compiled by Angie Belcher
artwork by Lucia Lemos M. Conceicao
I enjoyed reading through this variegated collection of work by 27 writers from 18 countries. Their 22 poems and 17 short pieces primarily depict the background to their departure from their homeland, their arrival in Aotearoa New Zealand and all the contrasts between. All viscerally amplified by the vibrant artwork from Lucia Lemos Monteiro Conceicao from Brazil.
The writers had different rationales behind their coming to these shores: from being refugees from war and famine, through to a deliberate choice to seek a more salubrious climate, both economic and environmental.
Tali Rose, for example, wanted to escape the political turmoil and the concomitant violence of Israel, as she reveals in her well-worded title, From Warzone to Godzone. Satoko Tsunokawa sought solace here in a more tranquil surround than city life in Japan, as per the opening verse of Carpe Diem (p. 53) -
I worked hard until midnight.
I didn’t see the moon.
I didn’t hear any birds sing.
More, not all the contributors would classify themselves as speakers of English as a foreign or second tongue, as for example Neil Simpson from Scotland, who writes cogently about constructing autangi (stringed instruments) in a piece accompanied by several photographs illustrating his craftmanship.
The collection, then, is variegated and variable, but always candid. As Angie Belcher notes in the Acknowledgements, ‘The diversity ranges in ethnicity, age, length of time in New Zealand and ability to speak and write in English.’
There are two contributions I find especially noteworthy. One is the clever A Review of Physics by Tara Prieto from Philippines, which is accompanied by a mathematical diagram (p. 49.) Prieto sets out her exercise thus -
A Filipino worker mops a 20sqm. floor of a restaurant in New Zealand. She needs to finish the task in 30 minutes so she can get to school on time to submit her assignments. The angle between the mop gripped by her blistered hand and the concrete floor is 70 degrees.
The mop weighs a ton.
Find the force the Pinay needs to accomplish her task on time.
The second is the moving, no-holds-barred The Evil Within by Mia Love, originally from Bosnia. Here, we read about terror, torture, tyranny, in graphic and grisly detail replete with brilliant imagery, such as, ‘An army of bullets pierces the clouds. The sky is wounded and the laughter ends,’ (p. 70.) Yet, in an accompanying poem, Love can conclude – after her eventual settlement in New Zealand –
But don’t hold onto it.
Life is still filled
with beauty and wonder…
(from And Now, p. 74.)
Indeed, this is a shared emotion among most of these newer arrivals, namely a general thanksgiving for being here, despite also in several cases, some misgiving about coming in the first place, as Megan Pap expresses in Arrival (p. 62) –
Do you know what it is…
to be accepted only like a wolf in sheep’s clothes
Cast out by voice…
Mixed may be the title of the book, but ultimately the sentiments expressed about residing here are positive and united. As Donghun Shun, originally from Korea, summarises -
So let’s walk through darkness
walk toward dawn.
(From Be Brave p. 15.)
Nau mai ki tēnei whenua o te haeata.
[Welcome to this land of the dawn.]