism," she said.

Ms Rosier-Jones said there was a chance for the audience to participate at the end, when people shared their memories of Baxter from during his time in Jerusalem.

The Wanganui District Council chamber will be open today from 10am for visitors to view stained glass windows, including one of James K Baxter.