new zealand electronic poetry centre




Tusiata Avia

Recorded 27 April 2016 at the University of Auckland, Faculty of Arts Sound Studio.
Tim Page, sound engineer.

Tusiata Avia
 Photo credit: Poetry International Rotterdam

Tusiata Avia is a Samoan-New Zealand poet, performer and writer. She has published three books of poetry: Wild Dogs Under My Skirt, Bloodclot, Fale Aitu/ Spirit House and two children’s books, Mele and the Massage and The Song. Her one-woman theatre show (also called Wild Dogs Under My Skirt) toured internationally from 2002 to 2008 and shows again in 2016 as a play for six actors. Tusiata has held a number of writers’ residencies and awards, including a Fulbright Pacific Artist Fellowship at the University of Hawai’i and the Janet Frame Literary Trust Award. She lives in Auckland with her daughter, Sepela and teaches Creative Writing and Performing Arts at Manukau Institute of Technology.

Poem notes

‘Mafui’e: 22 February 2011’
Mafui’e: Samoan god of earthquakes
During the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, the Catholic Basilica’s statue of Mary (whose back was always visible from the street) turned 180 degrees to face the people of Christchurch.

Manahatta or matta ne hatta: Lenape/Algonquin name, meaning ‘I have not’; now known as Manhattan
Lenape: indigenous people of the New York area
Alamo: name of the cube-shaped sculpture at the intersection at Astor Place
Ka’aba: cuboid building at the centre of the most sacred mosque of Islam, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Menetta: Lenape name for the serpent spirit, harasser of the people. Menetta turned into a now-underground stream that leads into the Hudson River.
Santero: priest of the Santeria religion
La Guadelupe: the Virgin of Guadalupe
The first line of this poem is adapted from a line from Evan Pritchard’s Native New Yorkers: The Legacy of the Algonquin People of New York (Council Oak Books, 2007): ‘The first thing the elders teach is the importance of the “hoop”, or circle.’
Thanks to Dean Saranillio who told me how the contemporary NYC cityscape often echoes indigenous trails and original landscape features. The intersection of trails at what is now known as Astor Place (believed to be a place of indigenous spiritual power) is now echoed by the intersection of streets and subway.’


Last updated 24 May, 2016