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'The Ballad of Joe Taihape'

As I said on a previous blog, a few years ago I started exploring oral poetic forms in New Zealand. That ended up being a bit of a wild and crazy journey … and led me to a whole new appreciation of the role of oral poetry in helping to shape written poetry. I played around quite a bit with sung forms of poetry such as mōteatea, hymns, sea shanties, and nursery rhymes ... and in the middle of all that playing around I decided to experiment with the good old storytelling ballad as well.

One of the poems I loved growing up was Alfred Noyes' The Highwayman. So I went back to that and to Tennyson and Longfellow, and to local exponents, such as Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson. In response I wrote a sequence called The Ballad of Joe Taihape. It was inspired by the painter, Nigel Brown, too - who came up with the character while we were on a trip to Kapiti Island together. You can see a photo of the moment of creation on this post!

Joe is a bit of an everyman New Zealand singer and I thought I’d give him some typically New Zealand adventures to shine in. Rather than put the written text up on the site I’ve decided to record the episodes one by one and put them on YouTube so you can take a look at them. There are seven altogether and first one is there now. The rest should make it up throughout the year. I’m not sure I’ve ever had so much fun writing poems. I hope you enjoy them!

Cheers, Glenn.

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