Welcome to Turbine | Kapohau 17
From hundreds of submissions from all over the world, we have assembled a collection that will prick up your ears and squeeze your heart – or at least, that is what these pieces did to us when we encountered them.
In early November, we three editors emerged gasping for breath from the ocean of words we had each written as Masters students at the International Institute of Modern Letters, only to dive right back into another wordy ocean, the one that was flooding in through the Turbine | Kapohau submissions email address.
For poetry in particular, there was more than we could have ever expected. Despite poetry being the least profitable enterprise ever (the second least profitable enterprise is Mayfly Life Insurance – see Tim Upperton’s poem ‘All My Dear Ones’ for details) it turns out that copious amounts of poetry is being written in New Zealand and overseas, and as editors we were really spoilt for choice. It seemed like every time we popped into the IIML office, Katie would load us up with another folder stuffed fat with poems. We squeezed as much in as we could, and as a result this issue of Turbine | Kapohau boasts a healthy 27 poets and 43 poems.
In selecting poetry, we were inspired by poet Apirana Taylor, who Tayi had the ‘terrifying pleasure’ of meeting earlier this year at the Regional Māori Writer’s Hui. He said that when language is used in new and interesting ways – when words meet words they might have never met before – the ears prick up. The poems in this year’s Turbine | Kapohau are ones that have a certain ‘something’, a confidence on the page. They demanded and sustained our attention.
Our ears pricked up at the ‘pupils like trampolines’ in Aimee-Jane Anderson O’Connor’s poem ‘20’, just as the syntactical switch from noun to an adjective in the line ‘he txted me real high school’ made us double take and re-read the poem again and again.
Situational absurdity (a term Tayi thinks she has just now created – PhD next Tayi?) also caught our attention, where images and scenarios clash and weave together in surreal and surprising ways. In Chris Tse’s poem ‘This is how it started—three cautionary tales’ there is the ‘slowly jerking off a stranger you’ve just met…who reminds you of a fresh tar seal’, and in Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle’s sequence From the discomfort of my own home, a babysitter goes job hunting and during the interview the interviewers start digging a grave for their dying dog. Sam Duckor-Jones’s poem, ‘On Intimacy’, names mountains, oceans and rivers as metaphors for men. What became apparent in the selection process was that a certain weirdness tended to make poems attractive, but maybe this is an obvious statement? As Sarah Scott aptly muses in her poem ‘Weird Tricks’, ‘I’m growing so tired of the word weird./ Especially to describe poetry, which can never be /unweirdly.’
Across all genres, diversity of voice, stories and characters became what we wanted to celebrate. At the start of this year, our classmate Maria Samuela said that she wanted to write and read stories about people like her, about Pacific Islanders, stories she hardly ever hears. This is echoed in the IIML Writer-in-Residence interview, where Victor Rodger says, ‘well ya know I think it all comes down to wanting to see myself represented.’
We are excited to feature a diverse variety of fiction this year, from the South Pacific flavours of Maria’s excerpt from Beats of the Pa’u to the observant yet detached non-binary character of Frank Sinclair’s short story, ‘Flooding the Bathroom’, to Mikaela Nyman’s novel Sado, set in the islands of Vanuatu, as well as Lynne Robertson’s raw and piercing tale of working girls in ‘Shadow Men’ (listen to her read it too). We laughed when Caoimhe McKeogh wrote what we were all thinking, that ‘jeans are the outside version of trackpants’, and when Sharon Lam’s character in What to Expect opted for Babies for DUMMIES when suddenly faced with an infant. These stories that took us places, swelled our imaginations and transported us into the heart of lives we wouldn’t normally be privy to.
Over in nonfiction, it is the real lived experience that gives these vivid, poignant pieces their extra punch. A young dancer from Pondicherry teaches the South Indian dance style Bharata Natyam to a ballet class in wintery Dunedin, a mother’s hands run through her daughter’s bones in a small room at the Singapore Casket Company, a woman swims every day for a year as an alternative to therapy and scientists, geologists and poets foretelling rising sea levels through the history they read in the shell beds of the Whanganui Basin. These specific, unique perspectives demand attention and compassion. As stories, they are as rich and full as any imagination could conjure, but their reality adds another layer of impact by being a kind of proof, a reckoning, and perhaps even a call to arms.
This year all over the world, words and their power have come to the fore, and we have seen new voices emerge and be celebrated. Earlier this year Selina Tusitala Marsh was named New Zealand’s Poet Laureate, and while we were in the midst of working through the piles of submissions, TIME announced The Silence Breakers as their Person of the Year 2017. It has been a year of diverse and previously unheard voices, of telling and listening to stories, and of a wider, collective recognition of what writers have known since the beginning – that words do make a difference. As a platform for new words, Turbine | Kapohau joins in celebrating new voices, changing the status quo and getting more weird stuff out into the world.
We would like to thank Chris Price for guiding us deftly and kindly through this process, Rachel O’Neill for her genius web expertise, Emily Perkins for her help and support, Robbie for the recordings and Katie Hardwick-Smith for being the best administrator ever. To everyone who submitted for their courage, wisdom and sass, and especially to you, reader, for searching out these voices and listening to them.
Thank you so much. We hope you enjoy what you find.
Nicole Colmar, Claire O’Loughlin and Tayi Tibble