Tag Archives: Maraea Rakuraku

Poetry Shelf connections: Maraea Rakuraku on poetry comfort



Artwork: ‘Rehua’ by Robyn Kahukiwa


E ngā mana e ngā reo e ngā karangatanga maha o ngā hau whā. Ngāmihi atu ki a tātou katoa.

Over the past few months our whānau has experienced a harrowing time regarding my fathers health. For a while there, colour and laughter disappeared and everything seemed meaningless. I found my senses couldn’t handle anything overly loud, aggressive and I was unable to render up the energy to read whole books – instead, it was lines of poems (thematically written about something unrelated) rolling around in my head, giving me comfort as we sat in white corridors and I suppressed the urge to look up all the medical terms online.



I do not ask for youth, nor for delay

in the rising of time’s irreversible river

that takes the jewelled arc of the waterfall

in which I glimpse, minute by glinting minute,

all that I have and all that I am always losing

as sunlight lights each drop fast, fast falling.


I do not dream that you, young again,

might come to me darkly in love’s green darkness

where the dust of the bracken spices the air

moss, crushed, gives out an astringent sweetness

and water holds our reflections

motionless, as if for ever.


It is enough now to come into a room

and find the kindness we have for each other

—    calling it love  — in eyes that are shrewd

but trustful still, face chastened by years

of careful judgement; to sit in the afternoons

in mild conversation, without nostalgia.


But when you leave me, with your jauntiness

sinewed by resolution more than strength

— suddenly then I love you with a quick

intensity, remembering that water,

however luminous and grand, falls fast

and only once to the dark pool below.


Lauris Edmond


From Night burns with a white fire: the essential Lauris Edmond, eds Frances Edmond and Sue Fitchett, Steele Roberts 2017, poem originally published 1975 In Middle Air)




It’s specifically poetry by Lauris Edmond and John Donne that came.

‘Yesternight the sun went hence,
And yet is here today;’

from ‘Song; Sweetest I Do Not Go’ by John Donne

‘Minute by glinting minute’
from ‘Waterfall’ by Lauris Edmond

They may seem like random choices. But when I discovered Donne and Edmond as a teen they blew.my.mind. Nerdy much.

As things settled with Dad, the ground felt more solid instead of the instability we’d been living through and so, I found myself gradually returning to the joy of reading, starting with the pile of newly ordered poetry books (Helen Rickerby’s – How to Live and Kate OHMYGOD Tempest),ebook downloads and podcasts (The Slowdown and New Yorker: Poetry are favourites). Even as I eased back in, World News started to drown out and distract and, without even really being aware of it, I found myself reaching for and returning to the solidarity and familiarity of fellow Indigenous like the current American Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, Layli Long Soldier (Whereas), Natalie Diaz (When My Brother Was an Aztec), Ali Cobby Eckermann and because not all indigenous are print published (yet or maybe even ever – that’s another kōrero, the elitism of print publishing), Evelyn READHERNOW Araluen and; because Indigenous prose is poetic a.f – Tommy Orange (There, There), Richard Wagameese (Indian Horse, Medicine Walk), Terese Marie Mailhot (Heart Berries) and Louise Erdrich (The Round House) and the Spoken Word roopu 1491’s.

Of course, most of these writers/performers are contemporary and that’s purposeful on my part because our commonalities while based upon our shared experience of Colonial Violence is also shaped by our whakapapa to our ancestors, the richness of our respective cultures and our colonised realities. As I acknowledge, that we follow in the steps of those before us, as others follow us, I also recognise that responsibility, that underlying mihi, that humility in the work of these contemporary indigenous and, as we live through these days, I get huge comfort in that. I am comforted by Our shared survival, Our resilience and by Our ability to still be here after the most horrific intentional actions to kill us and our ability to articulate and call that out, while being in a state of constant forgiveness towards our own people because we know, we get it, we’re you as you are me.

It terrifies me as to what will happen if, this new enemy finds its way to my Iwi, to rural Māori communities, to the rural Māori community I love, to Prisons or to the many places around this country where people I love are. We won’t have a shitshow. This’ll be a modern day Scorched Earth. It’ll wipe us out. I can’t bear to think about that.

So, while knowing and feeling allathat, I do the only thing I can. I put one step in front of the other as I have these past months, walking alongside my whānau and my Dad facing what has to be faced because while terrified, the love I have for him is greater than my fear. My love is greater than my fear. Love is greater than fear.
May a vaccination be found/created. And soon.

Ngā manaakitanga na Maraea


I Give You Back

I release you, my beautiful and terrible
fear. I release you. You were my beloved
and hated twin, but now, I don’t know you
as myself. I release you with all the
pain I would know at the death of
my children.

You are not my blood anymore.

I give you back to the soldiers
who burned down my house, beheaded my children,
raped and sodomized my brothers and sisters.
I give you back to those who stole the
food from our plates when we were starving.

I release you, fear, because you hold
these scenes in front of me and I was born
with eyes that can never close.

I release you
I release you
I release you
I release you

I am not afraid to be angry.
I am not afraid to rejoice.
I am not afraid to be black.
I am not afraid to be white.
I am not afraid to be hungry.
I am not afraid to be full.
I am not afraid to be hated.
I am not afraid to be loved.

to be loved, to be loved, fear.

Oh, you have choked me, but I gave you the leash.
You have gutted me but I gave you the knife.
You have devoured me, but I laid myself across the fire.

I take myself back, fear.
You are not my shadow any longer.
I won’t hold you in my hands.
You can’t live in my eyes, my ears, my voice
my belly, or in my heart my heart
my heart my heart

But come here, fear
I am alive and you are so afraid
of dying.

Joy Harjo

Published in How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems: 1975 – 2001
(W.W. Norton and Company Inc., 2002).












Maraea Rakuraku’s ‘Allies: A Checklist’


Allies: A Checklist

  1. Associated always with some godawful Act of Aggression
  2. Hero swoops in
  3. Woman swooning
  4. War won


Allies:  A Checklist Revisited

  1. Try listening. Actually, scrap that just listen.
  2. i.s.t.e.n. P.a.k.e.h.a men.
  3. Especially you. Specially, special,specifically you.
  4. Alone this checklist applies.
  5. It doesn’t.
  6. It does.
  7. Feel that?
  8. Pissed off? Beset upon? Mis-judged? Angry? Emotional? Overly emotional? Guilty?
  9. You sure bloody are
  10. Look at you, looking at me, looking at you
  11. Assessing
  12. Is she educated enough?
  13. Articulate?
  14. Published?
  15. Literary?
  16. Poetical?
  17. Pretty?
  18. Hot, enough?
  19. Enough already.
  20. Whatever is what, I’m not – white man, white woman,
  21. E noho.
  22. You do you.
  23. I’ll – do me.
  24. Wāhine Māori ma, E tū

Ally: Definition

A country that has agreed officially to give help and support to another one, especially during a war:

If Patriarchy is the Country, Women are at war.

If Women is the Country, Patriarchy is the war.

Ally: Definition

Someone who helps and supports someone else.

Doesn’t takeover. Doesn’t redefine. Doesn’t reinterpret. Doesn’t tell you about you. Doesn’t tell you how you can do you better. Doesn’t make it about them. Just doesn’t.

Ally: Definition

Someone who helps and supports someone else by – helping and supporting, someone else.

  1. Ally from the Latin word alligare,
  2. Alligare – to bind to
  3. We, are bound
  4. To make it happen: Amirite wāhine ma?
  5. As for binding – be it feet, a relationship or “spiritually”. No.
  6. Means no.
  7. No – maybe. No – later. No – after dinner. No – because it makes you sleep easier. No.
  8. Nothing ever stops the Patriarchy from being itself.
  9. Through narcissistic old white.
  10. Men who yet again, tell me they know me better than I know my…
  11. Self actualisation, theirs, reflective in a world created solely by them
  12. for them. Not us.
  13. Selina Tusitala Marsh stretching across the Pacific through whakapapa and words following,
  14. Teresia Teaiwa, who did it first,
  15. Grace Molisa, before her. And the legions –
  16. Legends before her, not myths
  17. Truths
  18. Friend
  19. I ally you and your story
  20. and your telling of it
  21. not mine
  22. yours
  23. In solidarity.
  24. Shoulder to shoulder.
  25. An ally jimmies. There is room enough for two, for multitudes.
  26. Sister, the light is enough for us all. Come. Here. Join me. Join us.


Maraea Rakuraku



Musician and actor Moana Ete read this heart-stunning poem at the Wild Honey National Poetry event at Wellington’s Unity Books and you could hear a pin drop the silence was so deep.

Tonight I am celebrating Wild Honey in Palmerston North, and tomorrow I am heading from the airport to RNZ to talk favourite books, music, poetry and movies with Jessie Mulligan on the Bookmarks spot. It feels like this intensely wonderful time I have had drawing my new book into the world is moving into a different phase. I can retreat into my quiet life and do secret things for a while. Time to recharge the empty fuel tank.

It is utterly fitting to post Maraea’s poem that muses on the word ‘ally’. The past weeks have been a time of poetry friendship, of warmth, empathy and connections. I am so grateful to everyone who has attended and participated in the Wild Honey events.

And I am so moved by Maraea’s poem – it makes my heart sing.


‘Sister, the light is enough for us all. Come. Here. Join me. Join us.’


Maraea Rakuraku is an award-winning playwright, poet, short story writer, critic, reviewer and broadcaster who lives in Wellington and the Bay of Plenty. She creates work that investigates, examines, calls out and celebrates Te Ao Māori and our navigation of 21st century Aotearoa New Zealand.

Her thoughtful, fierce intellectualism, and grounding in her Tūhoe and Ngāti Kahungunu identity, is matched only by her heart and commitment to giving voice.

With Vana Manasiadis, Maraea is the co-editor of and contributor to Tātai Whetū: Seven Māori Poets in Translation (Seraph Press, 2018). In 2018 she started a PhD in Creative Writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters, Wellington.






Celebrating poetry 2018 in pictures and words


m y    h i g h l i g h t s


I have had endless opportunities to transform the days and nights of 2018 with poetry musings. What good is poetry? Why write it? Why read it? Because it energises. Because it connects with the world on the other side of these hills and bush views. Because it gives me goose bumps and it makes me feel and think things.

I am fascinated by the things that stick – the readings I replay in my head – the books I finish and then read again within a week – the breathtaking poem I can’t let go. So much more than I write of here!

I have also invited some of the poets I mention to share their highlights.


2018: my year of poetry highlights

I kicked started an audio spot on my blog with Chris Tse reading a poem and it meant fans all round the country could hear how good he is. Like wow! Will keep this feature going in 2019.

Wellington Readers and Writers week was a definite highlight – and, amidst all the local and international stars, my standout session featured a bunch of Starling poets. The breathtaking performances of Tayi Tibble and essa may ranapiri made me jump off my seat like a fan girl. I got to post esssa’s poem on the blog.

To get to do an email conversation with Tayi after reading Poūkahangatus (VUP) her stunning debut collection – was an absolute treat. I recently reread our interview and was again invigorated by her poetry engagements, the way she brings her whanau close, her poetry confidence, her fragilities, her song. I love love love her poetry.

My second standout event was the launch of tātai whetū edited by Maraea Rakuraku and Vana Manasiadis and published by Seraph Press. Lots of the women read with their translators. The room overflowed with warmth, aroha and poetry.

At the same festival I got to MC Selina Tusitala Marsh and friends at the National Library and witness her poetry charisma. Our Poet Laureate electrifies a room with poems (and countless other venues!), and I am in awe of the way she sparks poetry in so many people in so many places.

I also went to my double poetry launch of the year. Chris Tse’s  He’s So MASC (AUP) – the book moved and delighted me to bits and I was inspired to do an email conversation with him for Poetry Shelf. He was so genius in his response. Anna Jackson’s Pasture and Flock: New and Selected Poems (AUP) delivers the quirkiest, unexpected, physical, cerebral poetry around. The book inspired another email conversation for the blog.

Tusiata Avia exploded my heart at her event with her cousin Victor Rodger; she read her challenging Unity and astonishing epileptic poems. Such contagious strength amidst such fragility my nerve endings were hot-wired (can that be done?). In a session I chaired on capital cities and poets, Bill Manhire read and spoke with such grace and wit the subject lit up. Capital city connections were made.

When Sam Duckor-Jones’s debut collection People from the Pit Stand Up (VUP) arrived, both the title and cover took me to the couch to start reading until I finished. All else was put on hold. I adore this book with its mystery and revelations, its lyricism and sinew; and doing a snail-paced email conversation was an utter pleasure.

I have long been a fan of Sue Wootton’s poetry with its sumptuous treats for the ear. So I was delighted to see The Yield (OUP) shortlisted for the 2018 NZ Book Awards. This is a book that sticks. I was equally delighted to see Elizabeth Smither win with her Night Horses (AUP) because her collection features poems I just can’t get out of my head. I carry her voice with me, having heard her read the poems at a Circle of Laureates event. I also loved Hannah Mettner’s Fully Clothed and So Forgetful (VUP), a debut that won best first Book. How this books sings with freshness and daring and originality.

I did a ‘Jane Arthur has  won the Sarah Broom Poetry Award and Eileen Meyers picked her’ dance in my kitchen and then did an anxious flop when I found Eileen couldn’t make the festival. But listening to Jane read before I announced the winner I felt she had lifted me off the ground her poems were so good. I was on stage and people were watching.

Alison Glenny won the Kathleen Grattan Award and Otago University Press published The Farewell Tourist, her winning collection. We had a terrific email conversation. This book has taken up permanent residence in my head because I can’t stop thinking about the silent patches, the mystery, the musicality, the luminous lines, the Antarctica, the people, the losses, the love. And the way writing poetry can still be both fresh and vital. How can poetry be so good?!

I went to the HoopLA book launch at the Women’s Bookshop and got to hear three tastes from three fabulous new collections: Jo Thorpe’s This Thin Now, Elizabeth Welsh’s Over There a Mountain and Reihana Robinson’s Her limitless Her. Before they began, I started reading Reihana’s book and the mother poems at the start fizzed in my heart. I guess it’s a combination of how a good a poem is and what you are feeling on the day and what you experienced at some point in the past. Utter magic. Have now read all three and I adore them.

At Going West I got to chair Helen Heath, Chris Tse and Anna Jackson (oh like a dream team) for the Wellington and poetry session. I had the anxiety flowing (on linking city and poet again) but forgot all that as I became entranced by their poems and responses. Such generosity in sharing themselves in public – it not only opened up poetry writing but also the complicated knottiness of being human. Might sound corny but there you go. Felt special.

Helen Heath’s new collection Are Friends Eectric? (VUP) was another book that blew me apart with its angles and smoothness and provocations. We conversed earlier this year by email.

A new poetry book by former Poet Laureate Cilla McQueen is always an occasion to celebrate. Otago University Press have released Poeta: Selected and new poems this year. It is a beautiful edition curated with love and shows off the joys of Cilla’s poetry perfectly.

Two anthologies to treasure: because I love short poems Jenny Bornholdt’s gorgeous anthology Short Poems of New Zealand. And Steve Braunias’s The Friday Poem because he showcases an eclectic range of local of poets like no other anthology I know. I will miss him making his picks on Fridays (good news though Ashleigh Young is taking over that role).


Highlights from some poets


Sam Duckor-Jones

I spent six weeks reading & writing poems with the students of Eketahuna School. They were divided on the merits of James Brown’s Come On Lance. It sparked a number of discussions & became a sort of touchstone. Students shared the poems they’d written & gave feedback: it’s better than Come On Lance, or, it’s not as good as Come On Lance, or, shades of Come On Lance. Then someone would ask to hear Come On Lance again & half the room would cheer & half the room would groan. Thanks James Brown for Come On Lance.


Hannah Mettner

My fave poetry thing all year has been the beautiful Heartache Festival that Hana Pera Aoake and Ali Burns put on at the start of the year! Spread over an afternoon and evening, across two Wellington homes, with readings and music and so much care and aroha. I wish all ‘literary festivals’ had such an atmosphere of openness and vulnerability!


Jane Arthur

Poetry-related things made up a lot of my highlights this year. I mean, obviously, winning the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize was … pretty up there. I’m still, like, “Me?! Whaaaat!” about it. I discovered two things after the win. First, that it’s possible to oscillate between happy confidence and painful imposter syndrome from one minute to the next. And second, that the constant state of sleep deprivation brought on by having a baby is actually strangely good for writing poetry. It puts me into that semi-dream-brain state that helps me see the extra-weirdness in everything. I wrote almost a whole collection’s worth of poems (VUP, 2020) in the second half of the year, thanks broken sleep!

A recent highlight for me was an event at Wellington’s LitCrawl: a conversation between US-based poet Kaveh Akbar and Kim Hill. I’m still processing all its gems – hopefully a recording will show up soon. Another was commissioning Courtney Sina Meredith to write something (“anything,” I said) for NZ Poetry Day for The Sapling, and getting back a moving reminder of the importance of everyone’s stories

This year I read more poetry than I have in ages, and whenever I enjoyed a book I declared it my favourite (I always do this). However, three local books have especially stayed with me and I will re-read them over summer: the debuts by Tayi Tibble and Sam Duckor-Jones, and the new Alice Miller. Looking ahead, I can’t wait for a couple of 2019 releases: the debut collections by essa may ranapiri and Sugar Magnolia Wilson.


Elizabeth Smither

Having Cilla McQueen roll and light me a cigarette outside the Blyth

Performing Arts Centre in Havelock North after the poets laureate

Poemlines: Coming Home reading (20.10.2018) and then smoking together,

cigarettes in one hand and tokotoko in the other. Then, with the relief that

comes after a reading, throwing the cigarette down into a bed of pebbles, hoping

the building doesn’t catch on fire.


Selina Tusitala Marsh

To perform my ‘Guys Like Gauguin’ sequence (from Fast Talking PI) in Tahiti at the Salon du Livre, between an ancient Banyan Tree and a fruiting Mango tree, while a French translator performs alongside me and Tahitians laugh their guts out!

Thanks Bougainville
For desiring ‘em young
So guys like Gauguin
Could dream and dream
Then take his syphilitic body


Chris Tse











This year I’ve been lucky enough to read my work in some incredible settings, from the stately dining room at Featherston’s Royal Hotel, to a church-turned-designer-clothing-store in Melbourne’s CBD. But the most memorable reading I’ve done this year was with fellow Kiwis Holly Hunter, Morgan Bach and Nina Powles in a nondescript room at The Poetry Cafe in London, which the three of them currently call home. It was a beautiful sunny Saturday that day, but we still managed to coax people into a dark windowless room to listen to some New Zealand poetry for a couple of hours. This is a poetry moment I will treasure for many years to come.


Sue Wootton

I’ve had the pleasure of hearing and reading plenty of poems by plenty of poets this year. But far and away the most rejuvenating poetry experience for me during 2018 was working with the children at Karitane School, a small primary school on the East Otago coast. I’m always blown away by what happens when kids embark on the poetry journey. Not only is the exploration itself loads of fun, but once they discover for themselves the enormous potentiality in language – it’s just go! As they themselves wrote: “Plant the seeds and grow ideas / an idea tree! Sprouting questions … / Bloom the inventions / Fireworks of words …” So I tip my cap to these young poets, in awe of what they’ve already made and intrigued to find out what they’ll make next.


Cilla McQueen



Found on the beach – is it a fossil?

jawbone? hunk of coral? No – it’s a wrecked,

fire-blackened fragment of Janola bottle,

its contorted plastic colonised by weeds

and sandy encrustations, printed instructions

still visible here and there, pale blue.

Growing inside the intact neck, poking out

like a pearly beak, a baby oyster.



Living in Bluff for twenty-two years now, I’ve sometimes felt out on a limb, in the tree of New Zealand poetry. I appreciate the journey my visitors undertake to reach me. A reluctant traveller myself, a special poetry moment for me was spent with Elizabeth Smither and Bill and Marion Manhire at Malo restaurant, in Havelock North. Old friends from way back – I haven’t seen them often but poetry and art have always connected us


Tayi Tibble

In September, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend The Rosario International Poetry Festival in Argentina. It was poetic and romantic; late night dinners in high rise restaurants, bottles of dark wine served up like water, extremely flowery and elaborate cat-calling (Madam, you are a candy!) and of course sexy spanish poetry and sexy poets.

On our last night, Marcela, Eileen and I broke off and went to have dinner at probably what is the only Queer vegan hipster restaurant/boutique lingerie store/experimental dj venue in the whole of Argentina, if not the world. Literally. We couldn’t find a vegetable anywhere else. We went there, because Eileen had beef with the chef at the last place and also we had too much actual beef generally, but I digress.

So anyway there we are eating a vegan pizza and platter food, chatting. I accidentally say the C word like the dumbass crass kiwi that I am forgetting that it’s like, properly offensive to Americans. Eileen says they need to take a photo of this place because it’s camp af. I suggest that Marcela and I kiss for the photo to gay it up because I’m a Libra and I’m lowkey flirting for my life because it’s very hot and I’ve basically been on a red-wine buzz for five days. Eileen gets a text from Diana, one of the festival organisers telling them they are due to read in 10 minutes. We are shocked because the male latin poets tend to read for up to 2584656 times their allocated time slots, so we thought we had plenty of time to like, chill and eat vegan. Nonetheless poetry calls, so we have to dip real quick, but when we step outside, despite it being like 1546845 degrees the sky opens up and it’s pouring down. Thunder. Lightening. A full on tropical South American storm!

It’s too perfect it’s surreal. Running through the rain in South America. Marcella and I following Eileen like two hot wet groupies. Telling each other, “no you look pretty.” Feeling kind of primal. Throwing our wet dark curls around. The three of us agree that this is lowkey highkey very sexy. Cinematic and climatic. Eventually we hail a taxi because time is pressing. Though later that night, and by night I mean at like 4am, Marcella and I, very drunk and eating the rest of our Vegan pizza, confessed our shared disappointment that we couldn’t stay in the rain in Argentina…  just for a little while longer….

We get to the venue and make a scene; just in time and looking like we’ve just been swimming. Eileen, soaking wet and therefore looking cooler than ever, reads her poem An American Poem while Marcella and I admire like fangirls with foggy glasses and starry eyes.

“And I am your president.” Eileen reads.

“You are! You are!” We both agree.


Alison Glenny

A poetry moment/reading. ‘The Body Electric’ session at this year’s Litcrawl was a celebration of queer and/or non-binary poets (Emma Barnes, Harold Coutts, Sam Duckor-Jones, essa may ranapiri, Ray Shipley ). Curated and introduced by poet Chris Tse (looking incredibly dapper in a sparkly jacket) it was an inspiring antidote to bullying, shame, and the pressure to conform.

A book. Not a book of poetry as such, but a book by a poet (and perhaps it’s time to be non-binary about genre as well as gender?). Reading Anne Kennedy’s The Ice Shelf I was struck by how unerringly it highlights the salient characteristics of this strange era we call the anthropocene: crisis and denial, waste and disappearance, exploitation, and the destruction caused by broken relationships and an absence of care.

A publishing event. Seraph Press published the lovely tātai whetū: seven Māori women poets in translation, with English and Te Reo versions of each poem on facing pages (and a sprinkling of additional stars on some pages). An invitation, as Karyn Parangatai writes in her similarly bilingual review of the book in Landfall Review online (another publishing first?) ‘to allow your tongue to tease the Māori words into life’.

Best writing advice received in 2018. ‘Follow the signifier’.


essa may ranapiri

There are so many poetry highlights for me this year, so many good books that have left me buzzing for the verse! First book I want to mention is Cody-Rose Clevidence’s second poetry collection flung Throne. It has pulled me back into a world of geological time and fractured identity.

Other books that have resonated are Sam Ducker-Jone’s People from the Pit Stand Up and Tayi Tibble’s Poūkahangatus, work from two amazingly talented writers and friends who I went through the IIML Masters course with. After pouring over their writing all year in the workshop environment seeing their writing in book form brought me to tears. So proud of them both!

Written out on a type-writer, A Bell Made of Stones by queer Chamorro poet, Lehua M. Taitano, explores space, in the world and on the page. They engage with narratives both indigenous and colonial critiquing the racist rhetoric and systems of the colonial nation state. It’s an incredible achievement, challenging in form and focus.

I’ve been (and continue to be) a part of some great collaborative poetry projects, a poetry collection; How It Colours Your Tongue with Loren Thomas and Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor, a poetry chapbook; Eater Be Eaten with Rebecca Hawkes, and a longform poetry zine; what r u w/ a broken heart? with Hana Pera Aoake. Working with these people has and continues to be a such a blessing!

I put together a zine of queer NZ poetry called Queer the Pitch. Next year I’m going to work to release a booklet of trans and gender diverse poets, I’m looking forward to working with more talented queer voices!

The most important NZ poetry book to be released this year, it would have to be tātai whetū. It was published as part of Seraph Press’s Translation Series. It features work from seven amazing wāhine poets; Anahera Gildea, Michelle Ngamoki, Tru Paraha, Kiri Piahana-Wong, Maraea Rakuraku, Dayle Takitimu and Alice Te Punga Somerville. These poems are all accompanied by te reo Māori translations of the work. I can only imagine that it would be a super humbling experience to have your work taken from English and returned to the language of the manu. By happenstance I was able to attend the launch of tātai whetū; to hear these pieces read in both languages was a truly special experience. It’s so important that we continue to strive to uplift Māori voices, new words brought forth from the whenua should be prized in our literary community, thanks to Seraph for providing such a special place for these poems. Ka rawe!


Anna Jackson

This has been a year of particularly memorable poetry moments for me, from the launch of Seraph Press’s bilingual anthology Tātai Whetū in March and dazzling readings by Mary Rainsford and Tim Overton at a Poetry Fringe Open Mike in April, to Litcrawl’s inspiring installation in November of essa may ranapiri and Rebecca Hawkes hard at work on their collaborative poetry collection in a little glass cage/alcove at the City Art Gallery. They hid behind a table but their creative energy was palpable even through the glass. I would also like to mention a poetry salon hosted by Christine Brooks, at which a dog-and-cheese incident of startling grace brilliantly put into play her theory about the relevance of improv theatre theory to poetry practice. Perhaps my happiest poetry moment of the year took place one evening when I was alone in the house and, having cooked an excellent dinner and drunken rather a few small glasses of shiraz, started leafing through an old anthology of English verse reading poems out loud to myself, the more the metre the better. But the poems I will always return to are poems I have loved on the page, and this year I have been returning especially to Sam Duckor-Jones’s People from the Pit Stand Up, while I look forward to seeing published Helen Rickerby’s breath-taking new collection, How to Live, that has already dazzled me in draft form.



happy summer days

and thank you for visiting my bog

in 2018











Monday Poem: Maraea Rakuraku’s ‘When does it start?’


When does it start?


It’s not waving a flag, holding a banner, knowing what postcolonial theory

means and when to use it, memorising quotes and lining them up like

soldiers that are sent out in waves of attacks,


It’s not being polite, remaining open, listening fairly, vigilantly assessing

your motivation, re-writing your carefully worded response, marvelling

how the person who has cornered you on-line, at a party, work do or

rugby game is not hearing how every word they are saying is offensive and

they may as well be slicing through your heart, with the intent-sity of a

scythe clearing long grass,


It isn’t realising dressing up racist rhetoric in flash language is still just

racist rhetoric in flash language and sniffing that out in the first, I’m not

racist … but,


It isn’t recognising white privilege and entitlement, functioning under white

privilege and entitlement, loving under white privilege and entitlement,


It doesn’t start with the huge fucking disappointment when a brown

brotha is worse than the worst redneck you’ve encountered in your life,


It doesn’t start by standing up for your iwi, people, culture, colleague,

son, daughter, lover, missus, Koro, Nan, cuzzie, animals, Papatūānuku, or

even yourself,

Mō āhea tīmata ai? ka tīmata āwhea?


Ehara i te whakakakapa i te haki, i te pupuri ki te kara, i te mōhio ki

te ariā pōhi koroniara me te wā e tika ana kia whakamahia, i te tuhi i

ngā whakataukī ki te rae ka whakarārangi ai anō nei he hōia e tukuna

putupututia ana ki te whawhai,


Ehara i te mānawanawa, i te noho areare, i te tōkeke o te whakarongo,

i te mātai i ākinga ōu, i te whatatika i tō whakahoki kua āta tuhia, i te

whakamīharo ki te tangata nāna koe i whakaiti i te ipurangi, i te pāti, i

te kaupapa ā-mahi, i te kēmu whutupōro rānei me tana kore i rongo ki te

hākiki o ia kupu āna, me e haehae ana i te ngākau, he rite tōna kaha ki te

kotinga o te haira e whakawātea ana i te pātītī roa,


Ehara i te kitenga o te kōrero kaikiri kua whakareia ki te kupu whakaniko,

me te mōhio tonu iho he kōrero kaikiri tonu kua whakareia ki te kupu

whakaniko, ehara au i te kaikiri … heoi anō,


Ehara i te whakamārama i te huanga me te āheinga kiritea, e mahi ana i

raro i te huanga me te āheinga kiritea, e aroha ana i raro i te huanga me te

āheinga kiritea,


Kāore e tīmata i te mutunga kē mai o te matekiri i te mea he kino noa ake

te tūngāne kiriparauri i te kakī whero tino kino rawa atu kua tūpono i

roto i ō rā,


Kāore e tīmata i tō tū tautoko i tō iwi, i ō tāngata, i tō ahurea, i tō

kaimahi, i tō tama, i tō kōtiro, i tō whaiāipo, i tō wahine, i tō koro, i tō

kuia, i tō whanaunga, i ō mōkai, i a Papatūānuku, i a koe anō hoki,

It starts,

with that first step from the margins into the glare of light





that started

when the idea of you was born and took seed

that started

when the idea of you was born and took seed

that started

when the idea of you was born

that started

with the idea of you.

Ka tīmata,

i te tapuwae tuatahi i te paenga ki te kōnakonako o te tūrama

me te


o tōu


i tīmata tērā

i te tinakutanga me te tupu o te whakaaro ki a koe

i tīmata

i te tinakutanga me te tupu o te whakaaro ki a koe

i tīmata

i te tinakutanga o te whakaaro ki a koe

i tīmata

i te whakaaro ki a koe.



©Maraea Rakuraku  Translated by Jamie Cowell, Tātai Whetū: Seven Māori Poets in Translation, Seraph Press, 2018.



Maraea Rakuraku is an award-winning playwright, poet, short story writer, critic, reviewer and broadcaster who lives in Wellington and the Bay of Plenty. She creates work that investigates, examines, calls out and celebrates Te Ao Māori and our navigation of 21st century Aotearoa New Zealand.

Her thoughtful, fierce intellectualism, and grounding in her Tūhoe and Ngāti Kahungunu identity, is matched only by her heart and commitment to giving voice.

With Vana  Manasiadis, Maraea is the co-editor of and contributor to Tātai Whetū: Seven Māori Poets in Translation, which has just been published by Seraph Press.

In 2018 she started a PhD in Creative Writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters, Wellington.