People of the Water a Poetry Collection by Helen McKinlay

The last six months have been busy ones for me, which is why I haven’t put many poems up.  But I did manage to finish my Poem on a Boulder Project, the Rototai Kaitiaki Boulder, and to celebrate this and my love of coastal Aotearoa New Zealand, I have published a collection of coastal reflections and poems.  See below.

This is what I wrote in my introduction:  I am lucky to have spent most of my life within a short distance of one coastline or another, both in Aotearoa New Zealand and other parts of the world, and some of these experiences are included in the poems and reflections. The title, refers to the people of Mohua Golden Bay. The Bay was my muse and it is here where most of the content was written. Some of the poems arise from time in Nelson, our go to place when the family were young. Others relate to Christchurch and Dunedin, places of further education. These pages contain much that is personal much that is whimsical and much that relates to my musings on the role of kaitiakitanga we as New Zealanders have; both to our coastline, and the huge body of water which not only embraces us but connects us to the rest of the world. This role comes with the many conflicting and complimentary values our varied and multicultural society place on these islands.

My early interest in Māori studies and cultural anthropology stemmed not just from curiosity but also a belief in the equality of all. There were conflicts however. I was proud to be a fifth generation New Zealander but that didn’t sit right with the knowledge that there were those whose whakapapa went back to the 1300s, yet were often disadvantaged. I wasn’t sure where I stood as a New Zealander under these circumstances. The poem cycle Taking Tea with Te Rauparaha, in which I battle with him on the shore but we end up sharing a cup of tea, comes from these ideas. Today I stand tall as a Pākehā woman proud to use that title and proud to share my own stories.

People of the Water

Published on February 14th 2020

to see a media release and or to buy go to ‘People of the Water’ available now here