Ruby Solly

Tōku Pāpā


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February 2021

Longlisted for the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry 2022

When you first told me
that you gave me the name of our tupuna
so that I would be strong enough
to hold our family inside my ribcage,
I believed you.
Here you are.
Here is how I saw you,
trapped in your own amber.
Now it’s time
for you to believe me.

Tōku Pāpā is a book that serves as a map of survival for Māori growing up outside of their papakāika. These poems look at how we take the knowledge we are given by our ancestors and hide it beneath our tongues for safekeeping. They show us how we live with our tūpuna, without ever fully understanding them. This book encompasses a journey spanning generations, teaching us how to keep the home fires burning within ourselves when we have forgotten where our homes are. But have our homes forgotten us?

'This book sings a song of connection and disconnection. It moves between the light and the dark as all living things must, and it stretches back to our ancestors and forward to our descendants, while exploring the difficulties of loving those who we should be closest to. This is a searching and generous collection of toikupu that slow time to a trickle just to reach in and tap directly into the wairua.' —essa may ranapiri

‘Ruby is an incredible poet. Her poetry is utterly deft and agile, warm and heartbreaking.’ —Tayi Tibble, Toi Māori Aotearoa 

'Ruby’s book is full of lyrical archeology. She unearths words and feelings buried in the bones of our whakapapa. I don’t know how you, a stranger to us, will read this book. I can only tell you how it is, as whānauka to consume these words like she has translated the braille of clay on rock from our tupuna.' —Arihia Latham, Kete

Ruby Solly (Kāi Tahu, Waitaha, Kāti Māmoe) is a writer, musician and taonga pūoro practitioner living in Pōneke. She has been published in journals such as Landfall, Starling and Sport among others. In 2020 she released her debut album, Pōneke, which looks at the soundscapes of Wellington’s past, present and future through the use of taonga pūoro, cello, and environmental sounds. She is currently completing a PhD in public health, focusing on the use of taonga pūoro in hauora Māori. Tōku Pāpā is her first book.

Paperback, 210x138mm, 80 pages

Cover photograph: Taaniko Nordstrom and Vienna Nordstrom, Soldiers Rd Portraits