Paula Green from The Baker’s Thumbprint, Seraph Press, 2013
Paula Green from The Baker’s Thumbprint, Seraph Press, 2013
So the story goes
that trickster Kupe
cheated his friend
into diving overboard
to free the lines
then paddled rapidly away.
Best to know that
legendary navigators take huge risks
and do not make the safest companions.
she asked herself—
what do I want—
home in Hawaiki
or the travelling years?
What does he want—
the waka my father gifted—
Matahourua and me?
Or maybe unhappiness
with the man she’d married
drove her to the coast.
she was curious and Hoturapa wasn’t
the kind of man who liked a journey
so she chose Kupe.
Yet even an inveterate traveller
might become weary in a waka
on the open sea,
looking out for landfall.
Travelling direct to her destination—
as the future loomed towards her
she named that radiant land
on the horizon
©Briar Wood from Rāwāhi
Briar Wood grew up in South Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand. Until 2012, she lived and worked as a lecturer in Britain. Welcome Beltane (Palores Press, 2012) made poetic links between family histories and contemporary places. The most recent collection Rāwāhi (Anahera Press, 2017) is focused through a return to Northland places where her Te Hikutū ki Hokianga, Ngāpuhi Nui whakapapa resonates with ecological concerns.
I wanted what happened to be something
I could know
and I wanted what I knew to be something
I could describe
something to which others could say
I know this
this happened to me also.
At the back of the room is a mirror
dreaming it’s become itself at last.
I keep walking
as if I know all the parts
and could play them.
Gregory Kan is a writer and coder based in Wellington. His poetry has been featured or is forthcoming in literary journals such as the Atlanta Review, Landfall, The Listener, SPORT and Best New Zealand Poems. His poetry and philosophical works have also featured in exhibitions and publications for contemporary art institutions such as the Auckland Art Gallery, Artspace, the Adam Art Gallery, the Dunedin Public Art Gallery and the Physics Room. Auckland University Press published his first book, This Paper Boat, in 2016. An earlier incarnation of This Paper Boat was shortlisted for the Kathleen Grattan Poetry Prize in 2013. The book was also a finalist in the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards for Best Poetry in 2017. He was a Grimshaw-Sargeson Fellow for 2017. His second poetry collection, Under Glass, is forthcoming.
Poet Laureate, Selina Tusitala Marsh, with fue and ‘Tusitala.’ Photographer: Fiona Lam Sheung
Poet Laureate, Matahiwi, tokotoko
Last weekend at Matahiwi marae near Clive, Selina Tusitala Marsh received her very own tokotoko. Since her appointment as Laureate in August last year she has been inseparable from the National Library’s matua tokotoko, loaned in anticipation of Jacob Scott creating hers. During that time Selina has shared this taonga with ‘three thousand pairs of hands’ from students of St Joseph’s school in Otahuhu – on the tokotoko’s first public outing – to those of Barack Obama on his recent visit to New Zealand. It’s been on protest marches, on half marathons and has even been dunked in a river – by accident, I think. All of this is a far cry from the tokotoko’s more sedate duties of sitting in a display case at the Auckland office of the National Library, and there can be no going back now! This preamble to last weekend speaks volumes for where Selina has taken the work of the Poet Laureate; it’s ‘out there’ like never before.
John Buck of Te Mata Winery in Hawkes started all this off in 1996 when he initiated the Te Mata Estate Laureate Award. Together with the honour, each Laureate received a tokotoko and a generous stipend of wine – and still do. The National Library took over responsibility for the Laureate in 2007 and Michele Leggott was the first Laureate appointed by the Library. Michele joined Selina last weekend with friends and fellow poets Tusiata Avia and Serie Barford. Selina’s family and the National Library were there in good numbers. It was quite a party all in all.
Selina and family with Luka her brother with the guitar, leading a waiata. Photographer: Elizabeth Jones
Jacob Scott having just unveiled ‘Tusitala’ before presenting it to Selina. Photographer: Elizabeth Jones
Selina has been working closely with Jacob on the creation of her tokotoko and was amazed, as we all were, with what Jacob has made. Selina’s tokotoko – ‘Tusitala’ – is carved out of maire, our heaviest indigenous wood, sharing that distinction with the matua tokotoko, to which it has other carved features in common. It is splendidly crowned with a fue or Samoan orator’s fly whisk – and clearer of the air of any unsympathetic spirits. To aid in what will undoubtedly be a lot of travel, the tokotoko is made in several sections and the fue, which was a gift to Selina from His Highness Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi, unscrews off the top.
I’m restricting myself to korero about the tokotoko because it is central to the way Selina thinks of her part in the Laureate story, and it feels right to allow Selina first go at capturing the spirit of the weekend. There was poetry aplenty, there was the most talented lot of students performing in Selina’s honour, and cool days on the edge of spoiling rain held at bay I’m sure by the warmth and breadth of Selina’s smile. There was Poets’ Night Out, the public reading on Saturday night in Havelock North, another round of pizza at Pipi café, kaumatua Tom Mulligan presiding with his special brand of manaakitanga and pride in what the Laureate means for Matahiwi. It was thrilling, exhausting, scintillating, as words blazed a trail across the firmament of poetry – and I badly need for it all to happen again this weekend. Most of all there was warmth and celebration and aroha by the bucketful. To close, a salute to Selina, our brilliant ‘Fast Talking PL.’
Matua tokotoko in foreground joining protest against new marina on Waiheke on penguin nesting ground. Photographer unidentified.
Peter Ireland, 20 April 2018
Peter Ireland has ‘minded’ the Poets Laureate for the National Library since 2007. They seem not to have minded.
Māori television clip
NZ Herald and Hawkes Bay Today clip
I am thinking of creating (private) lists of books to read in particular circumstances. For example what to read when you have no power or running water and can only read by candlelight after a day consumed with slow-paced domestic chores. Thrillers worked for me.
And David Merrit’s Crisis & Duplication. I sat on the couch in the grey gloom and read it three times in a row. It is a slender chapbook published by Compound Press last year.
The book is in two halves with a foldout centrepiece. The first half draws Frank Sargeson into the poet’s musing self-reflective quick-fire monologue. It is sharp, angular and surprising.
I always seem to be writing poems in Wellington
sunlight on a cold but bright winter’s day. I will
be outside a cafe in reflected mirror glass, dodging
bullets, writing inbetween showers & dristy
David is musing on the mirror image: himself and Frank, the connections, the writing surges and space for improvement. It is audacious, spiky, riveting.
It’s an easy poem this, preordained, quick
off the tongue, one poet, very alive,
400 miles south for now, compares life
& times with another poet, 60 years
ago still alive & kicking, a Janet Frame
tucked away in a back shed, her glittering
far away eyes focused on her own escape,
‘cept you like me, we never escaped to
the place they call overseas.
The second half navigates the stages of making a book – not a big press book but a grassroots number. A miniature history of desktop publishing. It is risograph printed and bound with premium banana box card. Excellent to look at and hold.
So what do I do in a mini crisis? Will I set up invented conversations with someone who has affected me (also in the garden? writing poems? reading books?)? Is the occasion of writing a poem a crisis for some? A tilt, a topple, a brief epiphany?
To what degree is a poem a duplication?
In the grey gloom with no idea when the lights would be on, the spaghetti effect of questions was extremely welcome. Then again so was the downright admiration of the words on the line.
Yes, I recommend this book highly. Power or no power.
Interview and book details at Compound Press page.
Well this is good news! It seems the Wellington literary extravaganza just gets better and better.
Looks like a trip to Wellington is in order!
Chris Tse to guest curate LitCrawl 2018
Poet Chris Tse is the inaugural guest curator for LitCrawl. We are tremendously excited to welcome Chris to the programming team where he will be conjuring up events alongside directors Claire Mabey and Andrew Laking.
Chris is the author of two poetry collections published by Auckland University Press: How to Be Dead in a Year of Snakes (finalist at the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards and winner of the Jessie Mackay Award for Best First Book) and HE’S SO MASC. Chris has a long history of involvement with some of Wellington’s leading arts and culture events, including roles with the New Zealand International Film Festival, Wellington on a Plate, Young and Hungry, and the New Zealand Young Filmmakers Showcase. As well as writing, Chris is an occasional actor and musician, and a keen photographer.
We know Chris will help curate an amazing programme for LitCrawl. Why? Because he gets what it’s all about:
‘LitCrawl is the biggest little literary festival in New Zealand. I wish I could say that I’ve seen it grow from the beginning, but I missed the very first LitCrawl in 2014 (I was bawling my eyes out at a Tori Amos concert in Melbourne). But! I’ve had the privilege of appearing in each LitCrawl since then and I’m thrilled to be on board this year as a guest curator.
The audiences at LitCrawl are some of the most diverse you’ll see here in New Zealand or abroad. Survey the faces present at any given event and you’ll see people from all walks of life brought together by a common curiosity. Although literature is front and centre, I love the cross-pollination with other arts and culture circles that happens during LitCrawl. There’s an exhilarating energy at every event, and the post-match party has become the social event in Wellington’s literary calendar.’