Tag Archives: Karlo Mila

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: The Spinoff celebrates Karlo Mila’s Goddess Muscle

Catherine Woulfe from The Spinoff invited six women to write a short piece celebrating Karlo Mila’s Goddess Muscle: Selina Tusitala Marsh, Leilani Tamu, Nadine Anne Hura, Kirsten Lacy, director of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Rebecca Sinclair, deputy pro-vice chancellor at the college of creative arts, Massey University and me. We each contributed a paragraph and a photograph.

I so loved this book. It is the kind of book that rises above your reading shelves and sticks, and was one of my top poetry reads of 2020. I was also privileged to hear Karlo read at my Wild Honey session at VERB. Such charisma on the page and in the air.

I got my daughter to take a photo of me with the book and before I could stop myself I lost in a poem, savouring the poetry richness, forgetting to smile for the camera, transported, uplifted a universe away from the lounge. If you haven’t read Goddess Muscle yet please do. Check out the celebration here. This is my piece:

Goddess Muscle is a gift. I can barely account for how it will stretch your reading muscles, your beating heart, your enquiring mind, your compassion, your music cravings, your empathy. Karlo has extended her own poetic muscle and offered poetry that is wisdom, strength, refreshed humaneness. I am all the better for having read it.

The collection is crafted like a symphony, an experience of shifting life, seasons and subject matter, so as you read the effects are wide reaching. Karlo faces significant political issues: climate change, the Commonwealth, colonialism, racism, Ihumātao, “the daily politics of being a woman, partner and mother”. She faces these global and individual challenges without flinching. The resulting poems are essential reading, never losing touch with song and heart, always insisting in poetic form how we can do better. How we can be a better world, recharge humanity. I would like to see these poems read in secondary school. You can read Moemoeā: (composed for poets for Ihumātao) here.

Karlo reads from Goddess Muscle here.

My review at Poetry Shelf

Poetry Shelf – poets on their own poems: Karlo Mila reads ‘For Tamir Rice with Love from Aotearoa’

Poetry Shelf Theme Season: Ten poems about dreaming

Not many younger poets sent me poems about ice but there were loads of dreaming poems. I have always loved poems that dream because poetry is a close relation with its slants, mists, hallucinations, and deep personal cores. I sometimes think that to dream is to write. To enter the opaque, to reclaim the obvious, to have no idea where you will end up or how you will get there. To astonish yourself.

I am so very grateful to the poets and publishers who have backed my themed poetry season with such loving support.

Ten poems about dreaming

the dream is real

the moon is an open eye

high in the sky or winking

at the world below

the wind is the sea’s breath

rustling the leaves in the trees

night is a dark river

flowing through the day

a bird is a song

the dream is real

clouds are ghosts

flight is a wing

Apirana Taylor

from a canoe in midstream, Canterbury University Press, 2009

Insomnia

it is a black night

I lie perfectly still

mine is the long

awake adult body

two small boys

flickering at either side

night sweats

bad dreams

fluttering in and

out of sheets

I lie black

in between

head

thorax, abdomen

trembling children

my wings

Karlo Mila

from A Well Written Body, Huia Press, 2008

My Father Dreams of His Father

My father dreams of his father

walking in the garden of the old family homestead

on Kawaha Point.

I have not been back since he passed away.

As decrepit dogs wander off under trees

to sniff out their final resting places,

elderly men wait in the wings

rehearsing exit lines.

I’m sure my grandfather never envied his dog more

than during those last days.

I’m sure, given the choice, he would have preferred

to slip away under the magnolias.

The garden is tended by different hands now.

My grandmother still walks by the lake,

her little dog in tow. The current man of the house

is more interested in the chasing of swans

than the cultivating of camellias.

My father dreams of his father

walking in the garden of the old family homestead

on Kawaha Point.

I have not been back since he passed away.

Claudia Jardine

from AUP New Poets 7, ed. Anna Jackson, Auckland University Press, 2020

Sentries

I’m frantically chasing my mother who weaves in and out of the aisles throwing down craft supplies. I trip over scissors and quick unpicks

not seeing her face, only clean ponytail and collar poking out over plum cardigan. We run between shelves of antique vases but lose contact with the linoleum

and float out. In this world we drive couches like cars. I’m picking one up from the junkyard with a blue shag cushion for reference. Bumper stickers are glinting

while the couches lie gridlike. We scramble through the drivers’ seats running fingers through the upholstery. In the winter gardens there are fish tanks

nestled between succulents. One has a tangle of thin eels within it. Boys tap on the home of a solitary neon tetra until it shatters. I hold the fragments together

and try to keep the fish swimming in a handful of glass and water. They put me in the newspaper. I run out to catch you in the ocean, my mother

but you keep dipping under. As I look around I notice, embedded in rock formations are those white plastic fans, not rotating anymore just facing the horizon.

Lily Holloway

originally published at The Spin Off, October, 2020

interventionalist god

in my dream nick cave had a long, thick black mane.

it swung around his hips, kissed

with a bright white streak

snaking its length.

he served noodle soup at the concert

full of moving mushrooms, blooming

into elegant dancing technicolour spores;

tasted like purple.

the show was very red, like the blood

of his falling son. my mother

was falling too,

drunkenly, over crimson seats,

hurting her back and lying down with the room spinning.

pissing off the man in the toupee, and toupee’s wife.

nick drawled, don’t worry,

sung a song sad and it broke us,

spun around inside a steel cage,

spray-painted KINGS on our leather jackets

so we could get into his next stadium show free.

afterwards, we matched up our snails in the foyer.

nick was smoking through tears out back,

about to catch a flight, saying,

i think i’ve met someone with your name,

and it was you already.

Hebe Kearney

Lake Wakatipu

A jade lizard bends in a circle,

chasing its tail;

straightens, and darts for a crevice.

Mist swathes in grey silk the lake:

flat-stomached, calm, slow-pulsed,

a seamless bulk.

Vapours spiral,

pushing up to a cloud-piercer,

where snow has been sprinkled

like powder from a talc can at height.

Grandeur stands muffled.

The Earnslaw headbutts shorewards.

After lying prone for years,

rocks shift downwards

at speed, eager to wheel

through air, crash in a gully,

and not move.

The lake buttons up to dive deep,

leaving a perfectly blank black space,

through which you might fall forever.

David Eggleton

from Edgeland and other poems, Otago University Press, 2018

Daisy

This town is just one great big farm. The main road runs alongside these power poles tilted over green green paddocks, the lines all sagging, the poles on the piss. You hit it at forty k and slug down the main street, past the Strand, the Top Pub, the Nott. Past blue election billboards and wooden fences painted red with Water Gouging and Inheritance Tax. The arterial line is just panel beaters, tractors, pots of pink flowers dripping from shop windows. She says they look like icing. And these cows. There are forty-two of them, all painted up to look cultural. Blue like an old tea cup, pearls and roses dribbling over the rim. One unzipped at the side, with muscle and guts peeking out like baked beans and salmon. One flower power cow, real LSD yellow and orange, like it sorta wandered over from Woodstock and got lost for years and years. Little kids run across the road just to touch them. Name their favourites after their pet cats. Rusty, Mittens, Boots. They’re bolted to the pavement so at night they just haunt the main street, all washed out and hollow. But the worst is that giant one right at the start of town. Two stories high, with black splotches like flames of tar. I have these dreams that the paddocks are on fire and the ground is opening up and all you can hear is mooing. The Mega Cow watching over his herd like some great milky God. The trains rattle past at dawn and wake me up. The cows hardly blink.

Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor

from Ngā Kupu Waikato: an anthology of Waikato Poetry, ed. Vaughan Rapatahana, Self Published, 2019

Tilting

The woman on the bus said

I’ve never been on a bus before

as she lifted her bag

a miniature suitcase

black and shiny as a beetle.

Next time you’ll know what to do

said the driver as he stood on the brakes

pointed to the building on the left and said

The lift’ll take you to The Terrace.

There were no ledges on The Terrace

just buildings tilting and leaning

and the wind to push against.

That night, unpacked and tired

the woman climbed on her black beetle bag

and flew across the harbour

soaring above its flat cool face

staring deep into its mouth

and wondering about earthquakes.

The next morning the bus driver couldn’t shake

the woman from his mind.

As he left the depot

his bus pshishing and grinding through peak hour flow

he checked his mirror

but she wasn’t there

instead he saw the edges of his bus converting

row by row, slice by slice

into a huge loaf of bread.

The aroma filled the aisles

stirring the appetites of even

his sleepiest passengers

and when he neared the end of Lambton Quay

all that was left of the bus, was the crust.

Some like the crust, some don’t, he thought

as he chewed and chomped

until the last crumb fell

into the gutter, into the drain

into the harbour, and out to sea.

What now? he said

peering skywards, catching a glint.

Trish Harris

published under the title ‘Openings’ in New Zealand Poetry Society Anthology 2015/2016

bone / tired

I am tired to my bones

this exhaustion

has wrapped around my ribs

sunk into my jaw

slunk

down

each vertebrae

I take deep slow breaths

each exhale

rattles the cage of ribs

I don’t sleep anymore

I just rattle around the house

the rooms empty of the wakeful

I touch each wall

like a talisman

like an averter of the evil eye

to avert whichever evil

might choose us tonight

I keep vigil

I don’t sleep anymore

rattle the bones

of the sleeping

I am rattled

to my bones

I don’t sleep anymore

the bones of my shoulders

have permanently rolled inward

they hunch

waiting for a fight

for a blow

I have never been in a fight

just in anticipation

of the fight, the flight

there are 27 bones in the human hand

I count them all

in lieu of sleeping

I am tired to my bones

I don’t sleep anymore

Rose Peoples

Pasture and flock

Staring up into the sky my feet

anchor me to the ground so hard

I’m almost drowning, drowning,

in air, my hair falling upwards

around my shoulders, I think I’ll hug

my coat closer. I’m standing

on hundreds of blades of grass, and

still there are so many more

untrodden on. Last night, in bed,

you said, ‘you are the sheet

of linen and I am the threads,’ and

I wanted to know what you meant

but you wouldn’t wake up to tell me

and in the morning you didn’t

remember, and I had forgotten

till now when I think, who is

the blades of grass, who is the pasture?

It is awfully cold, and my coat

smells of something unusual.

It almost seems as if it is the stars

smelling, as if there were

an electrical fault in the sky,

and though it is almost too dark

to see I can see the sheep

moving closer, and the stars

falling. I feel like we are all

going to plunge into the sky

at once, the sheep and I,

and I am the sheep and I am

the flock, and you are the pasture

I fall from, the stars and the sky.

Anna Jackson

from Pasture and Flock: New & Selected Poems, Auckland University Press, 2018

Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor was awarded the 2018 Charles Brasch Young Writers’ Essay Competition, and the 2017 Monash Prize for Emerging Writers. Her work has appeared in Starling, Mayhem, Brief, Poetry New Zealand, Landfall, Turbine, Flash Frontier, Mimicry, Min-a-rets, Sweet Mammalian, Sport and Verge. She is Poetry New Zealand‘s 2021 Featured Poet. She writes thanks to the support of some of the best people on this great watery rock.

David Eggleton is the Aotearoa New Zealand Poet Laureate 2019 – 2022. His most recent book is The Wilder Years: Selected Poems, published by Otago University Press. 

Trish Harris has written two books – a poetry collection My wide white bed and a memoir The Walking Stick Tree. She teaches non-fiction on the Whitireia Creative Writing Programme, is co-founder of Crip the Lit and edited their 2019 pocketbook, ‘Here we are, read us: Women, disability and writing’. She says she’s a part-time crane operator…but maybe she’s dreaming?

Lily Holloway has a Teletubby tattoo and is forthcoming in AUP New Poets 8. You can find more of her work here

Anna Jackson lectures at Te Herenga Waka/Victoria University of Wellington, lives in Island Bay, edits AUP New Poets and has published seven collections of poetry, most recently Pasture and Flock: New and Selected Poems (AUP 2018). Thoughts on dreaming and on being dreamed about can be found here and here.

Claudia Jardine (she/her) is a poet and musician based in Ōtautahi/Christchurch. In 2020 she published her first chapbook, The Temple of Your Girl, with Auckland University Press in AUP New Poets 7 alongside Rhys Feeney and Ria Masae. Her work has also been published in Starling, Sport, Landfall and Stasis. For the winter of 2021, Jardine will be one of the Arts Four Creative Residents in The Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora, where she will be working on a collection of poems.

Hebe Kearney is a poet from Christchurch who now calls Auckland her home. Her work has appeared in The Three Lamps, Oscen, Starling, Forest and Bird, a fine line, and the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2021.

Dr Karlo Mila (MNZM) is a mother, writer, award-winning poet and leadership programme director. Of Tongan and Pākehā descent, her creative and professional career has focused upon Pasifika peoples in Aotearoa. Her book Dream Fish Floating won the best first book of poetry in the NZ literary awards in 2005. Karlo lives in Tāmaki Makaurau with her three sons. Her third poetry book Goddess Muscle was published by Huia in 2020.

Rose Peoples is from Te Awakairangi/Lower Hutt. She is a student at Victoria University and, having finished her law degree last year, decided that the logical next step was to embark upon a Masters in Literature. She is a bookseller at Good Books. Her work has previously appeared in Cordite, Mimicry and Starling.


Apirana Taylor, Ngati Porou, Te Whanau a Apanui, Ngati Ruanui, Te Ati Awa, is a nationally and internationally published poet, playwright, short story writer, novelist, actor, painter and musician. He has been Writer in Residence at Canterbury and Massey Universities. He frequently tours nationally and internationally visiting schools, tertiary institutions and prisons reading his poetry, storytelling and taking creative writing workshops. He has written six collections of poetry, a book of plays, three collections of short stories, and two novels. His work has been included in many national and international anthologies.

Ten poems about clouds

Twelve poems about ice

Poetry Shelf celebrates the Ockham NZ Book Awards Poetry longlist: Karlo Mila reads from Goddess Muscle

Karlo Mila reads ‘Letter to JC Sturm’, from Goddess Muscle Huia Publishers, 2020

Dr Karlo Mila is a New Zealand-born poet of Tongan and Pākehā descent with ancestral connections to Samoa. She is currently Programme Director of Mana Moana, Leadership New Zealand. This leadership programme is based on her postdoctoral research on harnessing indigenous language and ancestral knowledge from the Pacific to use in contemporary leadership contexts. Karlo received an MNZM in 2019 for services to the Pacific community and as a poet, received a Creative New Zealand Contemporary Pacific Artist Award in 2016, and was selected for a Creative New Zealand Fulbright Pacific Writer’s Residency in Hawaii in 2015.

Goddess Muscle is Karlo’s third book of poetry. Her first, Dream Fish Floating, won NZSA Jessie Mackay Best First Book of Poetry Award at the Montana New Zealand Book Awards in 2006. In 2008, Karlo collaborated with German-born artist Delicia Sampero to produce A Well Written Body. Karlo’s poetry has been published in in many anthologies, in a variety of journals and online. 

Huia Publishers author page

Poetry Shelf review

NZAL review (Lana Lopesi)

@RNZ Karlo talks with Kathryn Ryan on Nine to Noon

Poetry Shelf review: Karlo Mila’s Goddess Muscle

Karlo Mila, Goddess Muscle, Huia Publishers, 2020

 

Paintbrushes in our hands

drafting our dreams,

remembering the chants,

writing the poems,

relearning the language

composing the chants,

cooking the dinners,

carrying the children,

paying the bills,

fighting the fight,

with our tax-paying,

car-driving hands.

 

A collective of artists

narrating a story

we can bear to live in.

Creating an image

of ourselves

we can love

to look at:

 

from ‘Our Generation : ‘Āina Aloha’

 

Karlo Mila’s new poetry book is the most gorgeously produced collection I have held in ages. It feels good. It looks good. It is a pleasing shape. It has abandoned the reigning tradition of black ink upon white page in favour of a wider colour palette for both font and background. Sometimes I have to peer in close to read as though the physical act of reading is as important as cerebral connections and heart boosts. It continues to matter to me as addicted poetry reader at the moment: the effects a poetry collection has upon you as you read and as you move away. How satisfying when poetry uplifts heart and stimulates brain, soothes tired bodies and sets us swaying.

Several artists contributed work for the book and, as the acknowledgement page underlines, these vibrant works are personal: Delicia Samero’s portraits of Karlo, a collaborative mural Aloha ‘Āina and Naomi Maraea’s depiction of Hikule‘o.

I adored the 2021 poetry longlist for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards having been so affected by the eight books I had read and reviewed. And now I can add a ninth sublime read: Karlo’s Goddess Muscle. The collection ignites every reading muscle: from heart to mind to breathing to memory to pulse. Karlo engages with light and dark, fragility and strength, relationships, family, sisterhoods, writing mentors, life mentors, political issues. Her words meet the line, create the lines like a movement of water, lap lapping in your ear, across your skin, with ebb and tide, the words in debt to water fluency as they flow gentle and honeyed, or hit sands, rocks, obstacles. Such sweet flowing lyrical currents. Always audible, always mesmerising. This is poetic craft at its most agile.

Dark, lovely cowrie-shell eyes,

who’d expect the lies,

unless you flipped that fragile shell over

to the serrated crack

of the backside,

where the sea slugs reside,

that weak pink flesh on the inside.

Everyone’s got a living surprise,

the part that they hide.

 

from ‘The Tale of Hine and Sinilau’

The book begins with a gathering, a gathering of lineage, ancestors, relations. This becomes place, somewhere to write from and to and because of. The gathering involves balance, re-orientation. The gathering (both noun and verb) becomes writing and this is what writing can do.

It is their

soft singing,

cellular love songs,

the chanting lyric of bloodlines,

accompanying you

all the way

through the lonely.

 

from ‘Your People Will Gather Around You: Love After Love’

The ocean is paramount, not just in the water fluency of the lines, but in the recurring motifs and the personal attachment. “Oceania’ is an ocean homage, image, self-defining: ‘I call on the memory of water’.

Karlo acknowledges writers and loved ones who have sustained her, who are the essential oils of writing. She lights a candle for Teresia Teaiwa in ‘For Teresia Teaiwa’. I am moved to tears as I read this loving tribute to poet who affected and inspired so many others.

I will light this candle.

The spendy kind,

cradled in glass,

that burns for days

smelling of coconut and vanilla

and I will say prayers for you

even though my prayers

are like bad poems

and are often wordless.

 

I hope,

at the least,

you will feel the

long-burning

flame of my intent,

warming the space

between us.

The tribute poem to JC Sturm cuts to the bone of reading, sidestepping Baxter and his sickening offences, Karlo taking a road trip to Jerusalem with her own broken heart and her mother, moving under his over-present lines to Jacquie. How I love this poem, this mihi: ‘But moving under all that surface skimming / was you.’ The poem to Hone Tuwhare is pure delight. The sonic torque (can I say that, think sounds spinning on word axes) is sensational.

You boilermaker,

fabricating lyrical weld

from blast furnace

of sun,

slowed,

stopped and

set

on white horizon

of page.

 

from ‘A Conversation with Hone Tuwhare’

Karlo’s love poems have always gripped me and I favoured them in Wild Honey’s ‘Love’ section. This collection faces broken love, longings, touch, loneliness, attachment with shifting intensities, hues, admissions. There is someone at the end of the poem, an addressee, a beloved, a lover lost, a lover found, and Karlo never forgets that. The poems are layered, intimate, deeply personal. I am still held in their grip.

Goddess Muscle is crafted like a symphony, an experience of shifting life seasons and subject matter, so as you read the effects are wide reaching. Karlo faces significant political issues: climate change, the Commonwealth, colonialism, racism, Ihumātao, ‘the daily politics of being a woman, partner and mother’. She faces these global and individual challenges without flinching. The resulting poems are essential reading, never losing touch with song and heart, always insisting in poetic form how we can do better. How we can be a better world, recharge humanity. I would like to see these poems read in secondary school.  You can read ‘Moemoeā: (composed for poets for Ihumātao)’ here.

Goddess Muscle is a gift. I can barely account for how it will stretch your reading muscles, your beating heart, your enquiring mind, your compassion, your music cravings, your empathy. Karlo has extended her own poetic muscle and offered poetry that is wisdom, strength, refreshed humaneness. Thank you. Thank you.

If we were truly to reorient

to life as relatives,

commonwealth

would mean more

than what we might cling to

in the face of a dangerous

and uncertain future.

 

Let us not

use the word ‘commonwealth’

to try and insulate fate

with the soft fur of fine-feathered friends.

 

No,

let us spread our wings

to a much wider vision than that.

It may be the end of the world as we know it

but let us not fear

the remaking of another one.

 

To the young people I say,

there may be no jobs

but there is plenty of work to be done.

 

So let us harness our collective wisdoms:

divers, different and divergent.

Let us create an atmosphere

of kindness and love

for even the air we breathe,

fresh water, trees, people, ocean.

Let us create a dream house,

a great place to raise a family.

 

For therein lies the fate

of an extraordinary family of relatives.

 

Where what we have in common

is all of us.

 

from ‘Poem for the Commonwealth, 2018’

Dr Karlo Mila is a New Zealand-born poet of Tongan and Pākehā descent with ancestral connections to Samoa. She is currently Programme Director of Mana Moana, Leadership New Zealand. This leadership programme is based on her postdoctoral research on harnessing indigenous language and ancestral knowledge from the Pacific to use in contemporary leadership contexts. Karlo received an MNZM in 2019 for services to the Pacific community and as a poet, received a Creative New Zealand Contemporary Pacific Artist Award in 2016, and was selected for a Creative New Zealand Fulbright Pacific Writer’s Residency in Hawaii in 2015.

Goddess Muscle is Karlo’s third book of poetry and has been longlisted for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards 2021. Her first, Dream Fish Floating, won NZSA Jessie Mackay Best First Book of Poetry Award at the Montana New Zealand Book Awards in 2006. In 2008, Karlo collaborated with German-born artist Delicia Sampero to produce A Well Written Body.

Huia Publishers author page

Poetry Shelf – poets on their own poems: Karlo Mila reads ‘For Tamir Rice with Love from Aotearoa’

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Brilliant longlist of Ockam New Zealand Book Awards just announced

Poetry Shelf has reviewed

The Savage Coloniser Book Tuisata Avia, Victoria University Press

Far Flung Rhian Gallagher Auckland University Press

National Anthem National Anthem, Dead Bird Books

Wow Bill Manhire, Victoria University Press

Pins Natalie Morrison, Victoria University Press (an interview)

This is Your Real Name, Elizabeth Morton, Otago University Press

I Am a Human Being Jackson Nieuwland, Compound Press

Magnolia, NIna Mingya Powles, Seraph Press

CONGRATULATIONS to all the poets. This is the best longlist I have seen in years. I have loved all these books to a sublime degree. I am also delighted to see a mix of university presses and smaller publishers, and those inbetween. I plan to review Hinemoana and Karlo’s books over the coming weeks (Goddess Muscle, Karlo Mila, Huia Press and Funkhaus, Hinemoana Baker, Victoria University Press).

Ockham New Zealand Book Award page

Poetry Shelf – poets on their own poems: Karlo Mila reads ‘For Tamir Rice with Love from Aotearoa’

 

 

DSC_1572

 

 

Karlo Mila reads and responds to her poem: ‘For Tamir Rice with Love from Aotearoa’

 

 

Dr Karlo Mila (Tongan / Pākehā) is an award-winning poet, mother, writer, activist and researcher. She is the Programme Director of the Mana Moana Experience at Leadership New Zealand. The kaupapa of this programme is to vitalise and prioritise Pasifika ancestral knowledge in contemporary contexts. Karlo lives in Tāmaki Makaurau with her three sons. Her third poetry book, “Goddess Muscle” will be launched this year by Huia Publishers.

 

 

Poetry Shelf Live and the Wellington Writers Programme

 

IMG_5393IMG_5394

 

 

‘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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Karlo Mila’s ‘Moemoea (Composed for Poets for Ihumātao)’

 

Moemoea (Composed for Poets for Ihumātao)

I have a dream….
Not a Martin Luther King dream
more of a waking life dream
where you’re in a parallel universe movie of your own making.

In my dream,
Jacinda is walking in knee high gumboots
the tall, skinny, expensive kind
you used to have to order from Great Britain
and that I could never pull over my big Tongan calves.

She is wearing a red, red raincoat,
not like a Kathmandu one with a zip.
It’s more of a cape,
fire-truck red, lipstick red, Labour party red.
More of a red-riding hood cape
and it is billowing in the whipping wind.

And the way she struts it could be a Horse Polo ad
but it’s not, cos she and her gumboots
are on the whenua at Ihumātao
and she’s not walking alone,
flanked, either side is Nanaia, Kiritapu, Willow-Jean
and Louisa who has the reddest lipstick of them all.
They all have knee high boots and red jackets
and there is Carmel, taller than the rest,
even though her boots are flat,
who used to rent our family home.
And there is Jenny, with a red flower behind her ear,
who used to be married to my ex-husband.
And there is ‘Anahila, my mate,
with her righteous Tongan afro, and Poto too.
And in my dream the soundtrack is Beyonce playing
“Who rules the world? Girls!”
And behind them is Jacinda’s baby-daddy
pushing Neve Te Aroha in an expensive water proof pram
which is just as well, cos there is thunder and lightning
as these women walk.
And it strikes me that he is the perfect,
mana-ful, woke male.
The lips of all these women are pursed.
Not like in selfies, but like they are purposeful.
And in my dream they are walking in slow mo
and Marama is there in her reggae beanie, laughing,
saying, what took you fellas so long.

In my dream,
Jacinda has read Dr Rawiri Taonui’s article
and as her plane landed on the Auckland tarmac
she thought for the first time
about all the bodies, all the bones, the koiwi
the ancestors who had to give up everything,
a clean awa, their land, kai moana, unpolluted ocean,
who had to give too much to the city of Auckland,
even their graves.

I dream Jacinda truly felt
that this history stinks like sewage
as she drove into the shit-show
that has been the water treatment plant.
And she visibly flinched when she saw the Proclamation
issued by corrupt Governor Grey
with his fake news about dangerous attacking natives
as he coveted Waikato-Tainui having the best land, flour mills, most fertile export businesses,
and imported and gathered 16,000 British imperial and colonial troops
telling the natives to surrender,
or they’d be ejected.

I hope she knows
the archeologists say
this is an OG settlement place
Where to quote Alice Te Punga Somerville
where Māori
“Once were Pacific”
and evolved, over centuries,
Right here,
from us
into them.
And I’m waving a Tongan flag
at this small way that we are connected
and in my dream
Pita Turei is not comparing me to Captain Cook
for doing this, but he’s down there on the atea
saying ‘haere mai’ Jacinda,
and he looks so beautiful,
with his feathers in his hair.

And in my dream, at this very moment
he turns into a bird
and then he is joined by an army of kahu
from Okahu Bay
a whole field full of black hawks
with surveyors pegs in their beaks
and a burning papa kainga in their eyes.
And yeah, maybe, a park for all New Zealanders
is not enough, although it was gifted generously after the occupation of Bastion Point.
And there are overlapping interests here
not just the fact that blood joins
in so many mokopuna,
but cos the kaupapa of Tino Rangatiratanga
is an overlapping interest.
And even Paul Majurey says, tautoko.

And then all the maunga are there,
cos Pihanga led the way
and just like Pania
she’s quite the mountain.
It’s Mana Wāhine on display
and there’s the red line up of women
walking in the mud
and I don’t know where Willie, Kelvin and Peeni are
but it’s my dream and I don’t need to know.
Willie is def not doing the fingers at the crowd
behind the glass doors at Parliament, like I saw him do last week.
Just cos men who have had their children taken by the state heckled him.
And to be honest
I’m sure uplift kaupapa is over,
it’s time for uplifting.

And in my dream, all the boots on those women
are now thigh high and they are all wearing
ei katu of red flowers
made by my friend Ta’i,
cos it’s Cook Islands language week
and cos every woman looks more beautiful in an ei. Everyone.
And they are saying Kia Ora, Kia Orana.
And I am looking at Pania, Qiane, Amiria and the cousins.
Rihanna is singing, shining bright, bright like a diamond,
but not a blood diamond.
And Qiane says: “We don’t speak on behalf of Mana Whenua. We are Mana Whenua.”
And there is a sign in the sky,
not a tōhu but a billboard
and it says,
“Aotearoa, New Zealand. This LEADERSHIP is in dispute.”
And there are one hundred thousand likes on Facebook
and laughing, dancing GIFS and
emoji’s with love hearts in their eyes.

And then suddenly it is silent
and in my dream Jacinda stops
and takes off her gumboots
and is barefoot, skin to land,
and tears stream down her face
and she says, I can hear it,
I can feel the whenua singing.

Once you know it,
you cannot unknow it.

We do not hurt the things we love.

And in amidst that magic,
somewhere online
a give-a-little page
has gone viral
and people are buying back
Ihumātao, square metre by square metre,
and the soundtrack is playing Midnight Oil
and the donations pour in
Asians for Tino Rangatiratanga
the Muslim community
the Tongan church congregations
who give more than they can afford
because that’s how we roll
and the amounts are printed online
and even Don Brash donates because,
no he doesn’t, because not even in a dream!
But nobody cares,
because he is old news
and now girls rule the world.
And Jacinda stands up and says
to the international community
This is a win for climate change.
This is a win for indigenous people everywhere.
This is a win for community.
This is a win for New Zealand.
This is a win for Auckland.
This is a win for the whenua.
The soundtrack is playing ”We are the people”
by Louis Baker.
And even Tina Ngata says,
she did better than Helen Clark.
And on TV
beautiful Kanoa Lloyd
rapturous in red
sits there
queen of the prime time universe
and with a smug side-eye at her colleagues
she interviews Joe Blogs
from the heart of Remuera
about why he gave a little
and then he explains
that after coming to the whenua himself
and taking the tour with Pania
and reading about the history
he finally understood
that the people of Ihumātao
had given enough
to make Auckland great.

And it was time to stop taking.

Or living off the back of benefits
Of unjustly taken land.

It was time to give a little back.
He said. Actually, it was time
to give a lot.

And somewhere,
in Tāmaki
all the birds waiting
with surveyor pegs
in their mouths,
both extinct and living,
spat them from the
choke in their throats
and the black hawks
began to sing.

And all the people everywhere,
who can hear the dawn chorus of the dead,
locked in psychatric wards and prisons cells,
began to hum a happier tune
instead of feeling lament.

And somewhere,
Te Whiti, Tōhu, Te Kooti, Rua, Rewi, Tāwhiao,
Eva, Whina, Ngāneko and all the ancestors,
began to sing.
Knowing now,
the tongues of birds.

And us ordinary ones,
without the gifts of sight or sound,
if you listen carefully
you can catch a fragment
of that waiata,
you can hear it
in the refrain of
Rob Ruha’s new song,
and it
sounds like
freedom.

 

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Karlo read this poem last night at Poets for Ihumātao – on the whenua.

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