Tayi Tibble is counting down the days until the country moves to level two, just like everyone else. But unlike many, she’s in no hurry to see things return to ‘normal’.
Sure, she’s excited about seeing her family and friends - and even the best of bubbles can use a change of scenery. But the young wordsmith also sees this as a fresh start and is eager to make sure her world doesn’t slot back into business as usual.
“I know that I can’t go back to the lifestyle that I was living before that, like it just wasn't sustainable. And almost, in a way, the rāhui came at the right time.”
Tibble has found the last few weeks of forced isolation has been a creative time.
“I have been enjoying lockdown, I’ve been reverting to a lot of my teenage artistic impulses,” she laughs. “Not taking it too seriously and just experimenting.”
That includes using archived Instagram stories of her and her friends pre-lockdown as inspiration for her latest offering.
“One thing my friends are really interested in trying is to cultivate working around Maramataka (the Māori lunar calendar). So it’s not like a consistent ‘nine to five, five day a week’ working week. We want to work with the ebb and flow of the moon.
“There are times we’re more productive and then there are weeks where you want to rest and reflect. I don't know how practical it’s going to be for us to actually try it out properly, considering we work with a lot of pākehā organisations.”
“I go to galleries where I can't afford anything but I see.”
So begins Tibble’s new poem “Art—A Freestyle 4 Every1” for the Thankful For Art campaign. The Creative New Zealand online initiative encourages people to show their support for artists during lockdown, by sharing the art they are thankful for and photos of their favourite artworks.
Tibble describes her poem for #TFA as a freestyle - a departure from her usual writing - turning the piece around in the space of a week. “That's way short for me, I take ages to write anything.”
At the age of 24, Tibble’s writing as both a poet and essayist has already gained her international attention and accolades. She graduated from the International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML) in 2017 with the Adam Foundation Prize. Her debut collection Poukahangatus, released in 2018 went on to win the prize for best first book of poetry at the Ockham Book Awards.
Tibble’s introduction to poetry came while attending Porirua Intermediate.
“We just had a really cheesy poetry block in English. Everyone got really into it.
I started writing poetry at school, putting them on the internet, uploading them onto Tumblr. I was Tumblr famous!”
Bust a Rhyme
I bring up the rhyme schemes that pop up in the new poem, and Tibble admits that hip hop was a big influence on her early work.
“I think before I went to poetry school, and got taught to write, I was using a lot of rhyme trying to imitate rap.”
When she was 19, Tibble started an undergraduate course at IMML and began writing and performing her work around Wellington. She said one thing that she learnt while studying was how to be more generous to her readers. “I like my work to be liked and I like my work to be read.”
Tayi’s book Poukahangatus.
Over the last year, Tibble has written a number of essays. Most famously her moving piece for Newsroom, about her experience at Ihumātao. Her long-form writing has the same wit and beauty as her poetry, and Tibble admits she’s enjoying working in a different form but it's not without its drawbacks.
“I'm a lot more miserable writing essays,” she laughs, talking about how time-consuming the process is. “There are lots of pieces you have to think about. There are things I want to achieve in poetry and apply to essay writing, to make the language still sing” Tibble says she wants to do a collection of essays talking to the Māori urban experience. First, she has a half-finished poetry manuscript to get through. Though she’s enjoying working in a different medium she says poetry is her preferred artform - “it’s more malleable, more experimental.”
You can experience Tayi Tibble’s poem ‘Art—A Freestyle 4 Every1’ as part of Creative New Zealand’s Thankful For Art series here - a national campaign to highlight the value of the arts during COVID-19 lockdown and beyond. You can find out more about #TFA here.