‘New voices unearthed’: Community poems pay homage to South Taranaki towns

A collection of more than 100 poems paying homage to the South Taranaki towns of Pātea, Weraroa (Waverley), Waitōtara and Ngāmatāpouri, feature in a newly published book, Ngā Pūrehu Kapohau.

“Most people know this South Taranaki district, between [Hāwera] and Whanganui, if they know it at all, for Dalvanius, the Pātea Māori Club and that seminal waiata, Poi E. They know it as a farming heartland or a rural backwater. In this anthology of poems, you will discover that there is so much more,” an explainer by the book’s editors says.

“We are most excited by the new voices we have unearthed. Skeptics suggested that we would be ‘lucky to get twenty pages.’ Well, we got [way] over two hundred,” they say.

Edited by Trevor Landers, Dr Vaughan Rapatahana (Te Ātiawa) and Ngauru Rawiri, Ngā Pūrehu Kapohau includes poems by 154 experienced and first-time authors who responded to a community outreach.

“We advertised in the media, including social media, and visited every school in the district and ran poetry workshops. The result absolutely astounded us. We are still astonished. The calibre and quality of writing is stratospheric. Really stellar!” Landers said Sunday.

Dr Rapatahana says many of the contributors initially doubted their ability to offer a unique perspective.

“To assemble over 400 pages from these small localities is a testament to the hau kāinga and to the communities themselves,” he says.

“It is rare to see such maturity, vision, confidence and sophistication from so many previously unpublished poets. Many did not think they had a voice interesting enough to share. Thankfully, we have compelling evidence that can imbue these writers with further confidence and elan.”

Originally from Pātea, Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau (Pakakohi, Ngāruahine) is a notable supporter of the bilingual book, which features both te reo Māori and English poems.

“This original book which recognises the amazing talent we have in Pātea, Waitōtara and Waverley is overdue, and I am proud to support it.”

Already available online, Ngā Pūrehu Kapohau will be launched in Pātea on Sunday, 24 March.