I have to confess, I’m rather fresh on New Zealand poetry. Poetry is something I’m coming back to, a first since high school, rediscovering the reading and writing of poetry as an adult.
Karlo Mila’s Dream Fish Floating and A Well Written Body were part of my reintroduction to enjoying local poetry. Her work is very accessible – tangible flowing pieces about current events, New Zealand-Pasifika culture, love and motherhood.
Dream Fish Floating was her first collection, written in 2005 with the voice of someone exploring what it is to be Pasifika-Maori-Palangi, relationships – love and lust, employment, emotions toward public figures and public events (like Paul Holmes’ cheeky darky comment). My favourites are Hook, Line and Sinker and Sacred Pulu. Though I enjoyed many of them. As someone rather new to poetry, I’m afraid I have rather less intelligent things to say beyond that.
A Well Written Body is beautifully illustrated by Delicia Sampero (see the image above), which really adds to the book. This one was my favourite – “A well written body, full of verse and code under its folds”. It is full of womanhood. It begins with where you are from – poems of heritage, and where and what this makes us into as people, continuing into “New Legends” – modern women and inherited tales with a new twist, through to birth and motherhood.
I loved the poem For Nine Months No Words, about pregnancy and birth. It describes the process so simply, yet with the charm and wisdom of the creation of life and family. I also was quite moved by the titular poem A Well Written Body, the bearing of so much more that is seen in a woman’s body. So many of her motherhood and womanhood poems sum up the modern experience of it all so well. From I am not a playcentre mother, to a poem about listening to Jack Johnson driving home.
Cocoon by Karlo Mila
I am married
grown up and
for two little caterpillars
for two little chickens
sending out letters into the world
licked and stuck
to their foreheads
I found Karlo Mila’s poems to be very accessible and able to relate to, and many are the kind that you take to soul, to inspire in the shared experience of womanhood – no matter what your background.