Aquinas College student wins poetry competition

Aquinas Deputy Principal Kurt Kennedy, Jessica Wylie and Buddy Mikaere.

Jessica Wylie from Aquinas College is the 2019 winner of the Battle of Gate Pa Commemoration Writing Competition.

Local historian Buddy Mikaere presented Jessica with her prize at the school assembly on Tuesday morning.

“I did some research on the battle and last year in English we’d studied Wilfred Owen and his war poetry and I really liked that,” says Jessica.

“I was inspired by him in the New Zealand context and was trying to write the research I’d done in his words.”

Buddy addressed the college students with a brief outline of why he had started the competition.

“You have the special privilege of being close to a famous historical site in terms of Tauranga’s history, with the Te Ranga battlefield just up the road here,” says Buddy.

“Over the last few decades we’ve been trying as a hapu to raise the profile of our local history. This had a boost in 2014 when we had the 150th commemoration of both battles - the Battle of Gate Pa and also the battle here in Te Ranga.

“This poetry competition is part of an ongoing effort to raise the profile. I think it is important that we as people in Tauranga and the Tauranga region have a knowledge of our local history.

“As a historian it’s my belief that you can’t go forward into the future unless you have a really good grasp of where you came from and how it affects our lives today.”

Following Buddy’s presentation of the award, Jessica read her winning poem ‘Te Ranga Remembers’ to the school assembly.

This is the second year that Buddy has run the poetry competition, in partnership with Aquinas College, and it was a joint initiative with the Social Science and English Departments.

Aquinas College is located between the Battle of Gate Pa and the Battle of Te Ranga sites.

“Knowing the significance of this site and the history of it is important to us,” says Aquinas College Deputy Principal Kurt Kennedy.

“May we long continue this partnership with Buddy.”

“I’m hoping that this will start a tradition so that it carries on,” says Buddy, “and that every year people will know that Aquinas has a poetry competition.

“I’d like to also extend it further to others from the local schools.”

Te Ranga Remembers

Cold lilac light

Filters over rugged trenches

Shovels’ steady rhythm

Cut at the earth

Misty dawn surrounds the troops, 600 strong

1200 feet marching in sync

A battle cry breaks the calm thrum of digging

Soldiers appear, bearing down on the iwi

Cries of fear pierce the air as the blue army descends

A frantic rush, panic, mad scramble for weapons

Men swarm the land

Crack! Crack! Crack!

Shining rifles spit bullets

Bang! Bang! Bang!

Rusted muskets return fire

Artificial noises turn more human

The crack of a head against a gun

Grunts of pain and wails

The sickening squelch of a spear through flesh

Bare chests stained crimson

Flax skirts swishing angrily

Navy wool smeared in gunpowder

Brass buttons wrenched from uniforms

Wooden patu clash and splinter

Sharpened swords spray blood

Two sides blur into one

The fighting continues

Close and personal

A fight for vengeance

A fight for whenua

But then they start to fall

Man after man from the iwi

Left motionless

Bullets winning over spears

Lead over wood

The rest turn and flee

The British give chase

Victory coursing through their veins

Bare feet move soundlessly over the forest floor

Heavy boots slap in pursuit against fallen leaves

Trees snatch at clothing

Branches scratch at skin

Hammering horse hooves join the chase

Mixing with the pounding of blood through ears

Of terror

Of triumph

An all consuming symphony

Over 100 Maori fallen

13 British lives lost

Next morning comes

Dawn light more grey

Same pain penetrating both camps

Same hatred of the war just fought

Both sides feel the losses

See gaps where friends should be

Both hear echoes of ringing gunshots

Smell gunpowder embedded in skin

Both taste the memory of coppery blood

Seeping into the earth

Ensuring Te Ranga never forgets

-Jessica Wylie


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