Alina Siegfried is a past national champion of slam poetry. Her poem ‘A Cure for Them’ is a remarkable piece of poetry that has made it onto YouTube channels and sound bites. It may also be the stimulus for Jacinda Ardern’s arguably most recognised like ‘they are us’.
Now, Siegfried turns her hand from brilliant poetry to the longer form of non fiction writing. She offers up a new lens to view the world through: what it is, and what it can be.
The tag line for this book is “An inspiring rallying cry for humanity to solve our biggest problems by returning to the most basic driver of human behaviour and culture – story.” On this front it does not fail to deliver. The book looks at a range of concepts in the world today including conflict and some wider global issues and the importance of story in response to those issues.
Siegfried gives a history of storytelling going right back to early homosapiens and there is a wonderfully evocative section about a walk taken by the author and her partner where the length of the walk symbolically equates to the history of the earth while listening to a podcast on that history of the world and, poignantly, the human race emerges only in the last 20cm before the end of the 4.6km walk. The point being made is that we must weave a narrative together in order to cope with some of these macro issues.
Throughout the text Siegfried does take a New Zealand context into account, but this is not a New Zealand based book. It is for a wider audience but definitely has that uniquely Kiwi feel about it. She references Sir Edmund Hillary (and discusses her Hillary Fellowship throughout) and aspects of Māori culture along with other subtle tips of the hat to our fine country. As a poet Siegfriend also includes several of her poems, some lyrical, some narrative, all are tremendous. She explores herself and the world around her through these poems. The good and the bad of where she feels the world is headed.
Of particular interest is the latter section of the book where 10 chapters are dedicated to 10 ‘myths’ that she reframes into future responses. Through this section she tackles some fairly robust debates happening right now without our society and how storytelling, framing and consideration can have a significant impact on our ability to engage with the world in a more meaningful way.
In the epub version there are QR codes along the way that allow the reader to be linked to recitals of her poetry that is both really effective as a narrative device, but also interesting to see and hear more from the writer as you are going through the text. The recordings of the poems are such a simple but helpful addition to the overall text. As someone who considers the voice of the author when reading, this was a nifty little added extra that is appreciated. There if you want it, but not required to partake if you don’t want.
The text itself is straightforward and very readable for what is ultimately an academic book. She has the capacity as a writer to express things in a beautifully moving way. This is a well written and meaningful piece of writing overall. It is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in what we can do, now, to assist in the shaping of our own, and our loved ones’ future.
Reviewer: Chris Reed