Poukahangatus is a collection of poems by Tayi Tibble, who is a Maori woman from New Zealand. Her poetry is rooted in Tibble's experiences as indigenous woman struggling to find herself in a world with poverty and lack of authentic representation. Her poems cover various topics, including hair, love, family, death, and identity.
With raw, poignant language that packs a punch, Tibble doesn't censor herself. She shares the good, the bad, and the ugly in her attempts to overcome the remnants of colonialism and the "colonial guilt with our ancestors," honoring them by fully embracing her heritage (6). Another thing I noticed that hurt my heart was that there were a lot of "goodbyes" in the poems, often not by choice. "All we have ever known is the feeling of somebody leaving" (33).
Poukahangatus is divided into three parts and each one seems to have a connecting thread. In part one, the poems are focused on growing up poor with a single mom. Part two explores yearning for love and acceptance but looking in the wrong places. Instead, you find disappointment, toxicity, and broken relationships. Part three ends with hope, finally settling into yourself as you continue to search for where you can belong and be safe. The ending poems force us to reflect on whether "am I navigating correctly?" to make sure you are living your life fully authentically and not burying parts of your identity, even in a world that doesn't seem to honor who you are.
"The grass is sacred, it is still watered by old blood" (14).
Poukahangatus by Tayi Tibble is a powerful debut of warm, provocative, and profound poems, written from a world in which the effects of colonialization, land, work, and gender are intimately connected.
What are some poetry collections that packed a punch for you?