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'In Rangikura, Tayi is driving through that fog with the top down and her ancestors in the back': Launching Rangikura by Tayi Tibble

The Pōneke launch of Tayi Tibble's second poetry collection, Rangikura, was (it goes without saying) hotly anticipated. VUP editor Jasmine Sargent launched the book at Unity Books Wellington, on Thursday 3 June, with this extraordinary speech.

E mihi ana ahau ki a koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.
Ka mihi ki a Ranginui e tū iho nei, ki a Papatūānuku e takato ake nei.
Ka mihi ki te mana whenua o tēnei rohe, Te Atiawa.
Ka mihi ki ngā tangata kua hui mai nei ki te tautoko i te pukapuka, i te kaituhi.
Nā te mea ko tēnei te kaupapa, ko ‘Rangikura’, ko te pukapuka hou o Tayi Tibble.
Ka mihi ki a Unity Books mō tō koutou manaakitanga i tēnei pō.
Ka mihi ki a Tayi – he mīharo koe. Nāu i tuhi, mai i tōu ngākau, hei koha mā tātou.
Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.

Heoi anō, kia ora koutou. Ko Ngāti Porou te iwi, ko Jasmine ahau. I am neither the publisher nor the editor of Rangikura, and I am not the brilliant artist who created this cover (tēnā koe, e Xoë). I am just a massive Tayi stan. Ka nui taku aroha ki a ia. We’re e hoas. I have to be honest, I’m feeling the great weight of responsibility in being the one to cut the ribbon on this pukapuka.

I don’t know how tika it is to bring an author’s previous book into the conversation at the launch of the next one, but whakapapa is everything. Tayi’s first book, Poūkahangatus, was a phenomenon. Published in 2018, it is a multiple-award winner and one of VUP’s best-selling poetry collections.

And now, in 2021, we have Rangikura. And Tayi has done it again.

Poūkahangatus and Rangikura are made to sit on the shelf alongside each other. But as they say of eyebrows, these books aren’t twins but sisters, and Rangikura is the fierce teina of the two.

Rangikura demands more, possesses more, takes up more space both on the page and between the covers. To read from one book into the next is to follow a haerenga of self-realisation, mana and identity. And there’s a visual narrative alongside the textual one: artist Xoë Hall’s style has evolved too. This is why I feel you truly can’t talk about Rangikura without acknowledging its tuakana – so much of the narrative exists in the space between.

In Poūkahangatus Tayi cast her net widely, searching for representation in Brown women who existed in places and spaces further afield than the shores of Aotearoa. It was an expression of cross-indigenous solidarity, a shout out to, among others, Pocahontas, Rhianna, Kim Kardashian and Nicole Scherzinger, who Tayi acknowledged as ‘The only Pacific Island Princess she saw on TV’. In Rangikura, Mahuika, Hine-nui-te-pō, Hineahuone and Papatūānuku step into these spaces, and there is a shifting where it seems that Tayi is finding more clearly in herself and within Te Ao Māori this representation she was searching for before.

Don’t get me wrong, Gigi and Bella Hadid and the colour ‘True Kardashian Neutral’ still feature, alongside Prada and a pink houndstooth coat, because Tayi is an aesthete and a hot girl in every sense of the term.

But she’s also letting her ‘hair curl real East Coast like all furls / of the whenua’, and it is Hine-nui-te-pō she comes back to time and again, the great lady of the night, the goddess of the underworld, of the red sky, of te rangikura. ‘The kind of girl who knows / what’s up before the sun slows.’ She finds the parallels between the stories of the atua and her experiences, the echoes that repeat down genealogical lines.

essa may ranapiri said of the last collection that Tayi was seeking to make contact with her tūpuna through the fog that colonising forces have placed on the vision of Māori. In Rangikura, Tayi is driving through that fog with the top down and her ancestors in the back, and they know what’s up. There is more to explore, more to unearth, but they’re doing that together. And you don’t become less Māori just by being away from home.

Because there’s a form of reclamation underway in Rangikura. If the coloniser’s systems and technologies have sought to alienate Māori, if we have been forced into urban spaces, those spaces are now subject to Tayi’s influence. As the poem goes:

My ancestors ride wit me.
They twerk on the roof of the Uber
as I’m pulling up late to the party.
They gas me full tank and
yas me in the mirror
as I summon them out of me with
my mascara wands and glitter and
every time I draw my eyes on
Nana you encourage me
to keep my chin lifted upwards,
my eyes filling up with stars.

And then later,

They taught me that
the entire universe is malleable and mine to mould.

Let me mould it in their image.

My ancestors ride wit me.
Don’t you dare tell me what they would do.
I know them way better than you.

Tayi is weaving a korowai of kupu and draping it over the urban landscape to reclaim it as her own. And in doing so, she creates a pae maunga, a mountain range, to which she brings the awa that run beneath her skin. She is creating an urban Māori identity, one where her tūpuna can move and expand as she does.

(By the way, that’s not all her tūpuna are doing. They’re sending her screenshots of the teka you’re talking in your group chats. Hine-nui-te-pō is all up in your DMs.)

I could go on and on about the things that I see in this collection that speak to me, and that speak to the undeniable talent, the absolute force that Tayi is. The book is ripe with music, with fluid shifts in register that are effortless. Tayi can talk trap, Louis V and Great Gatsby in the same breath and find perfect balance. Typical Libra. There’s an intimacy and vulnerability, sophistication, fearlessness and realness – and to be honest, she’s also just fucking funny.

There are themes in Rangikura you would expect to see in the art of a young wahine Māori, but especially in a Tayi Tibble collection: beauty, sex, love, death, whānau, colonisation, loss, pop culture and power. These poems rest on the knife’s edge of desire and exploitation. They dance between ideas of collectivism and individualism, and the different types of loneliness you can feel in both worlds.

Tayi is unapologetically and fiercely who she is. And it is a legit gift that we receive today. I’ve heard talk of the fabled ‘difficult second book’, but naturally, this is another course that Tayi just doesn’t subscribe to. She’s forging her own path and racking up her own lines and instead of one book launch, we’re having two.

So please join me in raising your glass, your joint or your bottle of Dom Perignon to our indigenous bougie baddie, Tayi Tibble, and her new pukapuka, Rangikura. Kia ora.

—Jasmine Sargent

Pre-order Rangikura from our online store.

Rangikura will also be launched in Tāmaki Makaurau at Time Out Bookstore on Friday 11 June, 6pm.