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Jerusalem, New Zealand was a small Māori settlement (known by its Māori transliteration, Hiruharama) on the Whanganui River.
He left his University position and a job composing catechetical material for the Catholic Education Board, with nothing but a bible.
In 1957 Baxter took a course in Roman Catholicism, and his collection of poems In Fires of No Return, published in 1958, was influenced by his new faith.
This was his first work to be published internationally, though English critics were largely nonplussed.
In 1968 Baxter claimed that he had been instructed in a dream to 'Go to Jerusalem'.Baxter states that he began writing poetry at the age of seven, and he accumulated a large body of technically accomplished work both before and during his teenage years.In 1944, at age seventeen he joined the University of Otago to much critical acclaim.On his first day of school, Baxter burned his hand on a stove and later used this incident to represent the failure of institutional education.As a child he contrasted the social order represented by his maternal grandfather with the clan mentality of his Scottish father and frequently drew analogies between the Highland clans and the Māori tribes.