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Poet of Many Parts

Book Review
The Light and Dark in our Stuff
by Mere Taito (MT Productions)
Reviewed by Vaughan Rapatahana

mere-taito-poems_coverThis small (30pp) and beautifully presented book is Mere Taito’s inspired/inspiring first collection of poetry. The poems are lively, well crafted, the poet unafraid to call a spade a spade, to present stark differences between black and white.
There is considerable accent on body and bodily functions throughout the 10 poems within (5 x ‘dark’; 5 x ‘light’). Indeed, the very first saturnine poem, Bad Charity, regales the reader with bones, tears, frameless selves, skeleton, fractures – all in nine lines. The next poem, The Lost Art of Kissing a Government, delves further into the corpus both literally, and figuratively, as Taito refers to mouths (x 3), lips, teeth, tonsils, forked tongues, eyes, screams. Here she eviscerates not only governments, but also we who no longer chew up at and spit out legislators and administrators, and merely suck up to them.

So it goes in these dark (p)ages, for the very next schism-making poem Building Code, further references cavity-riddled human molars, skeleton, tibia, hair, cartilage, dislocated human spine, clammy hands – whereby humanity is deconstructed metaphorically and devolved physically – by humans.

Conflict Minerals furthers the depiction of human greed – here over tantalum – and the concomitant desperate sounds of hungry men; while the strongly worded This Charmed Life forces further the division, here between bucolic and bitumen, as angry villagers in Rotuma – the poet’s turangawaewae – confront the situation, whereby

a black tar-seal road

slithers into a village like a hungry boa


Yet for Taito all is never lost. We scan the final quintet more buoyantly, even given the acerbic dismissal of whiteness and paean to being brown, in Eumelanin Gorgeous, with its cleverly punning

snow white in a vial is
vile

For in poems such as Good Voodoo and Nebula and Fermentere, songs of celebration bounce back in the form of sprightly legends and tales, replete with happiness, gifts, heavenly trauma – and the Taito-esque trademarks of extended metaphor, candidness, and of course, corporeal exaltation. Thus spine, legs, soles of her feet, wristed blue hands, armpits, teeth, scalp, skin, back, vagina, nose, gut, hard palette – you get the gist, the grist.
This poet can certainly write well and I expect to see more of her fine poetic framework. While I will write no more and leave you with the rather brilliant personification of Feed in its full-bodied exultation.

the sea
gate-crashes your lunch
through an opening
in the bus shelter wall

it salts your chips
makes you squeeze
the tomato sauce out of your words
onto the battered fish

the butcher’s paper
grabs the name of your crush
and coats it with the hot oil
before the wind blows it
through the door of the Metrolink bus

E.R.I.C
(sigh…)

deliriously happy
you mouth feed the seagulls

 

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Vaughan Rapatahana
February, 2018

NB. I am MC at the University of Auckland Lounge readings on April 18th. The theme is multiculturalism. Mere Taito will be one of the poets performing, reading her poems with verve.