James K. Baxter

James K. Baxter, 1926–1972

One of New Zealand’s finest poets and most controversial figures, James K. Baxter was often at odds with a society unable to face its disturbing reflection in his work. As a dramatist, literary critic and social commentator, Baxter often judged New Zealand society harshly, yet always from the perspective of one intimately involved in the social process. Baxter was legendary for his appearance—barefoot and bearded—and for establishing a spiritual commune at Jerusalem, near Wanganui. Baxter died in 1972 and, in a rare honour for a Pākehā, he received a full Māori tangi, attended by hundreds of people from the many walks of life with which Baxter’s intersected.