for Tawera & Sharron
From Parihaka you can see it maybe hope is a kind of haunting
the shape of women learning maybe it is a dazzling thing
how to startle the red earth the whenua like the threads of a kaitaka
that will be buried but not left behind that have been woven
how to labour in the present with something I can only describe
tense with the weight of a future as breath
and the sound of tupuna knocking the wind has an ache in it
the marae fills with the first language it sounds like a river
I recognise but do not understand whose blue end is coming
but the kuia teaches me how to harvest moonlight where the world begins
pulling the threads from harakeke is this enough to remedy the past
draped over her lap like a question the world doesn’t stop to answer
I roll the silver between my fingers rain rolls off the mountain
the strands fray into more questions but they say you don’t need an atlas
made up of tinier pieces of doubt the size of the universe
she takes them and rests them on her calf to make sense of this
handrolls the fear into a muka of light approaching moment
Maria Yeonhee Ji
This piece by Maria has everything I seek to admire in a poem. First of all, its structure is entirely emblematic and relevant. It does something different without being gimmicky and gratuitous. For me, the white space is possibility. It is an invitation to hope. It is a suggestion that I may read the poem two ways. Most importantly, it is a birth canal of sorts for “the approaching moment” upon which the poem ends—but does not end.
“Hapū Wānanga” has an easy unity of theme and imagery. Indeed, one of its themes, the solidarity of women—sensed especially in this place of ancestors—is highlighted by the motif of weaving. There is a blended spirituality and corporeality to this poem which hinges on Maria’s ability to make magic from the concrete to “harvest moonlight” like the kuia who shows the speaker part of this new world.
This poem is also special because it signifies Maria’s last year publishing work in Signals, the journal of the Young Writers Programme. Ros Ali, my colleague at the YWP, taught Maria at St Cuthbert’s College, and Ros and I have both enjoyed Maria’s company at many workshops and master classes over the years. This is a beautiful valedictory poem as Maria goes off into the world of medicine (and the world of more writing, of course). Ros and I wish her every success.
Johanna Emeney is a senior tutor in Creative Writing at Massey University, where she has worked since 2011. She also leads community writing projects with migrant young people and older adults with her friend, Ros Ali. They have worked together on the Michael King Young Writers Programme since 2009. Jo has published two collections of poetry (Apple & Tree, Cape Catley, 2011, and Family History, Mākaro Press, 2017), as well as an academic book called The Rise of Autobiographical Medical Poetry and the Medical Humanities (ibidem Press 2018). Her latest publication is a chapter on poetry for the Routledge Companion to Literature and Disability (2020).
Maria Yeonhee Ji is a writer and junior doctor based in Tāmaki Makaurau. She holds an MBChB and a BMedSci (Hons) from the University of Auckland, and dreams of adding a Masters in Creative Writing to this list someday. Her writing has appeared in several publications, including The Pantograph Punch, takahē, Signals, and Starling.