More of Us - poems by 46 migrants and ex-refugees
Race Relations Day, 21 March, came in a heartbreaking week for New Zealand, and was the launch date for More of Us, a book of poetry by 46 refugees and migrants, from 29 countries, now living in New Zealand. This book is a statement of who we are, and who we want to be.
The book was launched by Michael Wood, Under-Secretary to the Minister for Ethnic Communities, at the National Library in Wellington.
"The poets are very diverse,” says Adrienne Jansen, lead editor of More of Us. “They range from teenage Syrian refugees Maha and Mohamed Al Mansour, who arrived in October 2017, to Huberta Hellendoorn, who emigrated from The Netherlands in 1960. And the poems reflect this. They’re about telephone calls, dogs, food, airports, words, football, memory – but they all give a glimpse of what it’s like to come and live here,” she says.
Inspiration for the More of Us came from All of Us, a recently published book of poetry and short prose by Adrienne and Carina Gallegos that also focuses on new lives in Aotearoa New Zealand.
“In that book we’re telling stories that others have told us. In More of Us, writers tell their own stories.”
“We asked for submissions through organisations and individuals all over the country, and received about 100 poems. It was very hard paring them down – every poem had its own story. But we chose about 35.”
“The other 20 poems were created for this book. We wanted poems from newcomers, students – the whole range. So we ran poetry workshops for ESOL students in high schools, and also with adult learners through the auspices of English Language Partners.”
“These workshops were very exciting,” says Adrienne. “People still struggling with English, given the right tools, can write startling and moving poems.”
“Some adults had limited English but a very good understanding of poetry in their own language and culture. That’s a big advantage. We can easily forget how much knowledge people bring with them.”
More than half of the poets were in Wellington for the launch, which was attended by 200 people, including members of the diplomatic corps.
Publisher Landing Press was set up in 2016 by Adrienne Jansen, Carina Gallegos and Milena Stoysavljevic to publish accessible poetry. Adrienne has written and published a number of fiction and non-fiction books recording migrant experiences. Carina is an exciting new writer originally from Costa Rica. Milena has had a strong publishing career in Serbia.
For more information, contact: