This year’s National Poetry Day poem is a classic New Zealand poem by a rediscovered New Zealand poet, Stella D Capes.

PANZA researcher/archivist Mark Pirie recently noted the poet in one of journalist and writer Pat Lawlor’s memoirs More Wellington Days (1962), with her poem tribute to New Zealand’s famed writer Katherine Mansfield, dated 1949, and written in Capes’ 30s. Her name was not known to PANZA.

Stella Dorothy Capes (née Bryant) was born on 1 August 1913 and died 20 November 2003 at 90 years old. She was said to be active in Pukekohe as a poet in 1949.

A letter in the Auckland Star, 8 August 1931, states she was a member of the Peter Pan Club in Auckland and showed wide reading and literary knowledge as a girl. In fact some 33 results are returned in Papers Past for Stella Bryant of Huapai and Manukau Road, concerning competitions and prizes and letters to the Auckland Star and short stories or poems published as a girl.

She married the market gardener Vincent John Capes in Auckland on 11 March 1939.

After her marriage, Stella appears on the Franklin Roll 1946-1963 and the Albany Roll 1978-1981.

The deaths of Stella and her husband both occurred in 2003 in Tauranga, so it is presumed they retired there to live. It is not known what happened to her poetry or how long she continued to write it after her early promise as a girl.

A search of the National Library online catalogues shows her correspondence with Pat Lawlor is listed in Tiaki, yet there appear to be no printed book publications of her poetry in New Zealand Library or the British Library catalogues.

This is the full text of Stella D Capes’ poem tribute to KM reproduced from Pat Lawlor’s book:

You sought the clear beauty
Of the white moon;
The vision of the bright star
In its timeless vigil;
Strove for the clarity
Of spring waters,
Leaping from the bush-clad hills.

Oft, as the blue petals,
Of the tall delphinium,
Delicate your artistry,
Tender as the uncurled fern;
Then—like the rapier—
Deep, thrust your words
Probing the truth you knew!

Stella D Capes, Pukekohe

 

Katherine Mansfield. Ref: 1/2-002594-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22601543