Welcome to Turbine | Kapohau 22
Because right now there is someone
out there with
a wound in the exact shape
of your words.
– Sean Thomas Dougherty, from The Second O of Sorrow
It’s a brave new world. As we settle into a landscape much changed from a few years ago, the central questions we find ourselves asking are: who are we and what have we learned?
The pieces in this issue of Turbine | Kapohau look to reclaim ourselves. There’s a reaffirmation or rediscovery of who we are or who we want to be.
We proudly feature work from our 2022 Adam Prize winner, Olive Nuttall, with an extract from her novel kitten, as well as poetry from our 2022 Biggs Family Prize winner, Nafanua Purcell Kersel, from her collection Black Sugarcane. In Olive’s extract, a trans girl’s past shapes her present, while Nafanua’s poems draw upon lessons learned and passed onto future generations.
This year has been as much a time of change and loss as the last two years. In our MA year group, we lost many – both family and friends, and in the larger community many more who were leaders and pioneers in their field. So how do we process this and why do we continue to write – to make art – when we are constantly knocked back?
For Sean Molloy, it’s about connection. In his essay from his manuscript, The Rock and the Tree: A Memoir, he says, ‘Writing is an act of mutual faith between writer and reader that the gap between us can be bridged. This is what it’s like for me. Is that what it’s like for you too? Even if only for a momentary pause, we are not alone.’
In Erin Donohue’s powerful essay, ‘The Summer I Reclaimed the Beach’, a post-2020 world left her ‘tired and scared and already defeated’. But, through a new diagnosis and some painful self-reflection, she reclaimed the beach and, with it, who she could choose to be.
Similarly, in Ashleigh Young’s poem ‘Before’, there is a sense of labour: ‘It didn’t take long to unbury myself / but also it took all my life’. There is also some peace in emerging to reclaim oneself through nature: ‘… other words reached for me / they spoke themselves in where birds went’.
In an excerpt from ‘Portals in the Earth’, Kahu Kutia generously shares a deepening awareness of her body and nature through the observance of mātauranga Māori around maramataka phases, ‘On Whiro I feel like an oyster with an open shell.’
Perhaps it’s a hopeful reflection of restoration in our community and family lives that has seen many of the Turbine | Kapohau 2022 contributors bring their whānau together on the page.
Ariana Tikao draws on documented accounts of her great-grandfather’s words in her pieces ‘Mana is fire’ and ‘Pōua’s oriori’. Khadro Mohamed writes of memory, nostalgia and language in diasporic family life. Both Ariana and Khadro voice these in their stunning audio files. Through Amber Esau’s poem ‘Rainbow’s end’, readers tag along on a mass family outing where memory, laughter and fun-park rides serve as proof of life, even after loss: ‘When we got there, / everyone wore white matching r.i.p shirts: aunties, / uncles, and cousins waddled towards the log flume.’
Majella Cullinane’s ‘Two Years, Five Months & Four Days Back to You’ is, too, a stage for memory and for loss. It’s an essay about both coming home and losing it, and it brings new depth on the second read. ‘One night here, and then tomorrow I’ll be back, walking around my childhood home as is my custom. I’ll open your bedroom door and stand there for a while, waiting.’
In ‘A Good Daughter’ by Nat Baker, a mother and daughter skirt around each other and keep secrets, build walls between. They use routine and work to keep up the pretence of normalcy. ‘Kerri didn’t notice, but Jade saw it; she saw her mother, leant against the side of one machine, her hand tucked in under her right armpit.’
Casey Lucas-Quaid’s spec-fic short story ‘Season’s Over’ acts almost as allegory, for a world where things are swept beneath the rug and we all walk around in denial of a pandemic. She writes, ‘But the lights just left. And everyone preferred not to talk about them, preferred to act like they’d never been there at all.’
In all of our Reading Room pieces this year, there’s a common theme between our writers: learning how to push ourselves out of the box, to exist in the unfamiliar and allow ourselves to be open to the unknown. One of the wisest gems is found in Christy Menzies’ journal extract, where she says, ‘Maybe some of what I write will be a mistake, but this feels like a good year to learn.’
Possibly that’s the takeaway for all of us. Mistakes will be made as we continue on, as we keep making art and pushing ourselves; but in those mistakes there will be lessons learnt and connections made. And that’s why we keep going – why we must.
We hope you find something in this journal that inspires you and connects you to this issue’s writers and their art. May the shared experience of their words remind us all that we are never alone.
We would like to thank everyone who submitted their work this year – there were over 550 submissions from nearly 200 writers, and it was no easy task to whittle that down to the 89 pieces contained in this year’s journal. It was an absolute joy and honour to read your work; if we could have included you all, we would’ve.
Thanks to our convenors Chris Price, Kate Duignan and William Brandt, all the supervisors who gave their time and energy to our year, the administrative team, Katie Hardwick-Smith and Clare Moleta, for propping up the building, Robbie Duncan for guiding our writers through their audio recordings, Robert Cross for photography and Rachel O’Neill for Turbine assistance and guidance.
ABOUT THE EDITORS
Jackie Lee Morrison, Jenny Nimon and Nafanua Purcell Kersel (all Cancer Rising) edited this year’s edition of Turbine | Kapohau through the power of late-night WhatsApp conversations and many shared spreadsheets, across four locations and three time zones. They’re proud to present this 2022 issue, and hope you enjoy reading it as much as they enjoyed putting it together.