You TubeFacebookTwitterflickrGoogle plus
Thursday, 25 April 2019 01:51 pm

Pacific poet draws giant squid from ocean

Daren and his latest book 'Squid Out of Water: the evolution

ISLANDER STYLE: Daren Kamali releases his latest poems with fresh islander style.

“INSPIRATIONAL”, “raw and non-apologetic” and “absolutely beautiful” are a few of the phrases listeners used to describe Daren Kamali’s latest poems.

Kamali launched his second book, Squid out of Water: the evolution, on Friday July 25 at Fulbright New Zealand in Wellington.

Kamali says the book deals with transformation and adapting to environments.

The Fijian-born, South Auckland poet read a number of poems from his new book to a crowd of students, lecturers and other members of the public.

“It’s absolutely beautiful and not necessarily what you’d expect from traditional poetry,” says Emma Febvre –Richards, a lecturer at the Massey School of Art who was at the launch.

“It was quite a journey and yet quite raw and non-apologetic about I guess who we are and where we’re from,” says another listener, Mokalagi Tamapeau.

Moving from Fiji to New Zealand when he was 17, Kamali struggled to adapt from village life to the city.

Reverend Mua Strickson-Pua took Kamali in off the streets in Auckland, and helped him discover his place in New Zealand through poetry.

The latest book, the second in a trilogy, is a result of his Fulbright scholarship residency in Hawai’i in 2012.

Emalani Case, who has come from Hawai’i to study a PhD in Pacific Studies at Victoria University, also attended the launch.

“When you can take poetry off the page and sort of perform it, it just brings another element, and his poetry is just so deep,” she says.

Kamali says he uses poetry to bring to life the mythologies of the Pacific Islands but at the same time creating new mythologies from the old.

“Maybe our ancestors won’t agree on everything that I’m writing but that’s what it is today, and I see myself as a modern day Pacific poet. I’m just connecting, trying to connect the old to the new,” he says.

Clare Hewitt attended the launch at the request of her son who met Daren at a school holiday course. She was surprised at how much she enjoyed the poetry.

“Very inspirational”, she says.

Kamali says he writes from the parallel world of the ocean, and its creatures represent he and his family.

Unintentionally the books started telling his personal journey as he took on the persona of the giant squid.

“I’ve been writing it subconsciously and until I published the book then I start to realise I was actually writing my life into existence.

“Now I’m starting to realise how powerful poetry or writing is,” he says.

Poetry student Max Chapnick said listening to Daren perform was a fantastic experience.

“It was a different style of spoken word than I’ve ever seen before but I really liked it”, he says.

The trilogy reflects the first lesson with his mentor Rev. Strickson-Pua when he asked Kamali to write three poems – past, present and future.

“The first book was the underwater world, second book he [the giant squid] becomes a man, and the third book he is between the earth and the sky.”

With his life imitated in poetry, Kamali cut off his dreadlocks after 17 years to represent the squid’s transition.

“I’ve traded my tentacles for wings for this third book,” he says, referring to the final book he is yet to complete.

In addition to writing poetry, Kamali has been working with youth for a number of years, founding the South Auckland Poets Collective and more recently Niu Navigations.

These groups help Pacific Island and Māori youth by promoting poetry and spoken word in Auckland and around New Zealand.

“Daren’s been doing some fantastic work with Pacifica youth and getting them into tertiary education and thinking about creative careers,” says Emma Febvre–Richards.

His advice to young poets and writers is to use the music they enjoy, be it rappers or MC’s, and incorporate that into their writing.

“Take their styles on but then talk about the Pacific. Talk about the coconut trees, talk about the oceans, where we live and the reality,” he says.

While considering New Zealand a blessing, he wants to make sure that Pacific people don’t forget their roots.

Later this year Daren will be the first New Zealand Pacific Islander to take up a residency in Iowa for an International Writers Programme, to work on his third book and his first play.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

is a Whitireia Journalism student
Email this author | All posts by

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Radio News