creative writing

The Poet’s Corner: ‘Gunpowder’

Maori gather at Waitangi (Northland, New Zealand), the site of the treaty signing Februrary 6th 1840 - google images

Maori gather at Waitangi (Northland, New Zealand), the site of the treaty signing Februrary 6th 1840 – google images

Samuel J Hennessy* 

Gunpowder & the Treaty of Waitangi

Waitangi day is New Zealand’s opportunity to remember the signing of the nation’s founding document. The Treaty of Waitangi was signed on February 6th 1840, with two versions of the document present; one in Maori and one in English. Contention remains around the meanings expressed in the two versions, and, unfortunately through the signing of the document an exploitation of Maori people took place. For further information on The Treaty of Waitangi please view here.

Today those historical grievances are aired and acknowledged annually at Waitangi; the treaty grounds in Northland, New Zealand. While the day is generally peaceful, full of good will and hospitality, there is a subtle atmosphere of grief relating to those historic events. Also, Waitangi Day  provides a useful opportunity for current issues to come to the foreground. In a recent attempt to resolve national debt, New Zealand government sold a number of its assets, which appeared to be yet another violation of the Treaty. Gunpowder is poem reflective of the threat to national identity expressed in overseas ownership, the violence of New Zealand’s short history, and a longing for the resolution of the historical injustices at the hands of New Zealand’s colonial exploits.


What better way to celebrate
than the burning of sky
the Chinese New Year
the Chinese New Zealand
hospitality to foreigners served up with debt between our tongs

But we are celebrating
the dragons are wearing jandals
and gunpowder children graffiti the sky


 Smoke from a discharged chamber
bleaches the assembly at Waitangi,
the bleaching of our culture
with twenty one rounds

 A military dressage,
fancy themselves representatives of her majesty
white lines


symbols of a nations addiction to affluence
with asset sale sediment
in the nostrils of the high
What better way to celebrate
the severance of our past
than firing precision instruments of violence

 No one present can see through the long white cloud
but we‘ve pledged allegiance to the sovereign sky
believing somewhere the search for New Zealand

Can be heard upon the ocean

 Hoi Hoi Hoi i e

Hoi Hoi Hoi I e

© 2013 Samuel J Hennessy How to Hold Your Head While Painting in White –

*Samuel writes from Auckland, New Zealand. He writes poetry, plays the violin and is everything unconventionally “kiwi”. Sam can be contacted at

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