Tag Archives: Ben Brown

Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Ben Brown’s ‘Writing on the Moon’

Writing on the Moon

Writing on the moon

with a feather dipped

in light

The sickle of

tomorrow’s sun

reflecting possibilities

The shadow of

the world defines

unlimited imagining

Ben Brown (2020)

Ben Brown (Ngāti Mahuta, Ngāti Koroki, Ngāti Paoa) was born 1962 in Motueka, which is further away from him now than he cares to think about. He has been writing all his life for his own enjoyment and published his first children’s book in 1991. He is an award winning author who writes for children and adults across all genres, including poetry, which he also enjoys performing. Generally, if pressed, he will have something to say about anything. In May 2021 he was made the inaugural NZ Reading Ambassador for Children – Te Awhi Rito. He is also a father of two, which he considers his best work to date. He lives in Lyttelton above a pie shop across the road from the sea.

Māori poets celebrate Matariki

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An exciting group of Māori poets – several of the country’s leading poets and some emerging writers – will come together to celebrate Matariki with readings and korero at a free event on Saturday June 28.

Māori Poets Celebrate Matariki features Ben Brown from Lyttelton, Apirana Taylor from Kapiti, with Auckland’s own Robert Sullivan, and social historian, novelist and poet, Kelly Ana Morey, from Mangawhai. It also features writer Te Awhina Arahanga, publisher and poet Kiri Piahana-Wong, and an emerging young poet Amber Esau.

This is a rare opportunity to hear some of the leading Māori poets in Aotearoa today, together with the next generation of talented young writers. It is a free event, part of the 2014 Matariki Festival, supported by Auckland Council and the Michael King Writers’ Centre.

Where:  Depot Artspace, 28 Clarence St, Devonport, Auckland
When:   Saturday, June 28, 2014, 4 pm

Ben Brown’s The Kindling and the Blaze is poetry from the heart

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Ben Brown Between the Kindling and the Blaze (Anahera Press, 2013)

Ben Brown (Ngāti Paoa, Ngāti Mahuata) is an award-winning writer, performer and children’s author currently living in Lyttelton. His debut poetry collection, Between the Kindling and the Blaze, was completed during his residency at the Michel King Writers’ Centre in Devonport. He has previously released a CD of poetry entitled Dogtown (2010).

With scant collections by Māori writers making an appearance in New Zealand’s poetry scene, this book is an important arrival. Ben declares from the outset that these poems are ‘reflections on the concept of mana.’ A preface story introduces humans (a man) to the vastness and the smallness of the world: mountain, rock, grain of sand, tree. It speaks of how a human can furnish a shelter from sand, rock and wood, and how it can be built with both love and dignity. In this way, a family shelter becomes ‘a place of mana.’

The book, fittingly, is dedicated to whānau.

And so the poems, also a shelter for friends, family, whānau, are miniature edifices crafted with dignity and love. These poems become vessels for the poet’s loving kōrero. Mana is there between the kindling and the blaze, between an idea and and an experience. Mana is in the wisdom of the grandfather, but it is in a host of surprising things. Through this poetic contemplation, you are taken from moko to hui, from the ‘concrete cold of a city’ to Presidential dreamings, from James K Baxter to Hone Tuwhare. The poems become reattached to the world–to values and to customs.

Ben centres a lot of the poems on the page (Western poets have a habit of hugging the left-hand margin). It becomes a different way of reading with the billowing, silent beats on either side of the poems. It accentuates the music of the shortened lines that swell and contract like the belly of a vessel (that place for kōrero that comes from the heart, but that holds itself open to politics).

Listening to a selection of the poems on the CD, heightens the music and the sense of contemplation. I particularly loved ‘Taniwha’ (a subtle evocation of the force that ‘is there for all to see’), the lyrical delights of ‘The heron is God,’ the cheeky warm tribute to Hone Tuwhare in ‘Chur bro,’ the twists and turns of ‘I am the Māori Jesus’ as it jams with the Baxter original. Like Hone, Ben mixes up his language, mixes up the voices, the tone of the lines.

The book, like a good LP, demands to be replayed.

Anahera Press page

New Zealand Book Council page

Storylines page

Random House page

Interview with NZ Children’s Authors, Christchurch Public Library