Vivid and eloquent: ‘inãianei/now’ by Vaughan Rapatahana reviewed by Beatriz Copello

inãianei/now by Vaughan Rapatahana, Cyberwit.Net 2021, reviewed by Beatriz Copello

When the poetry book inãianei/now by Vaughan Rapatahana was given to me to review the cover, by Pauline Canlas Wu, not only intrigued me but also surprised me. Why? Because it portrays a group of men showing anger and two women with a resigned look on their faces and a hand expression that I interpreted as “What can we do?”. Once I read the book the cover made sense to me.

Vaughan Rapatahana is a poet, writer and the author of teaching resources on poetry, he has been widely published in English and Te Reo Maori and his works have been translated into many languages.

The reader will find poems in Maori, poems in English and poems with a mix of both languages. The setting of the poems is very creative, the writer defies rules like no capital letters, minimal punctuation, and intermingled Maori words which got me reaching for the dictionary. I found the experience very enriching as my knowledge of Maori culture is insignificant.

Missing his son, his love for him, his memories, talking to him, regrets, and addressing the grandson that he will never have are all themes that a grieving father has turned into poetry, a poetry that is touching, lyrical and provides emotional engagement.

Loosing a son must be one of the most horrible events that can happen to a parent, many poems in the book speak of this tragedy, the pain is ingrained in the words. The following poem titled “[no primogeniture” is embedded in sadness:

o Blake
my lost son
where are you now?

it has already been many years –
like shooting stars
through my atrophic brain

o Blake
my lost son
where are you now?

all that remains
is this arrhythmic
an irregular
striking me
every time.

o Blake
my lost son
where are you now?

I am reduced to
this anaphora:
I have nothing else.]

Land and place are very important in most first nations people this is evident in some of the poems in inãianei/now, cultural issues also emerge in many pieces. For example in the poem “[my mountain” we find out that Tawhirimatea is the god of the weather and returning to “your” mountain the winds of Tawhirimatea you will be cleansed. The author’s mountain Taranaki which is located in the Egmont National Park located in the in the Western side of New Zealand’s North Island. Here is the poem which really resonated with me.

whenever the angst bites
I must return
to my mountain.

looms niveous,
the majestic guardian
of all nearby
those swift west winds
whisk away the claustral
once and for all.

this sanctuary of solace
is epiphanic,
it catharsises me,
each time
I am called back
to reclaim

Again, with a strong First Nation’s voice Rapatahana reclaims the name of his birth place in “[aotearoa”

aotearoa is the name of this land
aotearoa is the name of this land

 not another name

the maori tribes are the first people here
the maori tribes
the maori tribes are the first people here
the maori tribes
not another people

a normal name before an abnormal name
a first people before strangers

forever and ever and ever in the time to come also.]

 Some of poems in the collection are very philosophical particularly metaphysical, some very deep thoughts will leave the reader pondering about the nature of being and living. Other poems are concerned with the destruction of the environment, pollution, traffic, noise and other maladies.

Colonialism weighs heavily in the memory of many, this transgenerational weight still shades the life of many First Nations people. Angry poems about racism and oppression bring light into issues of concern. Rapatahana has no qualms to express his pain and fury, he paints pictures with words, words that in the mind turn to vivid and eloquent. One of the longer poems in the book deals with a horrific event that took place in Õrãkau in 1864. The poet considers his duty to write about unjust past events. In the English stanzas in the poem titled “te korekore tonu” he says”

[the void]
yes, mãori marsden,
you are quite correct.
there is a double negative
before the world of light,
before a world of healing
for all people.

it is my job
to write about the past
and the many bad events;
to face this intense darkness
the real void.

so that we can all
witness the dawn
of a new world.

inãianei/now is a very interesting and well written poetry book, it is different, powerful and insightful.

– Beatriz Copello


Dr Beatriz Copello, is a former member of NSW Writers Centre Management Committee, writes poetry, reviews, fiction and plays. Her poetry books include: Women Souls and Shadows, Meditations at the Edge of a Dream, Under the Gums Long Shade, and Lo Irrevocable del Halcon (In Spanish), her other books are A Call to the Star and Forbidden Steps Under the Wisteria. Copello’s poetry has been published in literary journals such as Southerly and Australian Women’s Book Review and in many feminist publications. She has read her poetry at events organised by the Sydney Writers Festival, the NSW Writers Centre, the Multicultural Arts Alliance, Refugee Week Committee, Humboldt University (USA), Ubud (Bali) Writers Festival.

inãianei/now can be purchased from