Tag Archives: Hinemoana Baker

Poetry Shelf Live and the Wellington Writers Programme

 

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‘We are making our grandchildren’s world with our words. We

perceive a world in which everyone sits at the table together, with enough for everyone.

We will make this country great again.’

 

Joy Harjo from ‘Advice for Countries, Advanced, Developing and falling’ in An American Sunrise (2019)

 

 

 

A weekend in Wellington is always a treat – especially when there are writers and readers events on. I had a blue-sky, social-charging time and I loved it. Laurie Anderson on the Friday night delivered an improvised platter of musical quotations with a handful of musicians that together created a wow blast of sound and exquisite individual turns on percussion, strings, keyboards. Ah transcendental. Just wonderful. Read Simon Sweetman‘s thoughts on the night – he describes it far better than I can.

One bowl of muesli and fruit, one short black and I was all set for a Saturday of listening to other authors. First up Coming to our Senses with Long Litt Woon (The Way through the Woods) and Laurence Fearnley (Scented). Laurence is on my must-read stack by my reading sofa. Her novel engages with the landscape by way of scent, sparked perhaps by by her long interest in the scent of the outdoors. I loved this from her: ‘Writing about the South Island is a political act – I’m digging my heels in and see myself as a regionalist writer’. I also loved this: ‘I’m not a plot-driven novelist. I tend to like delving into sentences. I like dense descriptions. I imagined the book as dark brown.’

Next went to a warm, thoughtful, insightful conversation: Kiran Dass and Jokha Alharthi (Celestial Bodies). Fabulous!

And of course my poetry highlight: Selina Tusila Marsh in conversation with USA Poet Laureate Joy Harjo. I had been reading Joy in preparation for my Poetry Live session and utterly loved her writing. This is how I introduced her on Sunday:

Joy Harjo is a performer, writer (and sax player!) of the Muscogee Creek Nation. She’s the current US Poet Laureate with many awards and honours and has published nine poetry collections, a memoir, a play, produced music albums. She lives in Tulsa Oklahoma where she is a Tulsa Artist Fellow. Reading Joy’s poems, words are like a blood pulse as they question and move and remember – in place out of place in time out of time. I have just read Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings and An American Sunrise. This was what I was thinking when we have to endure the multiple offensiveness of Trump in our faces even at the bottom of the world to pick up Joy’s poetry is a balm that takes you behind and beyond and above and below into a different USA and it is heartbreaking and wounding and the poems might be like rooms where you mourn but each collection is an opportunity for breathtaking body anchoring travel that allows you to see and feel afresh. Joy’s poetry is so very necessary, If you read one poem this weekended read ‘How to Write a Poem in a Time of War’ from An American Sunrise.

But if you went on Saturday night you got to hear Joy read a good sized selection of poems, including the poem I mention above! Joy’s response to her appointment as the first Native American Poet Laureate in USA: ‘a profound announcement for indigenous people as we’ve been so disappeared. I want to be seen as human beings and this position does that. Human beings write poetry. Even if it’s oral, it’s literature.’

So many things to hold close that Joy offered: ‘No peace in the world until all our stories have a place, until we all have a place of respect.’

She suggested we could think of poems as ‘little houses, little bird houses for time grief joy heartbreak anything history what we cannot hold. Go to poetry for times of transformation, to celebrate and acknowledge birth, to acknowledge death. We need poetry.’

Joy: Indigenous poets are often influenced by oral traditions – a reading voice singing voice flute voice more holistic.

Joy: You start with the breath. Breath is essentially spirit.

Joy: You learn about asking, asking for help.

Joy: Probably the biggest part is to listen. You have to be patient.

Joy: The lessons get more intense.

Joy: If you are going to listen to a stone, what range is that?

 

My energy pot was on empty so was in bed by 8 pm, and so very sadly missed Chris Tse’s The Joy Of Queer Lit Salon. From all accounts it was a breathtaking event that the audience want repeated.

 

Sunday and I hosted Paula Green’s Poetry Shelf Live. Lynn Jenner was unwell (I was so looking forward to hearing her read as her inventive and moving Peat is so good). My dear friend Tusiata Avia was in town coincidentally so she stepped in and read instead along with Karlo Mila, Simon Kaho, Gregory Kan, Jane Arthur, Tayi Tibble and Joy Harjo.

I love the poetry of my invited guests and got to sit back and absorb. I laughed and cried and felt the power of poetry to move in multiple directions: soft and loud, fierce and contemplative. Ah if a poem is like a little house as Joy says, it is a house with windows and doors wide open, and we are able to move through and reside there as heart, mind and lungs connect.

A friend of Hinemoana Baker’s from Berlin came to me at the end crying and speaking through tears and heaving breath about how moved she was by the session. I got what she was saying because I felt the same way. I guess for all kinds of reasons we are feeling fragile at the moment – and poetry can be so vital. After four years of Wild Honey reading, writing, conversing and listening I have decided the connective tissue of poetry is love aroha. I felt and said that, ‘We in this room are linked by poetry, by a love of it, and that matters enormously’. I felt that at this session.

 

So thank you Wellington – for all the book fans who supported the events. For the poets who read with me.

I also want to thank Claire Maybe and her festival team. Claire has such a passion for books and such a wide embrace, you just feel the love of books, stories, poetry, ideas, feelings. Yes I would have LOVED to hear Elizabeth Knox, Witi Ihimaera, Lawrence Patchett and Kate Tempest (for starters) on at other weekends but this was a highlight of my year and I am so grateful.

 

‘Come on Poetry,’ I sigh, my breath

whitening the dark. ‘The moon is sick of you.’

We walk the white path made of seashells

back to the orange light of the house.

‘Wait,’ I say at the sliding door. ‘Wait.’

 

Hinemoana Baker from ‘manifesto’ in waha / mouth (2014)

 

 

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Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Madeleine Slavick reviews Hinemoana Baker’s Live at Aratoi

 

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Photo by Nicola Easthope

 

Madeleine Slavick is a poet, photographer and communications manager at Aratoi Wairarapa Museum of Art and History, Masterton. She has reviewed Hinemoana Baker’s recent performance there – a thoughtful review that is as much poetry as it is critique. Brava!

 

Read Madeleine’s full piece here but here is the beginning:

 

Funkhaus

Funkhaus – the working title of Hinemoana Baker’s upcoming collection.  ‘Funk’ as in funk, and also ‘broadcast’ in German, as the ‘haus’ in Berlin where the poet-singer-songwriter once lived, or squatted, had been a GDR radio station.  A saxophonist was also there, and Hinemoana would be sleepless in her tiny cubicle.  Born in 1968, Hinemoana says she’s too old to live like that, but I don’t see her living any other way. She lives and dives at once. Follows the river out to sea. Hinemoana. Woman of the Ocean.

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf fascinations – Solid Air: Australian and New Zealand Spoken Word

 

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I have no idea what to call this rebirth

and yet I’m here to name it

to feed the new flame

with wood from the old.

Hinemona Baker from ‘If I had to sing’

 

Solid Air: Australian and New Zealand Spoken Word (University of Queensland Press, 2019) is edited by David Stavanger and Anne-Marie Te Whiu. David is an award-winning poet, performer, editor, cultural performer and lapsed psychologist. Anne Maire, Te Rarawa, born and raised in Brisbane, is a cultural performer, weaver, theatre practitioner and emerging poet. David and Anne-Marie co-directed the Queensland Poetry Festival from 2015 to 2017.

Solid Air showcases over 100 spoken word artists from Australia and Aotearoa, from 2008 to 2018. In the introduction, the editors outline the increasing presence and vitality of spoken word. Festivals for example are willing to feature poets who have not published books but who perform to diverse audiences in diverse settings. As we see in New Zealand, the form resembles an open house that welcomes everyone without preconceptions or misconceptions on what a poem ought to do or be. Community is important: ‘Central to the ecology of spoken word is the artist returning back to the community.’ Here is the concluding paragraph of the introduction – as you can imagine it strikes a chord with me:

The pieces within this collection have their own agency and spirit, we have merely invited them into this space to create a place where they can join as a chorus and amplify each other. There is not one poetry or poetry audience; there are many and all of them are welcome to enter here. Solid Air is not only a gateway to the multiplicities of poetry available in our region – it is a house in which poetry resides, a speculative investment, constructed from open windows and unlocked doors.

One of the key attractions for me is the diverse range of Australian poets that are brought into view.  I wonder if this is the same for Australian readers meeting Ken Arkind, Tusiata Avia, Hinemoana Baker, Hera Lindsay Bird, Ben Brown, David Eggleton, Anahaera Gildea, Jordan Hamel, Mohamed Hassan, Dominic Hoey, Selina Tustiala Marsh, Courtney Sina Meredith, Kiri Piahana-Wong, Ray Shipley, Grace Taylor, Tayi Tibble, Taika Waititi, Jahra ‘Rager’ Wasasala’. It makes a difference when I play an Aotearoa track because I play it in the voice of the performer. There is something electrifying about being in the actual room, about hearing the voices spin and spark. I found myself googling unfamiliar poets with the hope their voices would fill my room.

Yes the book is a wide open house but it is also a map that I can hold in my hand and then navigate richnesses for both my ear and heart.

The poems speak of connection, movement, disconnection, flight, anchors, home, origins, love, not love, war, peace. The poems are personal, the first person pronoun stands up and is speaking. The poems are often political; frequently the personal and the political are steeped in the same poetic brew where the edge of one is the edge of the other, as in Quinn Eades’s magnificent ‘What it’s really like to grow up with lesbians in the 70s and 80s’.

 

You will go to your first peace march before you can walk.

You will say handy person, fire fighter, police officer, and automatically refer to all

doctors as ‘she’ as if their gender has not been defined.

Your favourite song when you are four will be ‘Oh Bondage Up Yours!’ by X-ray

Specs.

 

The poetry is radioactive, heated lines popping with detail and admissions, and then on other occasions the admissions come in quiet waves, small ripples that carry undercurrents of feeling, experience, reflection. One of my favourite poems – Anahera Gildea’s ‘Sedition – a letter to the writer from Meri Mangakāhia’ – makes clear the importance of language, the importance of one’s own nouns and phrases and ‘defiant speak’. I would love to share the whole poem (I respect copyright) but here is the first stanza:

 

Here’s what I had in mind, kōtiro, this

clipping at words like overgrown maikuku –

return the blankets of domestic life; don’t fold

washing or wear shoes, polish these rerenga kē.

If this anthology is an open home, a map, it is also a handbook on existence, on navigating a world under threat, along with its pasts and its futures. I pick a poem, any poem, and then linger upon the way language matters, the way story matters, the way a poem can start with one person speaking, offering words that spring to life in the air/ear and then open our relations with the world in myriad directions. My reading begins close up and personal, and then reaches wide into a global embrace. It’s essential reading.

 

and by default –

an open sea,

what language will not meet me

with rust?

They convince my mother

her voice is a selfish tide,

claiming words that are not meant

for her;

this roiling carcass of ocean

making ragdolls of our foreign limbs.

In the end our brown skin

married to seabed,

Eunice Andrada from ‘ (Because I am a daughter) of diaspora’

 

University of Queensland Press page

Poetry Shelf audio spot: Hinemoana Baker reads ‘Aunties’

 

 

 

 

Hinemoana reads ‘Aunties’

 

 

 

Hinemoana Baker, of Ngāti Tahu, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Toa and Te Āti Awa along with English and Bavarian heritage, currently lives in Berlin. A poet, musician and playwright, she graduated with an MA in creative writing from Victoria University of Wellington in 2002. She was the 2009 Arts Queensland Poet in Residence, a writer in residence at the University of Iowa International Writing Program (2010), Victoria University Writer in Residence (2014) and held the Creative New Zealand Berlin Writer’s Residency (2015–16). She has published three poetry collections and several CDs of sonic poems.

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf Classic Poem: Bill Nelson picks Hinemoana Baker’s ‘Sound Check’

 

Sound Check

 

you sound just like that woman, what’s her name

she sings that one about the train

check one two one two check check

ka tangi te tītī tieke one two

 

she sings that one about the train

can I get another tui over here

ka tangi te tītī tieke one two

my secret love’s no secret any more

 

can I get another tui over here

at last my heart’s an open door

my secret love’s no secret any more

that sounds choice love what a voice

 

at last my heart’s an open door

you got a voice on you alright

that sounds choice love what a voice

you know the crowd’s gunna soak up the highs

 

you got a voice on you alright

had a bit of a band myself back in the day

you know the crowd’s gunna soak up the highs

i’d up the tops if I was you ay

 

had a bit of a band myself back in the day

check one two one two check check

i’d up the tops if I was you ay

you sound just like that woman, what’s her name

 

Hinemoana Baker from mātuhi / needle  (Victoria University Press, 2004)

 

 

From Bill Nelson: Sometime in 2009 I heard Hinemoana Baker read ‘Sound Check’ and it has stuck in my mind ever since. I think the reading might even have taken place on a mid-range PA system in a dingy carpeted room, some people laughing in the next room. Although I could be retrofitting that memory and it was in Unity Books or something. Anyway, at the time I noticed the outstanding music in the poem, and then wit and humour, and finally, the way the drama escalated as it continued.

Unusually, the poem is entirely in dialogue. A man is speaking to a woman who is trying to do a soundcheck and sings bits and pieces into a microphone. There’s no other description of the room, or the man, or the woman, or any other sounds. And yet through the poem’s pitch perfect choice of dialogue, the man is conjured up before us. A man we’ve probably all met. A pissed bloke in a pub, who likes to talk shit, knows a little bit about everything, probably from some other generation. He leans with his elbow propped on a tall felt-covered loudspeaker at one side of the stage, a beer in other hand, maybe a cigarette too. By contrast, the woman in the poem is a collection of song fragments and meaningless numbers, and it’s harder to picture her clearly. We know little about her, other than she seems like an incredibly professional musician, with a grasp of te reo Māori and a penchant for love songs.

You don’t have to try very hard to hear the music. It’s a pantoum, so there’s the repetition of course, but also the rhymes are particularly great and bang home like a drum, and there are bits of song lyrics that are italicized like they are meant to be sung. The complexity of the staccato sound check syllables juxtaposed with the rambley-bloke language of the man speaking is also really interesting and ramps up the conflict. Different people and different rhythms, looping in and out and over each other. It’s the kind of poem that is always going to be read out loud.

Pantoums are great at showing how context is important for language, how one line put against another can change it’s meaning entirely, or more accurately, provide two equally true meanings. The poem starts and ends on the same line said by the man, ‘you sound like that woman, what’s her name.’ And what seemed like an innocent enough question at the beginning, a bit idiotic perhaps but friendly enough, becomes patronising and infuriating by the time we get to the end. We cringe as he says it a final time, after a string of condescending comments and feeble compliments. He’s sounding more drunk, unable to remember what he already said two minutes ago, and I imagine him wandering off to the urinal, a poster of the gig that night right in front of his face. And he stands there with one hand propped against the wall, squinting his eyes, still unable to remember her name.

 

 

 

Bill Nelson’s first book of poetry, Memorandum of Understanding, was published by VUP. He is a co-editor at Up Country: A Journal for the NZ Outdoors and his work has appeared in journals, dance performances and on billboards. He is currently living in France. You can find more about him here at billmainlandnelson.com.

 

Hinemoana Baker  of Ngāti Tahu, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Toa and Te Āti Awa along with English and Bavarian heritage, is a poet, musician and playwright currently living in Berlin. She was the 2009 Arts Queensland Poet in Residence, a writer in residence at the University of Iowa International Writing Programme (2010), Victoria University Writer in Residence (2014) and held the Creative New Zealand Berlin Writer’s Residency (2015–16). She has published three poetry collections and several CDs of sonic poems. Hinemoana’s website.