Poetry Shelf Friday talk spot: Leilani Tamu on the departure of poetry


About eighteen months ago, poetry deserted me. I had just emerged from a period of deep grief, where the shock and trauma of losing a loved one was just beginning to ebb. And yet, at a time in my life when I needed the words more than ever, they were gone. I remember reaching out for them, initially tentatively, carefully. And I remember that first initial deep feeling of shock – and grief – at finding: Nothing.

It felt like an injustice, like I’d been robbed of something precious and irreplaceable. I reached for those same words again. I scoured the cognitive neuron-scape of my mind, and while tattered images and scattered thoughts were found here and there, the raw content – the stuff that had always been there when I needed it and wanted to transform it into poetry – was gone.

I didn’t realise it then, but reflecting on that time now, I understand it to be both beginning and end. Few people get to witness a momentous shift within and across a season in their cognitive evolution with such clarity. Most of us experience seasonal changes that shape our brains as surprising, often gradual, incremental observations that suggest change has occurred. Yet for me the change has been absolute. In a very strange way, writing about this helps to shape up the relativity of that loss; helps to put words to what I have known for eighteen months and been unable to share.

I will always be a poet, but the season in my life within which I wrote poetry, has ended. And within this new beginning, something beautiful – that I could never have dreamed of or fathomed – shaped from the humus of the cognitive tatters of the little that has been left from that season in my life – is just starting to emerge….






Leilani Tamu lives in Aotearoa with her husband and two children. Her first book of poetry, The Art of Excavation, was long-listed in the 2015 Ockham-NZ book awards.









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