Roma Potiki, Te Rarawa, Te Aupouri, Ngaai Rangitihi, is a poet, playwright, performer and commentator on Maori theatre. Potiki illustrated her first collection of poems, and has work displayed in the permanent collection of the Dowse Gallery in Lower Hutt. Her poems ground personal emotion in observations of the natural world. Attitudes based on race and gender are challenged and politicized by Potiki, and she is known to use ironic, dogmatic or acerbic voices and devices to confront these attitudes.
FROM THE OXFORD COMPANION TO NEW ZEALAND LITERATURE
Potiki, Roma (1958– ), Te Rarawa, Te Aupouri, Ngaai Rangitihi, is a poet, playwright and commentator on Maori theatre. She is also a theatre performer and manager, who was Te Toka-a-Toi (Maori arts) co-ordinator of the 1998 New Zealand International Festival of the Arts; and a visual artist, who illustrated her own first collection of poems and has work in the permanent collection of the Dowse Gallery, Lower Hutt. Born in Lower Hutt, she was educated at Wainuiomata College, leaving at 15, and lives at Paekakariki. She held a writing residency at a Sydney theatre in 1996.
Potiki’s poems are in the Oxford (1997), Te Ao Märama and other anthologies, while the refrain of her poem ‘and my heart goes swimming’ became the title of the anthology of New Zealand love poems edited by Jenny Bornholdt and Gregory O’Brien in 1996. Her collection Stones in Her Mouth (1992) articulates intense feeling across a versatile range of forms and tones. At their best, the poems ground personal emotion in a strongly observed natural world, as in love lyrics like ‘flood me’, poems of feeling like ‘change’ (‘ to earth / to heal / to return’), or nature poems like ‘the flax’ (‘the smell is someone weeping / fresh life. / the coarse roots hold / round earth / intend to stay’). By contrast there are poems which depend essentially on the rhetoric of an ironic, acerbic or dogmatic spoken voice, usually of political anger, especially directed at racist and gender attitudes (‘white boys’, ‘change is necessary’). A set of six broadsheet poems was published by Wai-te-ata Press, Roma Potiki (1996).
Her play Going Home was performed in Sydney in 1996. She wrote the introductions to He Reo Hou: 5 Plays by Mäori playwrights (1991) and Waiora by Hone Kouka (1997).
Potiki's collection of poetry, Shaking the Tree, was published by Steele Roberts in 1998. 'Here the writing is feisty / raw / wry /lusty / amusing / biting / lyrical / challenging. Her poems pack meaning and surprise into elegant space, capturing much of what it is to be a Maori woman today.' (From cover blurb.)
In 1999 Potiki published Oriori: a Maori Child is born - from Conception to Birth, a collaboration with Robyn Kahukiwa. The book follows a Maori woman, her tupuna and whanau from the conception of her child, through gestation, birth and just beyond.
"Together, Robyn Kahukiwa and Roma Potiki have sung the doorways open and cleared the pathways with their chanting. By doing so they have gifted us with these oriori for the new millennium, the rightful inheritance for all who live in Aotearoa." (From the introduction by Witi Ihimaera.)
MEDIA LINKS AND CLIPS
- Roma Potiki's bibliography in the Auckland University Library's New Zealand Literature File
Updated January 2017.