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Kōrero: Vaughan Rapatahana with Apirana Taylor – with a poem

This month, Editor Vaughan Rapatahana talks with Guest Editor Apirana Taylor about his creative endeavours and his celebration of Matariki.


Vaughan Rapatahana: Can you please tell us your tribal affiliation(s)?

Apirana Taylor: My tribal affiliations are, Ngāti Porou, Te Whānau-a-Apanui, Te Āti Awa, Ngāti Ruanui and Ngāi Tūhoe. My father was Pākehā.

VR: Can you also please tell us something about yourself? Writing career and genre, including latest poetry collection? Overseas experiences (e.g. in Ardeche, France)? Current projects? Just a bit of background…

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.

VR: I know that you do would like to and do write ki te reo Māori. How important is it for you to write in te reo, please?

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.

VR: Relatedly, how important/vital do you think it is for Kiwi writers, especially Māori, to write in te reo Māori, please? Or at least attempt to?

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.

VR: How important is Matariki to you? Do you celebrate it, for example?

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 matariki

let 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.
Apirana Taylor is a nationally and internationally published Māori poet, storyteller, playwright, novelist, actor, painter, and musician. He was 1996 Writer in Residence at Massey University, and 2002 ‘Writer in Residence’ at Canterbury University. His poetry and short stories are studied in secondary schools (for NCEA Levels 1 and 2) polytechnics and universities, and have been translated into German, Italian, Spanish, Norwegian and Russian. He has twice been invited to India to read his poetry and is frequently invited to Europe to tour and read his work at festivals, schools, and universities. In 2012 he was invited to South America to present his work at the Medellin International Poetry festival in Medellin, Colombia. In 2018 he attended Ubud International Writers’ Festival.

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.

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