Tag Archives: Kiri Piahana-Wong

Going West 2019: chickens and a fresh wild wind

 

 

I love the hens in the autumn.

They’re beautiful.

I couldn’t imagine my life without them.

They’re everything to me.

 

Ashleigh Young, from ‘Everything’ in How I Get Ready (VUP, 2019)

 

Going West 2019 is not over yet – but the weekend that brings writers and readers together in a warm bush setting is! Mark Easterbrook, the festival’s creative director, tweeted that every one was tweeting about chickens and not ideas – and here I am  wondering how many chickens will make their way into poems. Co-incidentally I finished my Wild Honey session by reading Ashleigh Young’s heavenly poem where chickens are much loved.

Actually when I arrived I switched my car off and thought it must need a new engine as my car sounded like a chicken! I panicked then saw the hen under the car. We all have our hen stories.

But yes the weekend was rich in kōrero, stories, poetry, conversations, connections. Listening to Apirana Taylor perform his poetry, Elizabeth Knox’s terrific oration on Friday night (I felt I was eavesdropping on the train!) and then talk about The Absolute Book with Dylan Horrocks the next day, (oh jumped to the top of my novel pile!) and Witi Ihimaera discussing his new memoir Native Son and seeking forgiveness from his younger self – was breathtakingly good. Restorative.

I loved hearing Vana Manasiadis read from The Grief Almanac. The writers in the museum session were a fresh wild wind blasting through my body reactivating skin and bones and I just adored them: Saraid de Silva Cameron, To’asavili Tuputala, Louise Tu’u, Lucy Zee.

And it was pretty special to sit on stage with Kiri Piahana-Wong and Anne Kennedy, talk about women’s poetry in Aoteaora and hear them read poems by other women.

I missed The Bellbirds on Friday night because I was so tired and had to drive back to Te Henga in the treacherous weather and got lost in the dark driving like an accident-prone snail and found myself driving up a narrow mountainous road ( I have never got lost coming back from GW) with nowhere to turn around and my heart beating wildly. I was on Mountain Road! I took me so long to get home I should have stayed for the Bellbirds. Fergus said they were gorgeous. Everyone was singing their praises. Ah!

This is always a family-like festival – relaxed, warm, empathetic, community building. Things were a little different this year – the seats arranged differently making audience flow easier, the food breaks were different but offered equally delicious fare, and pleasingly some sessions lasted an hour – but whatever changes were made the festival essence makes it a must-attend experience for me. Maybe with a bit more poetry! I was pleased to see many of the visiting authors listen to other sessions – I was disappointed to see so few Auckland writers in the audience. I find the support of writing communities so different in other cities. Ah – but the hall was full, and readers and writers got talking.

Thanks Going West team!

I loved this weekend. I just loved it.

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Poetry Shelf Classic Poem: Kiri Piahana-Wong picks Hone Tuwhare’s ‘Toroa: Albatross’

 

Toroa: Albatross

 

Day and night endlessly you have flown effortless of wing

over chest-expanding oceans far from land.

Do you switch on an automatic pilot, close your eyes

in sleep, Toroa?

 

On your way to your home-ground at Otakou Heads

you tried to rest briefly on the Wai-o-te-mata

but were shot at by ignorant people.

Crippled, you found a resting-place at Whanga-nui-a-Tara;

found space at last to recompose yourself. And now

 

without skin and flesh to hold you together

the division of your aerodynamic parts lies whitening

licked clean by sun and air and water. Children will

discover narrow corridors of airiness between, the suddenness

of bulk. Naked, laugh in the gush and ripple—the play

of light on water.

 

You are not alone, Toroa. A taniwha once tried to break out

of the harbour for the open sea. He failed.

He is lonely. From the top of the mountain nearby he calls

to you: Haeremai, haeremai, welcome home, traveller.

Your head tilts, your eyes open to the world.

 

Hone Tuwhare

 

Originally published in Mihi: Collected Poems (Penguin, 1987) and subsequently published in Small Holes in the Silence: Collected Poems (Godwit, 2011). Published with kind permission of the Estate of Hone Tuwhare.

 

 

Note from Kiri:

Hone Tuwhare has written so many beloved and iconic poems, but for me, this poem ­– ‘Toroa: Albatross’ – has always particularly resonated. It’s a poem about a bird that is so much more than a poem about a bird. The poem speaks of death, loneliness and homecoming. It crosses effortlessly from the physical world into the metaphysical. When I read this poem, I hear the voices of my departed tūpuna calling from the other side. I hear the ineffable beat of wings.

 

Kiri Piahana-Wong, Ngāti Ranginui, is a poet and editor, and is the publisher at Anahera Press. Kiri is currently working on the fourth edition of Māori literary journal Ora Nui, due out this September.

Hone Tuwhare (1922- 2008) was a father, poet, political activist and boilermaker. He published at least thirteen collections of poetry, won two New Zealand Book Awards, held two honorary doctorates and, in 1999, was Te Mata Poet Laureate. In 2003 he was named an Arts Foundation of New Zealand Icon Artist.

 

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Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Kiri Piahana-Wong’s poem for Time Out Bookstore

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Kiri’s poem, ‘A Poem for Time Out Bookstore’, originally appeared in NZ Author to celebrate NZ Bookshop Day.

You can now read it online.  It is so good! I completely identify with it.

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf Audio Spot: Kiri Piahana-Wong reads ‘So far below’

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Kiri reads ‘So far below’, originally published in Ika No. 4 (2016).

 

 

Kiri Piahana-Wong is a poet and editor, and is the publisher at Anahera Press. Her poems have appeared in over forty journals and anthologies, most recently in tātai whetū: seven Māori women poets in translation, Bonsai: Best small stories from Aotearoa New Zealand, Landfall, and Ora Nui. Kiri lives in central Auckland with her partner and baby son. Her second full collection, Tidelines, is due out next year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ora Nui 3 – a symphonic treat of art and writing

 

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Ora Nui is a journal edited by Anton Blank devoted to Māori experimental literature;  writing that pushes the borders of identity as much if not more than it pushes the ‘how’ of writing. The latest issue draws upon issues of identity, nationhood and migration and includes a diversity voice.  Amy Leigh Wicks and Jan Kemp, for example, place European perspectives alongside those of Vaughan Rapatahana, Reihana Robinson, Robert Sullivan, Jacqueline Carter, Apirana Taylor and Marino Blank.

I think Ora Nui takes apart the whole notion of experimental and transforms it; I am thinking of writing that is testing something out, that might be tethered or prompted by experience, that doesn’t necessarily demolish stylistic traditions, and might have productive talks with them. Experimental writing is often aligned with the avantgarde, however this journal refreshes the experimental page. The journal promotes conversation that tests who and how we are and gives space for voices – some with traditions of marginalisation – to speak from the local and converse with the global. Anton Blank writes: This collection is a glorious celebration of diversity and change.

The cover showcases an image from from Lisa Reihana’s astonishing art installation, Pursuit of Venus (she has assured me we will get to see this again in New Zealand). I have propped the journal on a shelf so I can fall back into her mesmerising work. The image is the perfect gateway into writing that navigates questions of identity and belonging from multiple vantage points.

 

What I love about this journal though is the utter feast of voices and sumptuous artworks –  I cannot think of anything that has challenged, inspired or awed me in such diverse and distinctive ways. The poetry is symphonic in its reach and shifting keys. Here is a small sample of some of the poetry treats – I am till reading! I have just flicked to the back and got hooked on the lines of Robert Sullivan’s fruit poem, Reihana Robinson, Apirana Taylor, Briar Wood …. and then still sipping breakfast coffee, back to the dazzling currents of Reihana (especially ‘What is a nation?’).  I just bought a book of Reihana’s poetry – I am so hoping there is more in the pipeline.

 

Jacqueline Carter‘s  poetry often tenders a political edge. The poems included here underline her ability to get you rethinking things. These poems dig deep and resonate on so many levels.

 

‘The paepae

of the city’s children

 

is littered

with waewae tapu

 

people

who haven’t

 

been welcomed  on

 

people

in fact

 

who aren’t welcome at all’

 

from ‘Aotea Square’ (you just have to read the whole poem!!)

 

 

Rangi Faith pays homage to Janet Frame as he imagines the seat she sits in on a train; I have never read a portrait of Janet quite like this, and I love it.

 

‘When I was six years old

& running around the backyard

of our brick house in King Street,

a train steamed across the old airport

between us and the sea

carrying Janet Frame the poet.’

 

from ‘Janet Frame Passes through Saltwater Creek’

 

Rangi moves further south to pull Hone Tuwhare into a luminous rendering of place.

 

‘this place was always good for a waiata

to sing softly, or loudly if you preferred,

andto drum your tokotoko in time

to the incoming tide

on the earth’s Jurassic skin.’

 

from ‘To Hone at Kaka Point Seven Years On’

 

This is my first encounter with Teoti Jardine‘s poetry and I am struck by its clarity, its fluidity, its striking images.

 

.My Great Great Grandmother

wove her korowai with clouds.

and braided bull kelp lines

to hold the tide.’

 

from ‘Kuihi’

 

Kiri Piahana-Wong ‘s lyrical poetry holds the personal close, with both movement and stillness, little pockets of thought. I was drawn to her recounting Hinerangi’s broken heart and death.

 

‘On the day I died

it rained. Not just any rain,

but rain accompanied by

a sapping, brutal wind

from the southwest, the

kind that wrenches doors

from their hinges,

breaks down trees

and fences.’

 

from ‘On the day I died’

 

Two essays really struck a chord with me:

Dr. Carla Houkamau’s  ‘Māori identity and personal perspective’

Paula Morris’s ‘Of All Places: A Polemic on “International Book Prizes”‘

 

This is a substantial journal, a necessary journal, a must-read issue, and I have still so much left to savour. Bravo, Anton Blank for getting  this writing and this artmaking out where we can see it. I wish I could linger and share my engagement with every piece but must get back to writing my big book. I now have some new women to bring into my writing house. Thank you.

 

 

 

 

Poets on Tour: Airini Beautrais and Maria McMillan take to the road, July 2017

Airini Beautrais and Maria McMillan have written up their poetry road trip. I am so hoping this becomes a thing – two poet friends on tour with new books.    

 

 

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both Victoria University Press, 2017

We’ve known each other since the early 2000s, and both of us have been writing poetry for even longer than that. Some common threads in our work include feminism, social justice, environmentalism, and an interest in the possibilities of form. Over a cup of tea one afternoon in Maria’s lounge we agreed that as we both had books coming out this year, we should go on tour. Maria had been working hard in non-poetry related paid gigs, Airini was battling some difficult personal circumstances, and some time on the road reading with other women poets seemed like just what the doctor (of creative writing) ordered.

Somehow the tour got planned amidst the mad mess of everyday life. Sarah Laing kindly agreed to let us use her drawings for promotional purposes. Airini made a DIY poster with the help of scissors, glue, wallpaper and blu-tack. The word went out. The car got packed.

 

On Friday 14 July Airini held a book launch for Flow: Whanganui River Poems, at the Whanganui regional museum. Maria was the main support act on the night, reading from her recently-released The Ski Flier (Airini had also read at Maria’s launch a month earlier). Jenny Bornholdt read a poem by Joanna Margaret Paul. Other local booklovers read some favourite Whanganui-linked poems. VUP publicist and talented novelist Kirsten McDougall gave a fantastic launch speech.

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Accidental ankh, Dannevirke

In the morning it was coffee, porridge and a quick trip to Whanganui’s famous SaveMart ‘The Mill’. Then onto the back roads of the Manawatu with a battered road atlas and smartphones which were largely ignored. We made it over the Pohangina Saddle, and lunched on launch leftovers in Dannevirke, where we discovered a church with a possibly accidental (we think maybe not) ankh – a perfect opportunity for posing with our books. On to Napier where it appeared we had entered a time warp. Airini’s dirty old Honda suddenly looked new alongside the vintage cars sweeping around the waterfront, driven by flappers and dapper gentlemen. The thought occurred to us that it was Deco weekend.

 

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Beattie and Forbes Booksellers with Marty and Emily

Beattie and Forbes Booksellers is a must-visit independent bookstore near the sea in Napier. They opened up on a Saturday evening so we could read, with Marty Smith and Emily Dobson. Old friends and new turned up, along with members of local poetry groups. It seems that anywhere you go in New Zealand, there’ll be a poetry group of some sort, and a reading will draw at least some of them out of the woodwork. A highlight of the evening was Emily reading a poem owing a debt to her young daughter, called ‘Thea’s ‘gina song,’ which ended ‘It’s a ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-BAGINA!’ Both Marty and Emily are accomplished poets and readers and it was a privilege to read alongside them.

 

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Maria at Waiomu Cafe

 

Sunday 16th we set off from Marty’s picturesque country house, on our big drive through to Thames. The roads had opened, but were still lined with snow.  We made it to our reading at Waiomu Beach Café with five minutes to spare. The café is in a beautiful spot and draws in regulars driving around the Coromandel coastal road. It’s run by Maria’s cousin Julie, who was an amazing host. Airini also met some extended family members at the reading. More FM were there, and interviewed us. We read in the outdoor courtyard, adjusting our volume according to the passing traffic. Over the road, a cop issued speeding tickets. A kereru landed in a tree alongside. We posed for more book photos under the pohutukawa, took Julie’s dog for a walk, and enjoyed the scenery.

 

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The Big House, Parnell with Tulia and Emma

Thames seems like the kind of place one could stay in forever, but on Monday morning we carried on to Auckland.  We parked the car and went to hear a reading at the Auckland Art Gallery with Steve Toussaint, Simone Kaho, Elizabeth Morton, Johanna Emeney and Michael Morrissey. Everyone read well, but a disgruntled audience member booed, hissed and heckled during question time at the end. Chair Siobhan Harvey did an excellent job of shouting him down. We looked at each other and wondered if this was how poetry readings always went in Auckland. But our reading that evening at the Big House in Parnell, with Simone Kaho and Tulia Thompson, was a very warm and homely affair. Many of the house’s 25 occupants joined us by the fire to listen and talk, and housemate Emma also read some of her poems with us.

 

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Airini at Poetry Live, Auckland

 

Tuesday night’s gig was Poetry Live, at the Thirsty Dog on K Road. Like the Big House, Poetry Live is an institution that’s been going for decades. We were lucky to be there for the farewell to regular MC Kiri Piahana-Wong. There was a great turnout and the venue and audience were friendly and welcoming. We read by turns in our guest poet slot, feeling like proper rockstars against the backdrop of a drum kit and stage lighting.

By Wednesday we were tired, and ready to head home. We stopped for tea and toasted sandwiches in the Pink Cadillac diner in Turangi. We parted ways at the Desert Road, after which Maria had some variable hitchhiking experiences, and Airini zig-zagged back and forth around the mountains navigating road closures. We’d had a great time and were looking forward to the second leg.

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Vic Books in Wellington with Pip and Freya

 

The next leg kicked off on Friday 28 July with a lunchtime reading at Vic Books. We were joined by superstars Pip Adam, reading from her brand spanking new The New Animals, and Freya Daly Sadgrove, whose poetry is performative and highly entertaining. Maria read her poem, inspired by Pip, ‘In which I attain unimaginable greatness,’ in which the narrator attains superhero powers, achieves amazing feats, and at the end declares ‘This is how I begin. This is my first day.’

 

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Palmerston North with Helen and Jo

Palmerston North City Library on Saturday evening was possibly the highlight of the tour. The library is a great place to read, hosting numerous literary events throughout the year. The big windows feature poems by local Leonel Alvarado, and pedestrians have a way of peering in through the letters, wondering what’s going on in there. We’d decided on a dress up theme of ‘80s trash with our fabulous co-readers Helen Lehndorf and Jo Aitchison, which got us some funny looks in New World, but definitely improved our performances. Helen’s hair was particularly spectacular. We had a small crowd but a great vibe. A kebab and whisky party kept us awake until the wee small hours.

 

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Maria at Hightide Cafe

Helen’s chickens laid us our breakfast, and we revived ourselves with bottomless pots of tea. Maria’s superpowers became evident when she managed to drive us safely to our last gig, Poets to the People at Hightide Café in Paraparaumu. The sun was setting over Kāpiti as we drank coffee and listened to the open mike. Again, this is an event that’s been running for years, and there’s a sense the regulars know and love one another. We went home to a beautiful roast cooked by Maria’s partner Joe. The tour was over, but the fight continues! We had some great conversations in the car over those two weeks, and some good catch-ups with family and friends along the way. There was a lot of fighting talk, a lot of laughter and also a few tears. A big part of the tour was affirming ourselves as poets, mothers and radical women, and by the end of it, our unimaginable greatness was hard to deny.

 

Airini Beautrais and Maria McMillan, September 2017

 

 

my conversation with Airini

my review of The Ski Flier

VUP page for Airini

VUP page for Maria

 

 

 

 

20/20 May Poets: A Phantom Billstickers Poetry Day celebration

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Alison Wong and Chris Tse

Apirana Taylor and Kiri Piahana Wong

Vincent O’Sullivan and Lynley Edmeades

Paula Green and Simone Kaho

Jenny Bornholdt and Ish Doney

 

This terrific project forms a little poetry reading house where you enter the rooms off the side and you don’t know what you will find. There is a vitality and a freshness as established and emerging poets and those in-between come together in poem conversations. Love it! (I am part of it but no idea how the poetry house would unfold)