Waha: Mouth, by Hinemoana Baker (Victoria University Press, 2014), 64 pp., $25; Dark Sparring, by Selina Tusitala Marsh (Auckland University Press, 2013), 98 pp. (with CD), $28; The Art of Excavation, by Leilani Tamu (Anahera Press, 2014), 80 pp., $25; The Bond of Time: An Epic Love Poem, by John Puhiatau Pule (Canterbury University Press, 2014), 88 pp., $25
The South Pacific is not one thing; it’s pluralistic, multi-layered, a site where ideologies intersect and cultures clash. For those who inhabit its archipelagoes, it’s a matrix of specific memories, genealogies and responsibilities. Four New Zealand poets of Polynesian heritage in their most recent poetry books write about the South Pacific as central to their identity; and though they write in individual styles and convey personal insights and perceptions, they share many motifs, drawn from mythology, history, the beach, island flora and fauna, voyaging and ocean currents. And all refer either directly or obliquely to ‘Oceania’ – the concept proposed in the mid-1990s by the Tongan writer and teacher Epeli Hau‘ofa, advocating an ‘oceanic identity’ for Pasifika peoples, who have always been joined by rather than separated by the sea. Belonging to ‘a sea of islands’ creates a contemporary regional identity that begins as an ancient myth of origin and generates a world of metaphor.