Poetry Shelf video: Vaughan Rapatahana reads at Medellin Columbia Poetry Festival

Vaughan Rapatahana begins many of his poems with a whakataukī. He is reading English versions of his poems that are then read in Spanish, but I love the way he brings in te reo Māori. Words say so much that are lost in translation, especially in poetry where each word is a rich vessel – words such as karakia and whanaunga. Vaughan’s poems consider death, place, whānau, significant issues such as global warming, the treatment of Māori. One poem particularly moved me: ‘Talking to my son in a funeral home’. Vaughan wondered why he keeps writing poems about and for his son who committed suicide 16 years ago. He shares his recent epiphany: that he writes of his son to keep his son alive. Later he reads a second poem, ‘The Zephyr’, a list poem, that is equally compelling (‘The zephyr that is my lost son still frisks me’). Ah. Ah. Ah. He reads a love poem he has written in te reo Māori to his wife, because he says he finds it easier to write how he feels in his first language.

To hear this coming together of te reo Māori, English and Spanish – a poetry meeting where words are held across distance to draw upon depth and intimacy – is a rare and glorious treat. Thank you.

Vaughan Rapatahana (Te Ātiawa) commutes between homes in Hong Kong, Philippines, and Aotearoa New Zealand. He is widely published across several genre in both his main languages, te reo Māori and English and his work has been translated into Bahasa Malaysia, Italian, French, Mandarin, Romanian, Spanish. Additionally, he has lived and worked for several years in the Republic of Nauru, PR China, Brunei Darussalam, and the Middle East.

You can read Vaughan’s knitting (love) poem here.

Vaughan Rapatahana reads and responds to ‘tahi kupu anake’

Poem: kia atawhai – te huaketo 2020 / be kind – the virus 2020

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