Q & A with Simone Kaho for National Poetry Day 2016

Simone Kaho is a NZ poet of Tongan ancestry. She was awarded a Masters in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters in 2011 and her first collection, Lucky Punch, is forthcoming from Anahera Press. Simone is an accomplished performance poet and her poetry is published in such places as Turbine, Blackmail Press, JAAM, and The Dominion Post. She is one of four poets featured in Poems In Your Pocket 2016 for National Poetry Day. Here she answers a few questions from our national coordinator about her poetry, her plans, and her advice for new poets.

[Simone Kaho - Photo by Erin Gaffney]

1. Name three NZ poets you think everyone needs to read at least once in their life. Why?

Ria Masae - I saw Ria perform for the first time this year and she blew me away. Intense word play, beautiful sounds like a waterfall for the ear, provocative yet classic images with viscerally intimate character and situation portraits. She writes about modern flawed woman experiences, here in NZ, with a fierce humility that has the power to cut through gender and class divides and fearlessly connect with her audience.

Hone Tuwhare - The poems Drunk and Rain did something to me that had never been done before. I felt I knew the voice speaking, that it was a version of my own, and also one entirely superior, physically and philosophically irresistible. A true New Zealand/Aotearoa voice. Witty, whimsically anguished and brute perfect.

Lynn Jenner - I love the way Lynn takes a theme/person and examines it lovingly from all angles. She takes her time in responding and including a full range of responses to her subject matter. Her approach to form excites me, weaving hybrid prose/non-fiction poems/letters into surprising yet satisfying narratives. Her book Dear Sweet Harry was one of my inspirations for Lucky Punch.

2. What made you write the poem that appears in Poems in Your Pocket 2016?

I’d recently stopped drinking completely, my inner clock was a bit warped and emotions were all over the place. I spent a week waking up between 3 and 4am and not being able to get back to sleep - so I’d hear the first birds coming awake and singing, and it’d make me weep. I wrote this poem on ANZAC morning, after having woken up this way, and thinking about the young man Lucky Punch is based on and how vulnerable and lovely he was. Then I thought about all the young men who’ve gone to wars with little life experience, having been sold on the adventure, and duty and masculine accomplishment of it; and this poem arrived.

3. You have a book in the pipe-line, what are you working on next?

I’ve been writing loads while travelling over the last two months and it feels like there’ll be something in there. I’ve felt my perspective change and widen quickly over this time and it’ll be interesting to see how that’s reflected in the writing. I’ve also been thinking about a female protagonist project for quite a while which would be a collection of stories told in poetry or flash fiction about brave and risky stuff that women I know have done. Kind of a Kill Bill meets Joan of Arc type thing.

4. What's one piece of advice you have for a brand new poet?

Head straight for your fascinations. Sprint towards the ideas, notions, situations, sensations, people, conversations, animals, colours (etc. etc.) that excite and titivate you. Explore only these aggressively, or with utter control, or sensuously and slowly, or carelessly in your poetry. Never write about anything because you feel you should.

5. What will you be doing on National Poetry Day this year?

I will be somewhere in Thailand, possibly Koh Yao Noi, most likely doing some yoga. I will try to find an audience to read some New Zealand poetry to.

Find a National Poetry Day event near you in the 2016 Calendar of Events.

Poems in Your Pocket is a poetry booklet you download online, print, fold, and pocket to share for National Poetry Day. A single page becomes a miniature poetry book featuring four NZ poets.