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Katuivei, edited by David Eggleton, Vaughan Rapatahana, and Mere Taito

Katūīvei: Contemporary Pasifika Poetry from Aotearoa New Zealand is a landmark anthology that captures the vibrant and evolving landscape of Pacific poetry in this country. Expertly curated by editors David Eggleton, Vaughan Rapatahana, and Mere Taito, this collection brings together 137 poems from 89 poets of Pacific Island descent, providing a sweeping oceanic view of their diverse voices and experiences.

From the outset, the book establishes itself as a purposeful act of "wayfinding" - navigating the complexities of modern-world identity, cultural inheritances, and the multilayered realities of life in modern Aotearoa. The poems pulse with an array of tones, perspectives and aesthetics that reflect the depth and heterogeneity of the Pasifika experience.

Seasoned literary giants like Albert Wendt and Selina Tusitala Marsh anchor the collection with poignant explorations of ancestry, migration and belonging. Their well-honed craft stands alongside astonishing newer voices like Tusiata Avia, Courtney Sina Meredith and Karlo Mila, whose poems crackle with an electric vitality and inventiveness.

Emerging writers bring an exciting array of styles, movingly addressing contentious social issues, celebrating culture and ushering in future-facing perspectives. The sense of an intergenerational passing of the torch sits within the work with both a deep reverence for tradition and a bold reclamation of hybrid, evolving identities.

Whether it's Pelenakeke Brown's visually striking textual experimentation, Rita Masae's raw, uncompromising howls against injustice or Rob Hack's compassionate character portraits, the poems continually subvert and expand notions of what Pacific poetry can be. Moments of searing honesty and vulnerability coexist with jubilant reclamations of indigeneity and culture.

At its core, Katūīvei is a celebration - of resilience, renaissance and creativity in the face of separation and displacement. The poems soar with the renewal of heritage, yet remain firmly grounded in the urban, contemporary landscapes their poets inhabit.

In gathering such a wealth of vital, polyphonic voices into one collection, Katuivei achieves something profound. It cements Pasifika poetry as an essential compass for navigating Aotearoa's cultural currents in all their richness and complexity. This is an invaluable historical record, a treasure trove of artistry, and a resounding affirmation that Pacific poetry in this country is very much alive and charting fresh, uncharted waters.

Massey University Press

Reviewer: Chris Reed


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