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Albert Wendt
New Zealand

In Your Enigma - Ilinca Höpfner
In Your Enigma - Ilinca Höpfner
Albert Wendt CNZM is of the Aiga Sa-Tuaopepe of Lefaga, and the Aiga Sa-Patu of Vaiala, Samoa. Poet, novelist, short-story writer, playwright, he is currently a Professor of English specialising in New Zealand and Pacific Literatures and Creative Writing at the University of Auckland. He has been an influential figure in the developments that have shaped New Zealand and Pacific literature since the 1970s and was made Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2001 for his services to literature.

During his a distinguished academic career in Samoa, Fiji, and New Zealand, he has also found time to publish five novels, several collections of short stories and poetry, articles on Pacific writing and art and has edited various anthologies of Pacific writing.

His novels include: Sons for the Return Home, Pouliuli, Leaves of the Banyan Tree, winner of the 1980 Watties Book of the Year, and Ola, winner of the SE Asia and Pacific Section of the Commonwealth Book Prize 1991, and Mangoes Kiss .

His collections of poems include Inside Us the Dead, Shaman of Visions (AUP, 1984), Photographs (AUP) and The Book of the Black Star (AUP, 2002). He is one of 12 New Zealand poets featured reading from their published work on the audio CD Seeing Voices (AUP, 1999).

He has edited several anthologies, notably Nuanua: Pacific Writing in English Since 1980 (AUP, 1995), Whetu Moana: Contemporary Polynesian Poetry in English (AUP 2002), Mauri Ola: Conyemporary Polynesian Poems In English Whetu Moana 2 (AUP 2010) and his most recent novel The Adventures Of Vela (Huia publishers, 2009).

In Your Enigma
(for Reina)

You are dressed in your enigma
You shift like mist across words
that describe water
You plant signs
You invent yourself in syllables
of nightlight and winter turning
to spring on Maungawhau's shoulders

Every thing is
Every thing is earth the atua feed on
Every thing is earth moulded in Ruaumoko's belly
and thrown up to know
Tane's kiss of living air

Your ancestors left their shadows
for you to grow into
They fished islands and visions out
of tides that washed back into the Void
They dealt in imagery of bone and feather
They knew the alphabet of omens
and could cipher the silences
that once knew the speech of pain
They planted white pebbles in the mouths
of their dead and sailed them
into the eyes of the future

You are dressed in your enigma
that finds language in the gift
that is water
that is earth
that is every thing

The Mountains of Ta'ū

Mountains wouldn't be
mountains without the valleys      ravines
and sea level they rise up from
They are
the rising high of sight propped up by stone
earth and sky
They can't be
any other thing (and they know it)
They are
the eyes of the earth      gazing out
gazing inwards      contemplating the future
on the horizon line and in the deptths
of the whirling retina

These mountains      the mountains of Ta'ū     are
locked arm to arm      blood to blood
and live in one another's thoughts

They hum
like spinning tops or Maui's endlessly
inventing mind      on fine mornings
when the mist lifts and the horizons open
to the promise of what may be

They creak and crack
like old aoa trees      as they dry in the sun
and the river dives and digs
for its roots      and
fat pigeons nibble the day away on
the sweet black berries of moso'oi      and
in cold rock pools Atua wash off
the night's stale smell of sex and perfume
their twisting hair with laumaile leaves and
for dear life trees and creeper cling onto
sharp slope and cliff and the air
is thick with long messages of death
in the falling

They whisper together in the evenings
in talk only they can hear
as the dark turns all languages
into one shape of the tongue      and
the ravenous flyingfox chases
the ripe-papaya moon      and
comic aitu squeal in the waterfall

They sleep best
on stormy nights when they can't hear
one another's sleep-chatter
and the wind massages their aching spines
with tender hands

These mountains      the mountains of Ta'ū     are
above the violence of arrogant men
They now fit my eyes and heart exactly
like a calm river is snug in the hand
of its bed
I am of their rising
I am of their dreaming
and they of mine

These mountains      the mountains of Ta'ū