Poetry Shelf review: Mary Maringikura Campbell’s Yellow Moon | E Marama Rengarenga: Selected Poems




Yellow Moon | E Marama Rengarenga: Selected Poems Mary Maringikura Campbell, edited by Mark Pirie, HeadworX Publishers, 2020


Mary Maringikura Campbell’s poetry chapbook Maringi was awarded the Earl of Seacliffe’s Poetry Prize in 2017. She began writing poems at the age of 13 and her work has appeared in various journals and anthologies. Her poetry has been translated into French and Italian, she sings and performs her own folk songs, and is a member of the drama group Te Ohu Whakaari. She is the daughter of poets Alistair Te Ariki Campbell and Meg Campbell. In 2011, with Peter Coates, Mary co-curated the Alistair Te Ariki Campbell exhibition at Pataka Museum in Porirua, which then travelled to the Cook Islands.


Apirana Taylor suggests the poems in Mary’s new collection resemble waka sailing over numerous tides and ocean undercurrents. A striking image and a perfect entry into poetry that moves you as you read. This is a book where the world matters, family matters, and a dark edge is countered with lightness. You will read of the moon, fish, the ocean, a coconut tree.

The opening poems are like an anchor; the first poem offers a genealogy that embraces:




Born of Te Ariki

Descended from

Atea and Hakaotu

Do not judge me

because my skin burns in the sun

I know who I am

and the direction I am travelling

Towards Savaiki

Towards the Son


The second poem anchors the poet in a beloved place, home, which is family as much as it is physical. The poem is like a marker of self – and the handful of words reverberate so beautifully I can feel the scene. I can feel what is not said. I feel as though I have been welcomed into the book. This is the second poem:


Small Town


Bends in the road


a small town

north of Pukerua Bay

A full moon

Bright as a torch

in your face

My parents sleep

outside my window

A giant gull disappears

mid air

nothing is as it seems.


Enter the poetry and you enter the undercurrents Apirana spoke of:  there are broken people, women to be honoured (a woman with six children to care for is a Goddess), the storms and raging bulls inside one, suicides and grief, psychiatric care, anger. Darkness yes, but there is an attentiveness to others, the way love is also inside you, the way love stretches out and makes contact, the way love gives advice. Human to human. Mother to son.


The chapbook Maringi forms the second half of the book. It contains a number of family poems I find particularly moving. I posted ‘How We Love’ on Poetry Shelf around the time Wild Honey came out as I had made contact with Mary because of Meg’s poetry. ‘How We Love’ is one of the most moving and open-heart poems for a mother and father I know of. The last two lines make me weep. Still. You can read the poem here. It is a list poem with unexpected turns.  It has the music of both love and hate. Feeling is in the driving seat. The family stories hinted at. Just as they should be, kept hidden from our inquisitive eyes. You can read the poem here.

Mary’s ability to make me feel, without sitting me down and handing over full explanations of her life, is what makes her poems sing. Gloriously.


Hole in My Heart



It’s been two years

since you left a hole in my heart


You can put your hand through it.


Yellow Moon E Marama Rengarenga is a mesmerising self-portrait. A family portrait. It glints with light and dark, contemplation, love. The poems are full of holes, just as the heart is holey, and that adds to the pleasure and joy of reading this book. Each poem is a pulsating heart. Perhaps you can put your hand through it. Some of the poems will stick to me for a long time. Thank you.


HeadworX author page

You can listen to Mary read a poem (for her grandmother), ‘Ethell Mary’, here







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