Make a big difference to The Big Idea.

Help us tell the most creative stories.

Become a supporter

Speaking From The Soul - Celebrating Aotearoa's Poets

Courtney Sina Meredith. Photo: Sally Greer.
On World Poetry Day, The Big Idea highlights some of the New Zealanders who use their creativity to bring passion and personality to a much loved craft.

Share

As we celebrate World Poetry Day (21 March), The Big Idea couldn’t think of anything more fitting than to put the spotlight on some of Aotearoa’s gifted poets.

 

Aotearoa’s depth of poetry talent is to be admired - be it spoken word or written - with a growing array of online offerings and publications providing opportunities to hone their craft and share their mahi with the world.

 

Today’s a perfect day to acknowledge your favourite poets or discover some new ones. TBI approached some of the poetry components we admire for permission to share their creativity with you.

 

Selina Tusitala Marsh

A former Poet Laureate, celebrated poet and author Professor Selina Tusitala Marsh is working on Mophead: KNOT Book 3, the latest book in her award-winning graphic memoir series (check out her mahi here).

 

Marsh, who was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to poetry, literature and the Pacific community, has shared a new poem that will be part of her next collection.

Selina Tusitala Marsh. Photo: Jesse James Marsh.

 

Me, Rumi and the Touch Tree

 

I'm the woman 

In the sea

I'm the woman

In the dawn breeze

 

I'm the woman 

At the door

Both soles standing

On both floors

 

I'm the woman

On the grass

Stretching present

To the past

 

I'm the woman

In between

In the felt

Seen unseen

 

I'm the woman 

In the dream

Setting pounamu

In her ring

 

I'm the woman

Untamed

I'm the woman

With many names

 

I'm the woman 

In the trees

Reciting scripture

Off the leaves

 

I'm the woman

On the wing

It's tui freedom

We sing

 

I'm the woman

Who's tu much

I'm the woman

Who lives to touch

 

I'm the woman 

In the house

Mudbrick walls

North to south 

 

I'm the woman

Eating myths

Sucking story

Peel and pith

 

I'm the woman

In the sun

The brown one, yes,

The brown one

 

I'm the woman

In Majijiki

Fished up 

By Maui

 

I'm the woman 

In the tree

Touch me 

To find me

 

Courtney Sina Meredith

Courtney Sina Meredith. Photo: Janet Lilo.

A poet, author, playwright and director of the Tautai Pacific Arts Trust Poem, the multi-disciplinary creative’s been recognised and in demand around the world. 

 

Her collection Brown Girls in Bright Red Lipstick drew many accolades and her latest poetry collection Burst Kisses on the Actual Wind was critically acclaimed.

 

You can check out her mahi on Instagram - Meredith has shared a newly minted 2022 poem.

 

Of anyone she ever loved 

 

She wakes up in the dark and follows a routine

out comes the yoga mat the black coffee the ache 

down dog to the neighbouring apartment block [head lower than the heart] 

 

The tired sun reaches in from behind the building 

kissing the moon plastic the granite tiles the barbecue

weak mandarin goes its wistful march the sun 

lights stricken flax in the park across the road 

where no one walks but some men beg [for coins for plentiful affection] 

 

Stretches of nameless grass crowned in dewdrops 

fallen risen nations each blade 

born of bones of young silver

cut and come to now [fresh shoots of lime of light] 

 

The main road will be feeling the fire 

the day star the promised sun and dreams 

a whole world of sleeping trauma rising  

in between each yoga pose another memory [another angry organ] 

 

    Dreams where the sweetheart helps her into white linen 

    Dreams she finds her kids by a playground

    Dreams her mother’s tongue is fitted to her jaw 

    A tropical rainbow crying into the sea 

    Of anyone she ever loved 

 

Anne Kennedy

Anne Kennedy. Photo: Robert Cross.

 

A highly decorative and innovative poet and fiction writer, the multi-award winning Kennedy was recognised for her outstanding poetry career to date with the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement.

Her latest poetry release  The Sea Walks into a Wall (Auckland University Press, 2021) is on the shortlist for this year’s Mary & Peter Biggs Award for Poetry at the Ockham NZ Book Awards - Kennedy shares a poem from that collection.

 

‘Full Moon’

(From ‘Dog and Plague’)

 

The dog looks

at the mad cat.

 

No cat

no. 

 

The vase is

its shadow

 

the black painting

a mirror.

 

There there

dog. The stories

 

you’ve heard.

That a cat

 

wants to

drink your blood.

 

 

Tusiata Avia

Tusiata Avia. Photo: Hayley Theyer courtesy of Phantom.

One of Aotearoa's most recognised creative forces, Avia's had a huge 2021 even by her high standards. The woman behind Wild Dogs Under My Skirt was named an Arts Foundation Laureate and won the Ockham NZ Book Award for Poetry with the no-holds barred The Savage Coloniser Book. 

She has shared one of the stand-out poems for that book.

250th anniversary of James Cook’s arrival in New Zealand 

 

Hey James,

yeah, you

in the white wig

in that big Endeavour

sailing the blue, blue water

like a big arsehole

FUCK YOU, BITCH.

 

James, 

I heard someone

shoved a knife 

right up

into the gap between 

your white ribs

at Kealakekua Bay.

I’m gonna go there

make a big Makahiki luau

cook a white pig

feed it to the dogs 

and FUCK YOU UP, BITCH.

 

Hey James, 

it’s us.

These days 

we’re driving round 

in SUVs

looking for ya 

or white men like you

who might be thieves 

or rapists 

or kidnappers 

or murderers 

yeah, or any of your descendants

or any of your incarnations 

cos, you know

ay, bitch? 

We’re gonna FUCK YOU UP.

 

 

Tonight, James,

it’s me

Lani, Danielle

and a car full of brown girls

we find you 

on the corner 

of the Justice Precinct.

 

You’ve got another woman 

in a headlock

and I’ve got my father’s 

pig-hunting knife 

in my fist

and we’re coming to get you

sailing round 

in your Resolution

your Friendship

your Discovery

and your fucking Freelove.

 

Watch your ribs, James

cos, I’m coming with

Kalaniōpu‘u

Kānekapōlei

Kana‘ina

Keawe‘ōpala

Kūka‘ilimoku 

who is a god

and Nua‘a 

who is king with a knife.

 

And then 

James,

then

we’re gonna 

FUCK. 

YOU. 

UP. 

FOR. 

GOOD.

BITCH.

 

Kasi Valu
 

Kasi Valu. Photo: Taute Vaai.

A multi-disciplinary performer, playwright and poet, Valu is a rising talent of New Zealand-born of Tongan (Mau’ufanga, Lapaha) descent and was one of the Pasifika creatives chosen for Tautai Gallery’s Fale-ship digital residencies in 2021.

 

 You can find his mahi on his Instagram account - and with the collectives he’s a part of Le Moana and TalanoaToko. Valu has shared a poem he wrote for Tonga the day after the Hunga-Tonga eruption. 

 

 

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

21 Mar 2022

The Big Idea Editor

Story
Creative icons the Topp Twins have received a unique birthday present - one they will share with the New Zealand comedy scene.
Story
Hundreds of thousands of dollars is heading the way of Aotearoa creatives - get The Lowdown on who’s getting recognised and what is on offer.
Story
Cath Cardiff has overseen countless arts funding applications in her time at Creative NZ - The Big Idea can exclusively reveal her exit after 22 years of service.
Story
The Lowdown checks out a NZ first for artists getting their copyrights honoured - which puts on a spotlight on those who are not - and the latest recognitions for NZ creatives.