New Zealand literature is essentially literature written either by New Zealanders, or by migrants dealing with New Zealand themes or places. It is primarily a 20th Century creation. New Zealand literature is almost exclusively written in the English language and as such a sub-type of English literature.
The Maori were a pre-literate stone age culture until contact with Europeans in the early 19th Century. New Zealand acknowledges the presence of its indigenous MÄori and the special place they have in New Zealand culture. Oratory and recitation of quasi historical / hagiographical ancestral blood lines has a special place in MÄori culture, eurocentric notions of 'literature' may fail to describe the MÄori cultural forms in the oral tradition. In the pre-colonial period there was no literature.
In the early nineteenth century Christian missionaries developed written forms of Polynesian languages to assist with their evangelical work. The oral tradition of story telling and folklore has survived and the early missionaries collected folk tales. After European contact and the introduction of literacy there were MÄori language publications. No literary works in MÄori have been translated and become widely read. The MÄori language has survived to the present day and although not widely spoken is used in as medium of instruction in education in a small number of schools. As far as MÄori literature can be said to exist, it is principally literature in English dealing with MÄori themes.
New Zealand poetry, like all poetry, is influenced by time and place and has been through a number of changes. Poetry has been part of New Zealand culture since before European settlement in the form of MÄori sung poems or waiata. The first colonial Pakeha poetry was also predominantly sung poetry. Initially colonial poetry had a preoccupation with British themes. New Zealand poetry developed a strong local voice from the 1950s, and has now become a "polyphony" of traditionally marginalised voices. 
Keri Hulme gained prominence when her novel, The Bone People, won the Booker Prize. Witi Ihimaera wrote the novel that became the critically acclaimed movie Whale Rider, directed by Nikki Caro. His works deal with MÄori life in the modern world, often incorporating fantastic elements.
Writers claimed by New Zealand as its own include immigrants, such as South African-born Robin Hyde, and emigrants who went into exile but wrote about New Zealand, like Dan Davin and Katherine Mansfield. Erewhon, a novel set in New Zealand and written by Samuel Butler as a result of a stay in New Zealand, arguably belongs primarily to English literature. Likewise the New Zealand work of Karl Wolfskehl, resulting from his sojourn in Auckland, belongs rather to the story of German literature.
New Zealand has a lively community of playwrights in theatre. One of the country's most significant and successful playwrights is Roger Hall. Support for playwrights and plays in New Zealand is provided by Playmarket, a national organisation which also publishes and sells plays and scripts. Playmarket also represents MÄori and Pacific Island playwrights.
- ↑ Green, P., & Ricketts, H. (2010). 99 Ways into New Zealand Poetry. Auckland: Random House.
- ↑ Swarbrick, Nancy (updated 13 January 2009). "Creative life". Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. http://www.teara.govt.nz/NewZealandInBrief/CreativeLife/6/en. Retrieved 2009-04-26.
- NZ Listener: The 50 best New Zealand books
- New Zealand Electronic Text Centre
- New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre
- New Zealand Book Council
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