Tag Archives: Vaughan rapatahana

Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Vaughan Rapatahana’s ‘Aotearoa New Zealand’


Aotearoa New Zealand


‘Kotahi ano te kōhao o te ngira 

E kuhuna ai te miro ma te miro whero me te miro pango ‘

– Pōtatau Te Wherowhero

]There is but one eye of the needle,

Through which the white, red and black threads must pass.]


ko Aotearoa te ingoa o tēnei whenua ātaahua.

land of the long white cloud for many

nestling in a sea of verdant green,

surrounded by a brilliant blue ocean

& where the All Blacks often reign.


yet of course New Zealand

is also the name of these islands

some say that maybe –

with our increasingly multi-cultural crew

Pākehā, Māori, Asian, Pasifika –

it is time for a new name,

stressing our interconnections?

after all, we are rowing together

in this waka nowadays

heading in the right direction –

learning how we can all work closely

to include, as well as to respect, all our

sometimes confusing cultural credos

and to kōrero together in spite of them

in a continuous talanoa.




ni hao 

talofa lava 

tēnā koe  


malo e lelei

as-salam alaykom


different, yes and yet, respecting this diversity,

this contrasting, this sometime conflicting mix,

where Te Tiriti o Waitangi is the foundation document,

where journalism has flourished for well over 150 years

with upfront news & freedom of views

in the two key tongues, te reo Māori rāua ko te reo Ingarihi,

& Hindi is now the fourth most spoken language – namaste!

together we can connect and thrive.


āe ko Aotearoa te ingoa

throughout both North and South

we are birds singing several different waiata

tui, takahē, kōkako, kiwi

striving to make one mighty nest;

our own place for all –

one of a kind, the very rare huia,

a heaven on earth.

pristine air; clean water; prime food,

scenic vistas second to none,

what else could anyone want?


āe, ko Aotearoa te ingoa

let’s be thankful about who we are

& what we have –

the sense of fair play

the spirit of helping those in need,

sharing & supporting

including one and all.


thank you my friends 

kia ora taku hoa  

fa’afetai outou o a’u uo 

xie xie wo peng-youmen

salamat po mga kaibigan

shukraan lakum ‘asdiqayiy


there is so much to celebrate

in this lengthy land,

tō mātou whenua tino waimarie

& we should all be proud.


Vaughan Rapatahana

from ngā whakamatuatanga / interludes  (cyberwit, 2019)





A poet, novelist, teacher, critic, translator and editor, Vaughan Rapatahana, Te Ātiawa, commutes between homes in Hong Kong, Philippines and Aotearoa New Zealand. He is widely published across several genres, in multiple countries, in both his main languages, te reo Māori and English, and his work has been translated into Bahasa Melayu (Malay), Italian, French, Mandarin.

In 2019, he published five books, participated in World Poetry Recital Night, Kuala Lumpur and Poetry International at London’s South Bank Centre and in the launch of Poems from the Edge of Extinction and in Incendiary Art: the power of disruptive poetry. His poem tahi kupu anake included in the presentation by Tove Skutnabb-Kangas to the United Nations Forum on Minority Issues in Geneva in November 2019. His PhD thesis from the University of Auckland is on Colin Wilson and subsequently published a collected works about Wilson,  More than the Existentialist Outsider (Paupers Press, Nottingham, UK, 2019.)

His latest poetry collection ngā whakamatuatanga/interludes was published by Cyberwit, Allahabad, 2019) and Aotearoa New Zealand. Atonement (University of Santo Tomas Press, Manila) was nominated for a National Book Award in Philippines (2016). He writes a series of commentaries pertaining to Aotearoa New Zealand poetry for Jacket 2 (University of Pennsylvania, USA): a 2015–2016 series and again during 2018-2019.

His poetry teaching resources have been published in Hong Kong SAR, Brunei Darussalam, Australia, and New Zealand, including the first bilingual (Māori and English) such resource in 2011, Teaching Poetry. In 2019, book three of the series Poetry in Multicultural Oceania has been published by Essential Resources, Christchurch, New Zealand – with a new resource Exploring Multicultural Poetry for younger students due at the end of 2019.

Rapatahana will be participating in The Foundation and Cultural Organization International Academy Orient-Occident. Curtea de Argeş, Romania in July 2020.

Rapatahana is one of the few World authors who consistently writes in and is published in te reo Māori – in all of his books and also poetry publications in Aotearoa NZ (for example, Mayhem, Poetry New Zealand, takahē), USA (Antipodes), Canada (The Capilano Review), Australia (Meniscus), U.K. and so on. It is his mission to continue to do so and to push for a far wider recognition of the need to write and to be published in this tongue.

His New Zealand Book Council Writers File




Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Vaughan Rapatahana on Poems from the Edge of Extinction

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Read full article here

The anthology Poems from the Edge of Extinction (Chambers, UK, 2019) edited by well-known English poet, Chris McCabe, was launched at Poetry International, The Southbank Centre, London  in mid-October, 2019. He was the MC on this occasion, as well as for several other events during the festival. It is an important collection of poetry written in indigenous languages — including my own, te reo Māori — which are being threatened by dominant Hydra-like languages — like English and to a lesser extent others, such as Mandarin.

My perspective on why languages are under threat:

I have written extensively previously as regards the several agencies pushing English language Hydra-like dominion over indigenous languages across the globe, for primarily cultural-power and pecuniary reasons. Agencies such as the British Council, which continue to press for a worldwide spread of the language into traditionally non-English as a first language communities — so as to seek financial and cultural benefits for Britain. An approach as exemplified in their own words from their December 2019 Request for Proposal

‘… the organisation is seeking to investigate not merely the direct benefits of the spread of English (in terms of the direct financial benefit to the UK of the provision of English services and the improved skills and life chances of those learning it, both of which are relatively well known and have been widely explored in the past), but in particular the indirect benefits — in terms of greater knowledge of English driving the UK’s influence and attractiveness for trade, and improving the access of those learning English to opportunities, information and culture.’



Poetry Shelf audio spot: Vaughan Rapatahana reads ‘mō ōtautahi’ [for Christchurch]





Vaughan Rapatahana commutes between Hong Kong, Philippines and Aotearoa New Zealand. He is widely published across several genre in both his main languages, te reo Māori and English. He earned a Ph. D from the University of Auckland with a thesis about Colin Wilson and writes extensively about him. Rapatahana is a critic of the agencies of English language proliferation, inaugurating and co-editing English language as Hydra and Why English? Confronting the Hydra (2012 and 2016.)

He is a poet, with collections published in Hong Kong; Macau; Philippines; USA; England; France; India and New Zealand. Atonement was nominated for a National Book Award in Philippines (2016); he won the inaugural Proverse Poetry Prize the same year; and was included in Best New Zealand Poems (2017.)

He writes commentaries for Jacket2 (University of Pennsylvania): a 2015–2016 series and again during 2018-2019.  In 2019 he edited an anthology of Waikato poets: Ngā Kupu Waikato.

His New Zealand Book Council Writers File









Poetry Shelf noticeboard: In Jacket2 Vaughan Rapatahana presents Part 2 Kiwi Asian women poets


Vaughan Rapatahana presents Part 2 of his feature on New Zealand Asian women poets. He  considers rage and alienation but stresses these women write so much more. The poets: Aiwa Pooamorn, Nina Powles, Vanessa Crofskey, Wen-Juenn Lee, Shasha Ali and Joanna Li .

You can read the full piece with poems here.

On Poetry Shelf:

You can read Vanessa’s poem ‘The Capital of My Mother’  here

You can hear Wen-Juenn read ‘Prologue’  here

You can hear Nina read ‘Mid-Autumn Moon Festival 2016’ here


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Poetry Shelf noticeboard: at Jacket 2 – Vaughan Rapatahana on Kiwi Asian women poets


in a few months, i will fly

away from these streets, out of

skin. in a few months, i will spend

two new years in vegetable markets

and watching lazy susans

spin our chipped china plates around.


from ‘Ancestors’ by Joanna Li


This is an excellent post (part one of two) by Vaughan on a cluster of Kiwi Asian women poets: Vanesssa Crofsky, Wen-Juenn Lee, Joanna Li, Renee Liang, Aiwa Pooamorn and Nina Powles.


Here is a taste of the introduction:

I was completing a chapter in the forthcoming 2019 book, English in the South, edited by Kyria Finardi and published by Eduel, Brazil, when I thought that I really must write a commentary regarding the influx of young Asian poets, who were born in Aotearoa New Zealand, or have arrived to live here for long periods. Why? Because my chapter is entitled Confronting the English language Hydra in Aotearoa New Zealand and bemoans the lack of recognition given to Asian languages in the country because of the domination of English language exponents and their monolingual expectations, and the concomitant definite lack of deference to Asian peoples per se — despite the fact they will be the second largest cultural demographic here by 2026.

This resolve further strengthened when I read poems in a chapbook provided me by Renee Liang, and entitled Tasting Words (2017) — in which there was considerable strong emotion displayed by these younger New Zealand women poets, of Asian heritage. The excellent Poetry Shelf postings, which Paula Green so wonderfully provides, further highlighted other poets, whom I had not been aware of, or insufficiently aware of. This is no arbitrarily superimposed grouping either, because their voices and verse are distinct. They need to be heard.

More than this, my own family, which is Asian (Chinese and Filipina), was forced to learn English —  or not (!) when at school in both Hong Kong SAR and Philippines — while I have observed them somewhat caught between cultures at times. When they came to live in this, the skinny country of New Zealand, they were compelled to adjust. (Just as I tried to do when living in Brunei Darussalam, PR China, and Hong Kong SAR for so many years, in a sort of reverse diaspora. In fact, I spend considerable time in Asia nowadays and feel more comfortable there, by the way.)


Full post here