Book Review: For someone I love, by Arapera Blank

cv_for_someone_i_loveAvailable in selected bookshops.

Spanning over 40 years of writing, of history and culture, of love and life, For someone I love moves in phases, shifting through its sections. The poetry begins with the title poem, a collection of love poetry flowing forth beautifully on the page, complimented by the photography of Pius Blank, to whom most of these poems are addressed to or about. The pictures of the two in wedding clothes set the tone for the written words, but slowly this shifts. The photography becomes more focused on places, and the poetry moves along with it. The romantic love becomes more subtle, and instead we are confronted with feminism and the issues surrounding Māori culture.

The central concern in the longer pieces is that of the Māori way of life as their culture and people were becoming more and more ingrained in European society. The shift to the cities, the European schooling and religion influencing the younger generations as well as the older. The writing is reflexive, asking about the meaning of Māoritanga (‘Yielding to the new’), the integration of Māori children into Pakeha schools and the possible loss of culture and language that comes with this, and the influence of Christian values on Māori culture (‘Innocence of sin’ and ‘Ahakoa he aha’). The informal style of the prose, short sentences, realistic speech, the mixing of Māori and English, all lend themselves to creating a believable depiction of this transitional time for Māori. The characters range from a child starting his first day at school to a girl leaving home for the first time to move to the city, and the range represented here, from childhood to young adulthood, paints a picture of a generation dealing with these changes.

Arapera’s essays deal with the same issues that are dealt with in her prose fiction, mainly those of the Maori culture and its confrontation with the dominant Pakeha world. But here we see a framing through the lens of feminism, and the question of the place of not only Māori, but Māori women, is explored in detail. Motherhood and the upbringing of children in the split world of the 1960’s and 70’s is challenged. This reflexive and critical analyses of both Māori and Pakeha culture and integration is still relevant today, many issues having been lessened, but not necessarily solved. These pieces, written in the 1970’s and 80’s, contain thoughts and ideas that are useful in developing our own understanding of both our society as it was in the past, and what problems and issues we face today in continuing the change that was wrought during Arapera’s time.

For someone I love collects together the writing of a New Zealander whose thoughts are centred on the Kiwi way of life, and especially on the relationship between Māori and Pakeha. Her own relationship with Pius is a romanticized ideal of this, shown through her poetry. But the issues she tackles in her prose and her essays are important for a New Zealand public, as they help us to confront the past, and think about how we deal with the present, and the future.

Reviewed by Matthias Metzler

For someone I love
by Arapera Blank
Published by Anton Blank
ISBN 9780473299187

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