thinks about driving to Waihao to fetch some uku to make a koauau. It’s at Waihao Box where you said the local boaties couldn’t stand walking around your group of mana whenua collecting uku for taonga pūoro. I want to play taonga pūoro like you. It’ll improve my poetry readings where I need to lean against the fourth wall to be heard.
It ain’t easy. I still can’t click my fingers properly let alone make a clay flute in my head. It’s the idea that some non-Māori boaties are out there waiting to troll me for holding up their kayak adventure when this billy goat wants a koauau journey for healing. Āuē. I’m still in my dressing gown. If only Tangaroa would be my valet. Tomorrow it’s Mutuwhenua. I don’t even know the tides.
Robert Sullivan belongs to the Ngāpuhi and Kāi Tahu iwi. He has won awards for his editing, poetry, and writing for children. Tunui Comet is his eighth collection of poetry. Robert’s an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Massey University. He is a great fan of all kinds of decolonisation.
It’s almost a month since I celebrated the arrival of glorious poet, editor and mentor Chris Tse as our National Poet Laureate.
Time then to give a blog update. I feel like, as I just said on Twitter, I have emerged from the stables after the past months, and my mind is like a horse galloping cantering dancing around the paddock before settling in for a long nap. Glorious. A bone marrow transplant is such a refresher for the mind.
I have read so much this year – and in my time back home pretty much a sublime book per day. It got me musing on how I had to hunt hard for good children’s titles as so few of them had been reviewed in New Zealand. I was musing on how I love our local children’s book communities, what they are producing, and how in my experience children still love books: reading and writing, stories and poems! Against my better judgement, with my energy tank far from full, still coping with physical challenges, I decided to transform Poetry Box into a celebration hub for children’s books, for adults and for the young, all book categories. To challenge children to write poems. To challenge adults to share children’s books. To make as many connections as I can.
I am motivated to support our young readers and writers, to support our wonderful local children’s authors, and to showcase our fabulous librarians, booksellers, and publishers.
I am also doing my own secret writing projects because words are what hold me on an even keel at the moment – writing and reading make my heart sing and allow zero room for negativity or ‘if only’ or ‘why me?’ or glumness in my head. No matter what challenges I face.
But crazily madly a part of me also wants to wake up Poetry Shelf. And yes madness as this blog has always taken such a big bite of me. Not just the posts I assemble and write but all the communications and responses to requests – and even at times, aggressive emails. I can’t cope with demands at the moment, or deadlines, or even feeling like I am failing. When I don’t get to celebrate all your magnificent books, even when I have loved reading something, or when I have loved a book a little less, I feel bad. That becomes a form of failing for me. Not good.
So I am trying to make a plan where I can wake up Poetry Shelf just a tiny bit. What I want to do is occasionally review a poetry book I have loved or post a poem I have loved – or even post a notice now and then. Without rigid commitment or tight schedules or comprehensive coverage or worrying about what I don’t do.
So this is what I am thinking. I might never answer your emails or the phone. But slowly, step by step, I will start to shine little lights again on our fabulous poets and what they are doing. To share the way poetry is a source of joy and challenge, is balm and solace, refreshment – is re-engagement with our fickle and vulnerable and beloved world.
Watch this space!
Oh and keep an eye out for Roar Squeak Purr (my big anthology of animal poems by adults and children, out mid October thanks to the wonderful team at Penguin).
PS I can’t tell you how much your cards and poem choices and the books (and chocolate!) you popped in the post have meant to me. I still have three envelopes to open for days when I feel fatigue and pain and glumness settling in. A thousand times thank you for your support and care and generosity. It has mattered so much.