New Zealand Poetry Day: He ruru mokemoke au.

He ruru mokemoke au I am a solitary owl

He ruru mokemoke au/ I am a solitary owl
hei kaitangitangi/ chief mourner
ki roto i te ngahere pouri/ in the sad forest

Kei te karanga atu te matemate/ Death is calling out
aue ka rere taku ukaipo/ my mother’s milk has flown away

Te whaea huruhuru/ My mother the cloak of feathers
taku kohanga ei!/ my nestling place!

E noho ana tou wairua/ Is this your spirit
ki runga i te rakau nei?/ on the branch with me?

Aue aue te kohu rau noa iho/ No no it’s just the mist
he tohu aroha/ a sign of love
tou aria ei!/ your shadow

He ruru mokemoke au/ I am an owl bereft
ahakoa ka whiti te ra/ despite the rise of the sun

He ruru tangitangi au/ an owl that mourns and mourns
na to rerenga atu ei!/ because you have fled away!

Tuesday Poem


About paparoa

Writer and researcher.
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11 Responses to New Zealand Poetry Day: He ruru mokemoke au.

  1. paparoa says:

    I tried to get this bilingual poem to have a separation between the lines of English and Maori, but once posted, they run together. Thus:

    He ruru mokemoke au I am a solitary owl.
    hei kaitangitangi chief mourner
    ki roto i te ngahere pouri in the sad forest

    …so you can read it stanza by stanza. Well, that was the plan. And yes, I wrote and no, it is not traditional, but uses the concept of a waiata tangi, a poem of loss. Written after my mother died in 2005.

  2. paparoa says:

    …and above all, it is posted to honour Te Wiki i te Reo Maori/Maori Language Week 2010. Mauri ora!

  3. Helen Lowe says:

    I was going to say, Jeff, a great choice for Maori Language Week an NZ National Poetry Day together–but you said it first! 🙂

    I love the way you have used the waiata form; to me, it really suits the subject of the poem.

  4. paparoa says:

    Tena koe Helen, nga mihi o te wa i heke mai nei, Te Wiki o Te Reo Maori, te reo tuturu o te whenua nei. Heoi te mihi.
    Thanks Helen – I made the point about the occasion for our overseas readers especially.

  5. Belinda says:

    Thanks for writing and posting this – it works so well, and the imagery is haunting. I took Maori language classes at NZ House here in London a few years ago and you’ve inspired me to go back again.

    • paparoa says:

      Kia ora Belinda – I’m really pleased the poem has had such a positive effect. It takes time and isn’t always easy to get new habits installed (like learning a language), but in the end, it’s worth it, I feel. Kia kaha, kia mau ki to moemoea, te akoranga o te reo Maori – hold onto your dream to learn Maori. Give my regards to NZ House and Ngati Ranana. Heoi te mihi.

  6. Did you write the Maori first or the English or line by line as we see it? There something interesting about the way the words in the two languages follow each other down the page – cheek by jowl. Very cool. Thanks Jeffrey

  7. paparoa says:

    As I remember, I wrote the Maori, stanza by stanza as a stand-alone poem, then translated into English, stanza by stanza, with a break on the page, so you had mirror image versions facing each other.
    When I pasted it into WordPress it looked the same, but as soon as I submitted the post, on the page it appears as it does now. The editing process there has a mind of its own, when it comes to formatting.
    So, you get a “different” poem in some ways.

  8. Mariana says:

    A beautiful lament Jeffrey, plaintive like the nightcall of the ruru.
    I enjoy the way the languages ‘run together’ making it intimately bilingual.

  9. paparoa says:

    Kia ora Mariana – as you might have seen from some of my comments earlier, that running together was serendipitous, but I think I’ll keep it from now on.
    Did I see you at the UBS reading yesterday? Manuia.

  10. Pingback: 2010 in review | Paparoa's Blog

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