On Tuesday night I was lucky enough to attend the launch of Auē Rona, by Reihana Robinson. This is a beautifully produced book from Steele Roberts, with stunning images by Noa Noa von Bassewitz.
Launched by the ever-entertaining Roger Steele, this was a true celebration of an amazing new collection. I particularly enjoyed Reihana’s readings (after she revoked her threat to call on random audience members to read on her behalf), in which she embodies the exiled Rona, imagining her anguish at being cast out of the earthly world.
The first poem in the book, “How it all began” retells the legend of Rona, who when out angrily collecting water for her children, curses the moon for the darkness and is pulled up into the sky. Robinson’s retelling in Rona’s voice “Such pitiful pleas – / her thirsty brats” adds a lovely colloquialism “stuff you moon / boil your pea brain with pūhā. / Put your flat head into the cooking pot.” and a killer ending with the moon’s own take on the relationship.
Similarly, there are modern references adding both light and weighty touches to Rona’s story. “Rona does the hula” is full of rich imagery as Rona looks back at her children who have now “grown to pimply adolescence.” A kind of love poem to the moon, Rona recalls the night “…your love slunk a trail, / weaving limbs and heart as if / bat wings were my blanket, / my shawl.”
This is a wonderful collection that brings Rona’s legend alive, re-imagining her love, anger and regret as she grows old away from her family and earth – “that beaten planet.”
Reihana Robinson’s writing has been published in a number of journals including Landfall, Cutthroat, Hawai’i Review, Trout, Melusine, JAAM, Takahe, Cezanne’s Carrot and Blackmail Press. Her poems have appeared as part of AUP New Poets 3, Auckland University Press, 2008. She lives in the Coromandel.
For more about Reihana and Auē Rona, visit her website: reihanarobinson.co.nz