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Hopurangi - Song Catcher by Robert Sullivan

In his wonderful new poetry collection, Hopurangi-Songcatcher Poems from the Maramataka, Robert Sullivan invites us to slow down and enjoy the rhythms of the natural world and the cadences of language. Inspired by the Māori lunar calendar, these poems sing like a gentle breath, making the ordinary filled with extraordinary grace and beauty.

Sullivan's poems are a testament to the power of the environment around us – to the ebb and flow of the seasons, the movement of the moon, and the cyclical aspects of life that govern our existence.

Each piece is attributed with a corresponding energy level – low, medium, or high – inviting the reader to sync their own rhythms with the work's organic pulses.

At the heart of Hopurangi lies a deep love and respect for all things language: both English and te reo Māori. Sullivan weaves these two languages together with masterful precision, allowing each to resonate in its unique musicality while creating a unified whole. His word choices are exquisite, elevating the commonplace with fresh metaphors.

But Hopurangi is more than just adoration and homage to language; it is a love letter to Sullivan's whanau, his friends, and the authors who have sustained him. He speaks to and with those closest to him, from his mother and father to his son, crafting an intimate tapestry of connection and aroha. Love, in all its multifaceted forms, is the lifeblood of this collection, flowing through each line like a river.

Sullivan's poems are also deeply rooted in the land, in the act of tending and planting. He tends not only to his physical surroundings but also to himself, setting down roots in the poems, singing waiata, and sharing kai and kōrero. It is a gentle reminder of the importance of cultivating both our external and internal landscapes.

Throughout Hopurangi, Sullivan's voice resonates with a steady, speaking rhythm, inviting the reader into a space of familiarity and warmth. It is a rhythm that echoes the seasons, the generations, the ebb and flow of knowledge and language passed down through time.

Sullivan is one of those poets who makes one advocate for filling school curricula with local Māori poets and writers, allowing students to hear "our voices" and feel at home despite being in the confines of a schooling institution. It is a powerful plea for representation and belonging, for recognising the inherent value or taonga of one's own stories and experiences.

Hopurangi is a book of freshness, of reassessing and finding one's place in the world. It is a book of experience, wisdom, friendship, and, above all, hope. Sullivan's poems are a gentle reminder to slow down, to breathe deeply, and to find beauty in the simple rhythms of life.

In a world that often moves too fast, this collection is a much-needed pause, a chance to bask in the warmth of language and connection.

Reviewer: Chris Reed

Auckland University Press


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