Four poems from 'Puna Wai Korero--an anthology of Maori poetry in English'
The launching in Auckland this week of a major anthology of Maori poetry (in English) is cause for celebration and, hopefully, vigorous discussion. In their 400 page compendium, editors Reina Whaitiri and Robert Sullivan have surveyed a rich, wide-ranging, lyrical, often politicised and much mythologised poetic landscape. Purposeful, sometimes argumentative, and nearly always bedrocked in immediate experience, Maori poetry--as portrayed here--keeps returning to fundamental relationships: between individuals, family, community, tribe and nation. The book contains laments and valedictions, ancestral meditations, conversations with mythical figures and, tellingly, a number of poems addressing the greatest Maori poet to date, Hone Tuwhare (1922--2008). 'Through language and ideas, through stories and shared experiences, we discover and rediscover what it is to be Maori,' the editors state in their introduction. 'Te korero te kai a te rangatira---and may we continue to be well fed.'
come rain hail
(Hone Tuwhare, 1970)
Restoring the ancestral house
Old walls creak
amid masonbee hum
through cracked timbers
sun splinters ricochet from
the one good eye
of the tekoteko
supine upon the floor
And I . . .
hand poised tentatively
to trace aged scrolls
of clays blueblack and white and kōkōwai
adornments on the ribs of
the ancestral house
let the master craftsman return
from the loosened tukutuku panel
to guide the untutored hand
The shadows move
and the house is full
grey mounds humped upon the whāriki
a child slurps upon his mother’s nipple
in the corner
muffled lover shufflings
and the old men snoring
But only spiders
people the house
and the marauding masonbee
are the spinners of tales
and the long night singing
and the old men stare
morose in their warped frames
drunk against the wall
And I . . .
and shiny acrylic
and cement for the dry rot
in the tekoteko’s back.
(Katerina Mataira, 1996)
For my father in prison, 1965
my father would have needed time to do this
To build a table
made from matchsticks, our only family heirloom
matchstick held together with some kind of glue
Just like the
brick building which held him
Yes, that’s it
stone upon black stone which kept him captive
He entered through
the heavily bolted steel door they held open
And when he emerged
he had a matchstick table and was very quiet
represented a fragment of his life
was there outside him, set in a glue and he was a shell
(Michael O'Leary, 1985)
Today I surrendered the life
of my Honda City
to a wrecker in Penrose for $30.
I bought it seven years ago for $6000.
It has rust in the lower sills,
rust around the side windows –
on the WOF inspection sheet it says:
‘this car has bad and a lot of rust . . .’
That car took me to Uncle Pat’s tangi in Bluff.
We stopped and gazed at Moeraki,
the dream sky, on the way.
A friend followed us in it on the way
to National Women’s for Temuera’s birth
(we were in her huge Citroen).
We went to Ōtaki, and Wellington,
in the Honda to visit family.
The Honda took me to Library School
perched next to Victoria Uni.
I drove Grandad across the creek in the Honda
at night after the family reunion bash.
Temuera’s first car seat was in the Honda.
That Honda has seen a high percentage
of my poetry.
Now I have left it behind.
(Robert Sullivan, from the sequence 'Star Waka', 1999)
Puna Wai Korero is published by Auckland University Press. Details and further poems from the anthology: https://www.press.auckland.ac.nz/en/browse-books/all-books/books-2014/puna-wai-k_rero--an-anthology-of-mori-poetry-in-english.html