When you buy this book, prepare to be positively discomforted: that is to say, deeply and gainfully put out of your way. The persistent layers of pain, anger and love; the delights and despairs of known and exploited places; the fury of historical injustice; the mingled tenderness and analytics of emotions and ideas; and, not least, the questioning and explorations of ways of writing, the uses of Te Reo in a world stupidly dominated by English – all make this a collection to challenge and change a reader.
The contents, as hinted above, are divided into four: ngā whakawhanaungatanga/relationships, ngā wāhi/places, te hitori rāua ko ngā aituā o tēnei whenua/the history and tragedies of this land, and ngā aurongo rāua ko ngā huatau/emotions and ideas. It is a welcome structure: the intensity of thoughts and feelings, the demanding play of dark and light, the dual-texting of Te Reo and English in many poems, and the typographic and pictorial added-extras only gain in effect from the ordering, flexible as it may be.
In ‘relationships’, many in dual-text, the poems concern the desperate pain of a lost son, friendly and merrily militant new neighbours, love in lockdown, and the death of friends. Much of this is almost unbearably moving, and some smilingly getting-on: from ‘no primogeniture’ and ‘as I lose another’ to ‘the new neighbours’ and ‘a lexicon of love’. The language (I refer here, as I must, to the English versions of all the poems, provided by Vaughan Rapatahana himself in every case: how else do you tell the people ...
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