The Baxter Papers at the University of Auckland Library1
While most of James K. Baxter’s papers are held by the Hocken Library, individual manuscripts are located in several New Zealand repositories, including Special Collections at the University of Auckland Library. The papers of literary figures are often widely scattered across institutions, for a variety of reasons. Material may be deposited at intervals as circumstances change, such as moving house or changing lifestyle; sometimes individuals are prepared to let some of their papers go but prefer to retain more sensitive items until a later date; and in some instances, particularly where collections are sold, there may be an advantage in staggering batches of materials over time; another common instance is where papers are given to a third party, such as a researcher, family member or friend, who becomes a temporary custodian of the papers before eventually handing them on.
The Baxter papers at the University of Auckland are a good example of the latter case. The Library’s records indicate that the papers were donated not by Baxter, but by Peter Dane of the Department of English, in 1981. Although there is scant information on the provenance of these materials, a number of clues are available. Accompanying the small collection of poems is a letter from Jacquie Baxter, dated 4 March 1973, thanking Dane for sending her copies of the poems which ‘…Jim gave you’, and expressing interest in obtaining copies of any other extant Baxter manuscripts. Intriguingly, there are also two colour prints of Baxter at Jerusalem, one of which was reprinted on the cover of John Newton’s recent biography of Baxter, The Double Rainbow: James K. Baxter, Ngāti Hau and the Jerusalem Commune (Victoria University Press, 2009). Newton dates the photograph at December 1970, but the prints the Library holds were printed in 1981, possibly by Dane.
A comment made at the time of Peter Dane’s retirement in 1986 provides further insights:
When poet Jim Baxter, in his demonstrative guru phase, visited the English Department not long before his death, Peter, whom he had never met, was the first person he embraced, with an enthusiastic “Hullo, friend”. I think he recognised someone whose experience of life was as broad as his own, and who shared many of his priorities.2
The ten poems which are undated but relate strongly to the Jerusalem period include 5 sestinas which were published in Landfall 103 (1972) under the titles: ‘Winter in Jerusalem’, 'Song to the Father', ‘On the Shortest Day of the Year', 'The Dark Welcome', and ‘Letter to Peter Olds'. The poems consist of an original manuscript (holograph), accompanied by a typescript version.
Special Collections Librarian
The University of Auckland Library
2. Jackson, Mac. ‘Farewell Tributes: Peter Dane’. University of Auckland News. Nov. 1986: 32.