The Night Before Waitangi Day

I wrote this poem when living in Sydney. I always felt like I was living in exile there. It was February 5, 2015, the night before my birthday, the night before Waitangi Day. I was feeling nostalgic, thinking of home and the Treaty (Te Tiriti o Waitangi) and what it means in different places and to different people. Also imagining the links and disconnect between the two settler colonies of New Zealand and Australia. It seems an appropriate poem for National Poetry Day in Aotearoa.
______________________________
The Night Before Waitangi Day
 
Birthday Eve
In Poihakena
No holiday tomorrow
This country does not stop to reflect
Upon what has been
And what might have been
And what could be
Written between the lines
Inscribed in blood
Across the way
In Aotearoa
 
No time off to
Contemplate what was
Translated
Creatively?
Faithfully?
Culturally?
No,
Erroneously.
Dangerously.
Colonially.
 
All a bit slapdash
Really.
Never mind
Not important
The power in the hands
Of those writing
The history
And all that.
Fudge it
A bit
The natives will never notice.
Besides
They won’t be here long
To relate their version
Their history
To question
To protest
To speak
Even.
 
Absence
Silence
Extinction
Progress
Taming
Homogenising
Nation building
Or some such
Developmental bullshit.
Wasn’t that
The plan?
 
Not so different here.
No treaty though
No celebration
No day off work
No discussion
No critique
A non-event
Almost.
 
Birthday Eve
In Sydney
Time to remember.
(c) Karin Speedy 2015
First published in “Piercing the White Space”, Blackmail Press 41, November 2015,
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Cuttings From a Pacific Garden

Today is National Poetry Day in Aotearoa! New Zealand is celebrating poets and poetry. Here is a poem I wrote in 2011 at a hui in Wellington on Pacific literature. It speaks to roots and renewal, themes that were very important to me at that moment and it pays homage to some of the most influential New Zealand and Pasifika writers. Poets, I love you!
800px-Frangipani_flowers
Cuttings from a Pacific Garden
 
For Albert Wendt
 
I cried for Alistair Campbell last night
I cried for Alistair Te Ariki Campbell
and his house perched
on that windy mountain
overlooking Kapiti Island
and Te Rauparaha.
 
How solitary.
No, I wouldn’t have lived there either
but he had Meg
almost to the end.
 
You introduced me to him, actually.
More than twenty years ago now –
can it really be that long?
I loved him from the first page.
When I say I loved him
I mean his words
his poetry
his magic.
 
I cried for Alistair Campbell this morning.
At 5.27am
my tears had formed little pools
in the indent and crevasses of my Novotel pillow.
 
I thought of those cuttings in your garden
so obviously symbolic
yet utterly disarming.
 
They have grown, survived, thrived.
They are us, all of us
who have loved
Alistair
and Hone
and Epeli
and John Pule
and Patricia Grace
and so many others
and you, of course –
writers from our part of the world
whose stories and poetry
speak to us in rhythms familiar
who speak to us
touch us
move us
make us cry at 5.27am in the morning.
 
Just like those precious yet hardy cuttings
from Alistair Te Ariki Campbell’s garden
you nurtured us and
let us grow
strong.
 
Last night
the new generation of Pacific poets
held their Te Papa audience captive.
Their voices
joyous
angry
questioning
poignant
proud
beautiful.
 
Last night I cried for Alistair Campbell.
Last night I also smiled for those poets
and all of us
cuttings from your garden.
© Karin Speedy 2015
First published in ‘Piercing the White Space, Blackmail Press, 41, 2015