This month, Editor Vaughan Rapatahana talks with Guest Editor Apirana Taylor about his creative endeavours and his celebration of Matariki.
Apirana Taylor: My tribal affiliations are, Ngāti Porou, Te Whānau-a-Apanui, Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Ruanui and Ngāi Tūhoe. My father was Pākehā.
AT: I come from a family of many writers, musicians, actors and various artists. My latest poetry collection is The Breathing Tree, published by Canterbury University Press. Probably the best collection of my poetry is A Canoe in Midstream, also published by Canterbury University Press. It’s a collection of most of the poetry written from about 1975 – 2000. Like all my books of poetry it’s out of print but can be found in many New Zealand libraries and possibly ordered from Canterbury University Press.
I have been invited many times on tours of India, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. In recent years I’ve toured in France a couple of times, South America and other foreign countries. My work has been very well received and I’ve loved presenting my work offshore.
I’ve also spent over forty years constantly touring Aotearoa New Zealand, which to me is a great honour and extremely important, because I feel my work is relevant to this whenua and of this whenua.
AT: I write mainly in English because that’s the language of my generation and I want to be understood by everyone. As a child I had more Māori language than most Māori of my time and less than others. I write in Māori occasionally and do so more often as time passes.
AT: It is important to write well in any language and most important to write in Māori if possible because it’s part of our people and culture and when writing in Te Reo we help to keep ourselves alive and pass on important knowledge and truths to future generations.
AT: Matariki is a beautiful part of our culture and people, and as such it’s important to value and nurture such events. I’m often asked to work as an artist during Matariki and that’s mainly how I celebrate that time.
‘Write with the wairua the voice will come’ is my philosophy.
Apirana Taylor matarikilet me tell you a story of such beauty and glory seven sister stars ngā matariki flying across the night of days of old stars so beautiful and bright ngā waiata a ō tātou tipuna nō te kete o te ao mārama a Tāne-nui-a-Rangi over the long shark flying ngā matariki, weep embrace the little eyes ka tahi tï ka rua tï ka haramai te patitore tell the stories ngā matariki haere mai ra.
He has written several books of poetry and short stories, a novel, and several plays, and won awards for his poetry and short stories. His work has also been published in most major New Zealand anthologies, and he has written for radio and television.
Apirana visits schools, prisons, libraries, universities, and tertiary institutions, doing poetry performances, storytelling and taking creative writing workshops.