On Monday, Premier Anna Bligh announced that acclaimed New Zealand poet, musician, producer and teacher of creative writing, Hinemoana Baker would take up the position as Queensland’s 2009 Poet-in-Residence. Here is a link to the media release:
So in my excitement, I sent the lovely Hinemoana a few questions about the residency and of course asked her for a poem.
Hinemoana Baker performing at QPF 2006
As Poet-in-Residence what are you most looking forward to?
I am most looking forward to visiting the Maiwar River again (I think this is the indigenous name for the river that runs through Brisbane…?) It really made a big impression on me last time and I am looking forward to spending time with it again.
Do you have any specific projects that you plan to work on?
Specific projects – well, I have been working for a while on my second book, which touches on aspects of evolution, fertility, grief, state terrorism… but not on purpose. At the moment its working title is ‘I’m sick of this place let’s get back on the canoe’ – named after a painting by an incredible Maori artist, Star Gossage.
A fantastic part of the residency is that I am encouraged to leave behind a ‘legacy item’ – ie to actually produce something creative during the residency. So I’m also planning to do some field recording as I get around the place. I’d like to leave an audio object of some kind, featuring text and the sounds of these places. I’m thinking here of the sounds of the land/buildings/river/vehicles rather than people. For some reason Australia as a land strikes me as having a lot to ‘say’, though possibly not entirely through language.
What do you hope to achieve in the role?
I want to make good, solid connections with fellow poets/writers/artists/lore-breakers. I want to learn a lot more about the aboriginal story in that part of Australia. If I leave there having made/written something with integrity, excellence and/or sex appeal I’ll be thrilled. But mostly I want to be present to what your part of the world has to say to me.
I, Muttaburrasaurus langdoni (excerpt)
One morning my love woke
questioning her fragile health.
She was straight awake
no languid scratching
but tremors of uncertainty
in the muscles of her face.
I looked to the sea
waves folding in without foam
or spray, oily. We ate
fruit, as usual. We didn’t
get this big on foliage alone.
Feel the floating walkway
rise and fall under your feet.
with the wake
of the river catamarans
ferrying the people
to the city.
The wake makes the walkway
sigh. Inside themselves
the people liquify.
In the deep sea around this land
lives a fish, head big as a stone
Stare at it through this glass
so thick it bends
the reliable light, remember
your childhood bed
the blue candlewick
spread, the upholstered
A gellulose gooseberry
makes its movements.
in the mind behind your eyes.
This small boy
thinks he is in New Zealand.
We’re going to the Newzealand today.
There’s a dinosaur skeleton in the Newzealand.
With his small hand
he reaches up to the fork made of pearl
shell, so white, how smooth it must feel.
Do they all eat this way
here in the Newzealand?
No-one could have predicted
the turn of events
everything we knew
turning away from us
the trees withholding
first their fruit
then their leaves
Hinemoana Baker is a multi-talented artist who works in the
fields of music and language.
She has published, produced and performed as a poet and
singer-songwriter since the early 1990’s in New Zealand
and overseas. She writes lyrical poetry and folk-based
acoustic music, as well as experimenting with sonic art and
new music forms. Hinemoana has also edited two Anthologies
of New Zealand poetry.
Hinemoana’s first book ‘matuhi | needle’ was published by
Victoria University Press in Wellington and Perceval Press
in the US. Her writing has been published in many New
Zealand and international anthologies, including the
respected literary journals ‘SPORT’, ‘Turbine’ and
‘Best New Zealand Poems’.
As a musician and producer, Hinemoana has produced four
albums and sometimes works as a features producer for Radio
New Zealand. As a writer, she is a graduate of the Masters
in Creative Writing programme at the International Institute
of Modern Letters, at Victoria University of Wellington.
Hinemoana has performed in many national and international
festivals, including the New Zealand International Arts
Festival and WOMAD. She has shared stages with a range of
well-known performers and writers, from poets laureate Bill
Manhire and Jenny Bornholdt to iconic New Zealand musicians
Don McGlashan, Mahinaarangi Tocker and Kiri Te Kanawa.
“I feel my varying creative pursuits are really just
story-telling, coupled with a passion for sound: whether
it’s the sound of words, music, waiata tawhito
(traditional chants), my diving gear, whatever. It’s just
the delivery mechanism that changes,” she says.
Hinemoana lives in the Kapiti Coast seaside town of
Paekakariki, in New Zealand’s North Island. She says her
inspiration comes from her mixed Maori and Pakeha heritage
– Ngati Raukawa / Ngati Tukorehe, Ngati Toa Rangatira, Te
Ati Awa / Ngati Mutunga, Ngai Tahu, Ngati Kiritea (Europe);
and her love of language and languages.
Currently Hinemoana is in the final throes of completing a
new collection of poems which, at the moment, is called
‘I’m Sick Of This Place Let’s Get Back On The Canoe’,
which touches on a range of subjects: grief, state
terrorism, fossils, fertility.
TheHer musical duo ‘Taniwha’ has just released an album
– their first – called ‘Snap Happy’, due to be
launched in May 2009.