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Huri Huri

July 2, 2015

by Apirana Taylor

huri huri turn turn
turn turn wiri wiri
huri huri huri huri
wiri wiri turn turn
the wind blows
wiri wiri blows
the wind huri
huri wiri wiri turn
turn the leaves
fall turn turn
huri huri wiri wiri

Ref: p.141 Ed. Paula Green (2014) A Treasury of NZ poems for children. Illustrated by Jenny Cooper. Random House: Auckland

I love this poem. It has you almost giddy with its incessant movement. There are very few nouns and the verbs speak for themselves, without subject or adverbial qualification. There is no punctuation encouraging you to pause, but the line breaks keep turning back on you. The first line break, in particular, sets the rhythm of the piece in motion; it has the words ‘turn turn’ appear as a reverse image to the line above (as if the words were turning back on themselves before shifting in an abrupt about-face to ‘wiri wiri’).

There is constant repetition of words, but the lines keep changing. The poem is therefore full of movement but a movement that is within itself, as if you were turning on the spot. It would be easy to get lost turning around inside these words.

Reading it, I imagine a leaf caught in a tiny dust swirl – but there is an inherent happiness to the feel of this poem, too. Why is that? Is it the implied musicality, I wonder?

I suppose, also, there is a constant shift between Maori and English. It seems so simple here, butreminds us of the very intense mental shift that moving in and out of two languages (and their accompanying worldviews) can require. I would have to think that inter-lingual shift through some more…


According to the ‘Basics of kapa haka‘ on

“Wiri – trembling of the hands
The wiri is a side to side movement of the whole hand and is not a wriggling of the fingers.

The wiri represents the world around us, from the shimmering of the waters of a bright sunny day, to the heat waves rising from the ground to the wind rustling the leaves of the trees.”

According to the Maori Dictionary:


  • 1. (verb) (-a,-hia) to turn round, turn, grind (e.g. wheat), revolve, overflow, convert, turn upside down, go round.
    Ka huri mātau ki tua o tētahi tau, ka kitea atu e mātau ngā tēneti e mā mai ana me ngā wākena hoki, i te taha mauī o ngā tēneti e tū mai ana ngā pū repo a te hoariri (TPH 15/1/1900:7). / We rounded a ridge and saw the the white of the tents and the wagons, with the cannons of the enemy standing to the left of the tents.
    2. (verb) (-a,-hia) to overflow, spill over, overwhelm.
    Kei Hune te tīmatanga o te waipuke, ka rere tonu a Hūrae, Ākuhata, kātahi ka huri, ngaro ana ngā whenua, ānō he moana nui te āhua, tū ana ngā pā i waenga wai ānō he motutere TH 1/6/1861:2). / June is the beginning of the flood, and it continues in July and August, then it overflows, the land disappears and it looks as if it is a large lake with the forts standing in the middle of the water like islands.
    3. (noun) revolution, mill, grindstone.”

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