Literary salon: Matariki ki Waikato

 On the evening of Thursday July 22, ending the month-long celebration of the rising of the Matariki star cluster in the night skies, a stellar constellation of poets performed at Literary Salon: Matariki Ki Waikato at the Meteor Theatre in Kirikiriroa/Hamilton, to a warm and responsive audience.

The performers were:

  • wahine toa and pioneering Māori poet, Hinewirangi Kohu Morgan (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu ki Nuhaka, Ngāti Ranginuiki Tauranga Moana);
  • Te Kahu Rolleston (Ngāi Te Rangi), a Māori language activist, battle rap artist, educator, and a former national spoken word champion whose poetry performances combine slam-rap with traditional mōteatea and kapa haka;
  • Vaughan Rapatahana (Te Ātiawa), a poet, Māori language activist, and a multi-lingual scholar who has lived and taught in Nauru, Brunei Darussalam, United Arab Emirates, China and Hong Kong. Vaughan was also MC for the evening.

I was the fourth member of this dramatic quartet, sheltered there from the misty Waikato drizzle, together with my dark, gleaming tokotoko, Te Kore, in the Meteor theatre, a heritage building that was once the Innes Tartan fizzy-water bottling factory.

Below are two of the poems that were recited on that evening, the first, Five Kuia/ grandmothers ago is by Hinewirangi and the second, sixteen years, is by Vaughan.

From left to right: David Eggleton, Hinewirangi Kohu Morgan,
Vaughan Rapatahana, Te Kahu Rolleston. Photo by Leticia Canlas.

Five Kuia/grandmothers ago

Five grandmothers/kuia ago
I awoke in my Whare Tangāta/womb
Hearing the voices of whānau singing my oriori/lullaby
I awoke to the voice of the Putatara/conch shell calling Wainuiatea

The goddess mother of all atua ō ngā wai/the god/desses of the water

She the first hoa rangatira/partner of Ranginui
To open the waters within, so I could safely pass
Into Te Ao Māori.

Five grandmothers/kuia ago
I sprang from my whare tangāta/mother
Into the arms of my Uretu/father.
I became the taonga/treasure of my tribal peoples.
My kuia/koroua/grandmothers/grandfathers raised me, while all abled bodies

Went to their natural world mahi/work for the wellbeing
Of all the tribal people-collectives/whānau.
I was loved, and I learnt to love.
He taonga he mokopuna.

Five grandmothers/kuia ago
I understood the Purākau/ancient stories
Of atua/god/desses.
I understood that I was Atua having a human experience
I began my journey of Te Reo Rangatira/Māori language
I began to understand my whakapapa/genealogical links with Tūpuna.
I was sent to Te Whare Kohanga/the birthing house
Where I sat upon moss, collected, cleaned by our kuia.
Within this sacred whare/house, I learnt the sacredness
Of my body, the sacredness of the Whare Tangata/the house of Humanity.

I understood my preciousness and was loved in that space.

Five grandmothers/kuia ago
I learnt the love of my whaiaipo/sweetheart, Hoa Rangatira
With him, and his sacred seed, Te Uretu ngā kākāno mai Rangiatea

My uretu/father carried the sacred seeds 10 million of them.
And I would be the ‘one in a million to race into te Pae ō Tiki/Cervix

To cling to the Ahuru Mowai, a gift of the Mareikura.
We concieved in the whare tangata a beautiful child.
I felt my completeness, the circle, of love.
I understood the intrinsic knowledge was passed down by the wahine

In the waiu/breast milk of te whare tangata.
As I was raised, so would our baby, by the kuia/koroua.

Five grandmothers/kuia ago
I understood the esoteric world, the whaiaiio carved
Into my rae/forehead.
The kuia of the Whare Wānanga taught women’s stories
Schools of learning, for the tohunga karakia/prayer/chant specialists, Tohunga Kōkōrangi/astrology specialists, tohunga tito waiata/composers, Tohunga kohanga/birthing house.
I was chosen to walk in this world as a child and I knew my place.

Five grandmothers/kuia ago
I walk on Papatuanuku were sacred moutains and rivers,
Trees and rocks marked the demarcation of my tribal area
I was Tangata Whenua, I knew that.
I understood my role in taking care of the Papa/mother earth.
I bathed in the pristines waters of Wainuiatea, nourishing waters of Parawhenuamea I went to the great ocean of Hinemoana to take sustenance for my whānau.
I knew the balance of life, I was born into a world of balance.
Where we knew our roles as men and women
There was a balance and we worked together.
We lived in papakainga/villages.
Where our support systems were intact.

Five grandmothers/kuia ago
I knew where I could walk, I understood the wahi tapu/sacred places And walked tenderly, with respect.
I knew how to keep sacred the taonga gifted by tūpuna.
I understood my grandmother self and knew I
Would soon be five grandmothers going forward.
Because five grandmothers ago in 1847 Hinewirangi was born.
In 1947 Hinewirangi was born again.

Five grandmothers forward,
Only one hundred years later
Five grandmothers forward, what do I leave them now,
The mokopuna, kotiro, wahine, tane, grandmothers, grandfathers What sacredness can I teach them about
I must walk back five generations to bring that knowledge forward. Five generations, five grandmother/fathers forward
And like both grandmother/father five generations ago,
Be loving but strong, be kind, but harden up.

Our grandmother/fathers lives are at stake.


Rimu rimu, Tere Tere,                                   seaweed drifting. drifting

E rere ki te moana.                                         floating on the ocean

E tere ana ki te ripo                                        drifting into the whirlpool

I wahia e.                                                        out there.


Tirohia I waho ra                                            when I look out there

E morina ana e                                                it is so calm

Kei roto i ahau                                                while within me

E marangai ana e                                            everything is storm tossed


Kei te tio, te huka                                            the snow is biting cold

I runga o ngā hiwi                                           on the ridges

Kei te moe koromiko                                      and lying curled up asleep

Te wairua e                                                     is you spirit.   


(I would like to thank the Tumuaki of the Kirikiriroa Runangā Andrea Elliot-Hohepa and Roma Balzer for the opportunity to write this poem expressing the stories of our Tūpuna.)

— Na Hinewirangi Kohu Morgan

sixteen years

[whatia potatia te tihi o Taranaki — Māori — the peak of Taranaki is broken off]


kua tekau mā ono ngā tau


sixteen years have trundled by,

like a wounded locomotive.

had my bouts of breakdowns, break ups,

break throughs.

& came off the rails    then

                                                               and there.

your death still pervades,

my side-track maunder,

this erratic journey

through the tunnels of life,

across those ramshackle aqueducts

between stable station

& depots of disrepair.


misplaced my ticket stub decades ago,

never made first class.

guess I never will.


kua tekau mā ono ngā tau


sixteen years have trudged past.

& I’m still at that crossing.

those infernal bells never cease

                                        their strident trill.

while the barriers taunt me

in fissiparous semaphore

                                        that never fades.

your death is my own      l I f e l o n g      transit.


when I finally alight,

I pray you’re waiting,

                                 at the terminus


Na Vaughan Rapatahana

‘The Singing Word’ documentary

The Singing Word documentary covers some of the highlights from the first eighteen months of David Eggleton's tenure as the Poet Laureate. The documentary was made by musician and film-maker Richard Wallis of North Otago.

Watch the video to see the Say It With Flowers road trip tour in November 2020 as well as other performances by David Eggleton the NZ Poet Laureate in 2020.