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September 11, 2018 | by  | in Arts Books | [ssba]

‘Poūkahangatus’ Arotake Pukapuka


First of all the name of this pukapuka, “Poūkahangatus”, is a hybridized word! Mixing Māori and the name of iconic Disney princess “Pocahontas”. How relevant right!? We love indigenous relevance, especially when it comes to wāhine Māori, feminism and empowerment. Which is exactly what this collection of poems vibrate, compelling you deep into the mind of creative writer Tayi Tibble. Born in 1995, Tibble has completed her Masters in Creative Writing and was the recipient of the Adam Foundation Prize. She has now blessed us with a collection of organic intelligence -Okay sis. Is she a bit of a Queen? Am I breaking the rules of being a good critic and overpraising her? Yes.  

Everything about these poems speak into a reality in which, as wāhine Māori, we can relate to, because this is Aotearoa and Shakespeare is overrated. Freshly released in July 2018, “Poūkahangatus” brings a deep understanding of the world from the heart of a young, beautiful wāhine Māori from Wellington. Highlighting indigenous knowledge and experiences of contemporary Māori issues in a creative and captivating manner. Ruminative and introspective, our lady of Te Whānau ā Apanui and Ngāti Porou descent shares the thoughts of her old soul in pure poetic fashion.


Each poem delivers various tastes of beauty, femininity, indigeneity, politics and activism with love for the mundane, a conundrum of emotions, powerful sexuality and bitter sweet darkness. They tell you of a kuia aching with beauty, a crush on Hone Harawira, a pāua shell astray, wāhine from the ocean and Wellington boys, each in a tone of whimsical sassiness and contemporary reflection. They talk about colonization that plunges through several generations, through love, language deprivation, physique and the 1960’s influx of Māori woman to Tinakori road. There are no rules amidst this collection, with language so harsh yet so delicate, sensually enticing, sexy and powerful. The imagery bursts of old nannies and gummy smiles, willowy electronic folk bands, the Waikato wars and biblical references with an attitude and smugness. Hear the wails of karanga in the King Country, ride on a horse bareback and shirtless and mark time from the arrival of James Cook through to season seven of Game of Thrones. This collection will have you blushing, and cold and everything drizzling in between.    

There is a fine balance in trusting each word that is beautiful and other words that are too bleak to appreciate, at least willingly, and still be mesmerised of the whole deal. As you read, disturbance and uncomfort will be felt as these poems speak of marginalised women, vulnerable women, oppression and the infamous white culture which is creatively constructed and deconstructed. These poems confront an issue of identity that is split between a Māori world and a Pakehā world. Tibble has chosen each word at the expense of her own discomfort, whakamā, distress, pleasure and amusement of both worlds –blaming, feeling guilty, feeling free, empowered but with an overarching hurt for a culture that carries loss and damage from the roots of colonisation.     


My reaction to “Poūkahangatus” was borderline fangirly before I even read it. I already knew what the title was phonetically mimicking, and I live for powerful and inspiring wāhine such as Tibble. I’m scheming for the perfect opportunity to gram it now. Hashtag woke.  

Furthermore, this ensemble of mahi is a beautiful product of a young woman which is something that is usually undermined in mainstream literature, let alone being Māori too. This collection is unique, inspiring, it is empowering and comes from a writer who is confident and brave. Let us, no longer spiel literature that derives from English men but let us kōrero about this and all the beauty that comes with it.

Nā Lateshia Marie McFarlane, Ngati Porou


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