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Apirana Taylor, internationally acclaimed New Zealand poet, launches new volume of poems.

Dorothy - 04/12/04

Canterbury University Press publishes its first volume of poetry

te ata kura
the red-tipped dawn

This new volume of poetry by Maori and Pakeha poet, Apirana Taylor, widens the scope of the poems presented on his remarkable CD Footprints in Tears Thumbprints in Blood.

He wrote the majority of the poems while he was the Ursula Bethell Writer in Residence in Creative Writing at the English Department of the University of Canterbury in 2002, and the Canterbury University Press has published the collection - the first poetry book in its catalogue.

Apirana is an artist talented in many areas - as a poet, novelist, playwright, short story writer, actor, and musician, as well as being a successful painter who painted the picture on the cover of the book,


Apirana's painting on the cover of the book
Apirana's painting on the cover of the book

Click here to view a larger version - Buy a copy of the book

Those who have heard Apirana present his poetry find it an unforgettable experience and value re-living it through reading the poems or listening to the CD. He enhances the atmosphere of the presentation with his performances on his guitar, or Maori flutes, or creating haunting sound from a conch shell.


Apirana's performance
Apirana's performance

Click here to view a larger version

Apirana described the poems on the CD as "a walk through history". The poems in the new book could be described as "a walk through life" as they focus on more aspects of life than it was possible to include in the CD.

The title of the collection te ata kura is the title of one of the poems.

oh tender
shoot of peace
fragile leaf
tiny bud
on slender
stem
shine and grow
before
the red-tipped dawn
of war

The collection is appropriately named as this short poem reflects recurrent themes in the collection - the beauty, the spiritual impact, and the fragility of much that we value in nature and in life, but also the shadow of violence and war that hangs over everything.

Among poems about nature the title thought is significant because here the sight which moves the poet to thought is

a black and grey trout
in a black and grey stream

defined by light

swimming through darkness

However there is a pattern in the nature poems of a contemplative response to the workings of nature. In looking he paints his word picture of leaves, plants and ducks on the Otakaro (Avon) River and closes with the line

beauty has no reason to be

In thoughts on the Avon he comments on the serenity of the leaves as they sail down the river. In nature calls nature, in the beauty of the Kapiti area, is calling him to worship in her temple and in another poem set in the Kapiti area on Paekakariki Beach the scene at night is serene but for the thought of two youth suicides.

Patterns in nature feature in poems like invisible which makes us see the brown leaf which has fallen among the other leaves but is part of a pattern

of brown yellow and red
stitched into a blanket
of green lawn

Images of leaves seem to fascinate the poet - leaves floating, leaf fall revealing the true shape of the tree, leaves in autumn colours, the melody of leaves, dead leaves.

His longing for peace for the world and hatred of war are given powerful expression. Past wars fought by Te Rauparaha, the Taranaki land wars, soldiers imprisoning peace-loving people at Parihaka, the native Americans' struggle for their rights, the concentration camps where so many were exterminated under Hitler's regime, the atom bombs dropped by the US planes, war in Yugoslavia, the bombing of the twin towers, suicide bombing - all these give rise to powerful poems. twin towers ands with a repeated theme

the innocent fall again


Apirana Taylor
Apirana Taylor

Click here to view a larger version

Apirana, however, is not only moved by the sufferings and death of thousands in war. He writes of a friend's grief on the death of his sister and society's expectation that grief be concealed, and of the untimely deaths of many of the friends of his youth.

He is deeply moved too by the sufferings of many women - some abused by their partners and feeling defeated, some who suffer but fight against their fate and get a better life, an anorexic woman drawn into her problem by what she sees as society's expectations.

He protests about the sprawling houses or noisy tour parties that are spoiling some of the country's most beautiful areas.

Many of these protest poems are recorded on the CD and the poet's voice adds greatly to their power. Samples of his reading of some the poems can be heard on his website.

However the poems are not all sorrowful. Reading the book I was impressed by the wide range of emotions and topics in the poems - the impact of his Maori heritage, the power of the haka and the use, beauty and symbolism of harakeke (flax), ironic comment about materialism at Christmas, praise for Apirana Ngata, a pleasant picnic at Charteris Bay, punctuation used to create images, joy in playing with words.

The book closes with one of the poems where he is playing with words.

whew

thewind
chasedall
mywords
awaywhat
followsis
allihave
lefttosay.

For the fullest appreciation of Apirana's work buy a copy of the book and the CD.

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