Look up and See Rangikura, the Red Sky

Ana McAllister reviews Tayi Tibble’s second book, Rangikura. And it's lessons on being a spiritual Māori angel and a horny baddie.

Rangikura is East Coast baddie Tayi Tibble’s second book. I remember Tayi teasing this new pukapuka on her Instagram, something along the lines of home-wrecker / Marina and the Diamonds mixed with classic Ngāti Porou in the city / Bratz [dolls] shit. Unsurprisingly the first poem in Rangikura, ‘Tohunga’, includes the lines “Pou after pou … / cracking the sky and the sky / was full of whales” and my other favourite from this poem “I / inhaled the bible / swallowed the rifle / like an 8-inch cock / whateva”. In Rangikura, Tayi shows us that, in 2021, we CAN be both – a spiritual Māori angel and a horny baddie. It’s called range.

‘Hot Hine Summer’

‘Hot Hine Summer’ runs over three pages and its 22 paragraphs are in lines of three. It is one of a selection of poems in Rangikura that mention ‘slutty foods’ a category I had never really considered. If you google ‘slutty food’, most pictures are of huge cheesy burgers, but have you ever tried to eat a giant burger in a dignified, let alone slutty, way? I thought about it, and tended to lean more in Tayi’s direction of ‘slutty foods’ that make your pussy taste good. ‘Hot Hine Summer’ talks about living hard and fast, only to die in the pool of a mansion, like Daisy Buchanan, then reincarnate as a wild-haired East Coast girl listening to the Rua Kēnana and begging for forgiveness. Like its title suggests, this poem is soaked in the sun on a searing, early February day. But there are two distinct locations the reader can imagine. One of those is the sticky hot day on Karangahape Road, everyone in their short skirts, but with the distinct, lingering smell of shit in the air. And a tropical day on the golden sands of Wainui Beach, just north of Gisborne. Where the cool breeze pushes off Hine Moana, and the boys play beach volleyball.

One of a selection of poems that mention ‘slutty foods’ – a category I had never really considered

The ENTIRE Chapter 2

The first thing I thought when I read this chapter was HOLY SHIT. As a writer myself, I’ve had numerous lovers come to me and essentially beg me to write poetry about them. My Tinder bio even used to read, “If I like you, I might write a poem about you.” If Chapter 2 was a person it would do that loud, single “HAH!” laugh at ANY lover who dared ask a Gemini-rising poet to write a poem about them. You want a poem? Honey, you’re going to get a WHOLE CHAPTER! Chapter 2 details an illicit love affair between what I am going to assume is an older, married man and a younger woman. It’s written across 16 pages, and is made up of 17 poems, ranging in length. The story that Chapter 2 tells will be familiar to anyone who's had that kind of relationship. It describes the ‘out of the way’ restaurants, and the lying awake in bed while the man twice your age snores loudly. But it also describes the warmth of being looked after by someone who’s kind, and gentle. For those who haven’t experienced this kind of relationship, Chapter 2 is a rare glimpse into a world of sex, secret hookups, and M&Ms.

‘Kehua / I used to want to be the bait that caught Te Ika’

‘Kehua / I used to want to be the bait that caught Te Ika’ is spread across just two pages. It reads like the frantic diary entry of a misguided child who thinks her risky behaviour makes her supernatural. I mean, we’ve all been there. Who didn’t date the trashy guy with a decked-out car who sold weed out of his mum’s basement? Right? It reminds me of that reality TV show where the 18-year-old kids from an Amish community would all leave for a trip to ‘experience the world’. And they’d just end up doing the stupid shit we all did when we were 16. Except on TV. I left my boyfriend eventually, because, of course I did. I remember him crying to my friend saying he thought he was going to marry me someday. Even then I laughed at the thought. The bait that caught Te Ika, not the bait that caught the 20-year-old who dates a 16-year-old. That’s a whole other TV show.

Tayi shows us that we CAN be both – a spiritual Māori angel and a horny baddie. It’s called range

‘My Ancestors Send Me Screenshots’

‘My Ancestors Send Me Screenshots’ reads like it definitely needs to be said out loud. It needs to be paced with the same cadence as a mōteatea. I am not normally one for a rhyming poem; I don’t think I’ve ever written a serious rhyming poem. But ‘My Ancestors Send Me Screenshots’might just change my mind. It starts out with a great line about founding fathers and murdering mothers. Reminding Pākehā that their women, too, have been violent since they first colonised this whenua. There is then a string of short questions, like “Do I have a heart? Does it bleed? Like a steak? If it’s brutalised enough? If it’s served? On a plate?” These questions could be posed as one sentence, but breaking it up in this way makes it somehow feel more resistant. ‘My Ancestors Send Me Screenshots’takes me back to dinners with the parents of Pākehā boyfriends, the accusatory ways in which they’d question my morals while they and their precious son colonised me. This poem is what I wish I could have said back, performed as a haka.

Something which is, like, a Māori flex. Think Indigenous excellence but with every centimetre of your body

‘A Karakia 4 a Humble Skux’

‘A Karakia 4 a Humble Skux’ is across four pages towards the very end of Rangikura. Each line of the poem is repeated:

& I am wilder than anything

& I am wilder than anything

my ancestors could have imagined

my ancestors could have imagined

This reminds me of learning karakia in intermediate school, when the kaiako would say one line, which you would repeat. It’s like Tayi is asking us to all learn this karakia by heart so that we too can pray to the atua. Of course, this is not like your average karakia. This karakia is for the ‘humble skux’, somewhat of an oxymoron in itself.

Tayi is no stranger to the analysis of a skux, she in fact wrote a piece here at Pantograph Punch called ‘On Being Skux: A nostalgic recap of a national subculture. I was never really in skux culture. I think when skux culture peaked I was pretending to be Pākehā. Of course, I knew what it was but it never interested me. This karakia, however, is interesting. I think it speaks to something that most Māori our age have experienced, which is, like, a Māori flex. Think Mean Māori Mean / Indigenous excellence but with every centimetre of your body.

I’m not going to lie; I wasn’t sure how Tayi would follow up her first pukapuka, Poūkahangatus, which will always remain one of my favourite books of all time. But she really laid it all out there with Rangikura. She did the poet's version of ‘bitch, hold my drink’, then she one-upped her own damn book! Rangikura is juicy; it’s biting into a purple-fleshed plum and letting it all run down your chin. Is that a slutty fruit?

Rangikura is published by Victoria University Press

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The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

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