Ruby Solly

The Artist

230 x 160mm
Publication date:
11 May 2023

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Longlisted for the 2024 Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry

At first there is nothing but black sand, then something begins to grow; a gentle song emerges so bright that sound becomes sight . . . And so from the black the world is sung into being, not for us, but for itself, but for the song.

In a Southern land, where the veil of time and space has worn thin, twins with otherworldly ways are born to a stone carver and his wife. As they grow into themselves, the landscape and its histories will rise up to meet them and change their whānau forever.

Cave art leaps from walls, pounamu birds sing, legends become reality, and history becomes the present in this verse novel by Ruby Solly (Waitaha, Kāti Māmoe, Kāi Tahu). The Artist brings to life the histories of our great Southern iwi through the whakapapa of its characters and the rich world they and their ancestors call their tūrakawaewae—their place to stand, their place to sing.

'For readers with an interest in innovative poetry – in New Zealand literature, Indigenous literature, Māori literature – this book is significant and needed. The Artist is an āhuru mōwai, a shelter made from poetry, and is to be celebrated for its craft and heart, and for its whakapapa.' —Robert Sullivan, Aotearoa New Zealand Review of Books

'Ruby Solly is a polymath and this collection of linked poems, interspersed with her own paintings, reveals her deep engagement with multiple art forms and with pūrākau of Waitaha, Kāti Māmoe, and Kāi Tahu. The book is mesmerising and hums with a musician’s ear for rhythm and cadence, which reminds me of brilliance of Keri Hulme.' —Claire Mabey, The Spinoff

'A mesmerising verse novel that weaves together the history and traditions of Southern iwi. Solly's evocative storytelling brings to life cave art, pounamu birds, and legendary tales. This enchanting book immerses readers in a rich cultural tapestry, celebrating the whakapapa and heritage of its characters.' —Avenues Magazine

'Deeply evocative – cave art leaps from walls, pounamu birds sing, legends become reality, and history becomes the present.' —Neil Johnstone, Wellington City Libraries

Ruby Solly (Kāi Tahu, Waitaha, Kāti Māmoe) is a writer, musician and taonga pūoro practitioner living in Pōneke. Her first book, Tōku Pāpā, was published in 2021 and longlisted for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. She has had poetry published in Aotearoa, Australia, America and Antarctica. In 2020 she released her debut album, Pōneke, and in 2021, Bird Like Men, as part of the group Tararua. She is currently completing a PhD in public health, focusing on the use of taonga pūoro in hauora Māori.

Cover: Ruby Solly

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