Poet's 10-year journey ends with release of new book

By Stefan Dimitrof

Robert Sullivan (Ngāpuhi, Ngai Tahu) says it usually takes about three years to have enough poems for a book but the release of his new book, Tūnui Comet, took 10 years to finish.

“I had a bit of a gestation period,” he says

Sullivan joined Te Ao Tapatahi to talk about the process it took to complete the book while trying to find the time.

“The time to catch those moments, you take that moment when you have a spark and insight. It will give you the impetus to write and that’s when you can expand it a bit later - and sometimes it takes 10 years.”

Sullivan is also an English and Te Reo teacher at Waitaki Boy’s High and he says that during his teaching sometimes he finds “little thought bubbles” and he tries to secure them when he can.

“I don't have a clear process with the bubbles. When I see the bubble I follow the trail.”

Sullivan is writing some of his poetry in Māori but his strength is in English and he wasn’t raised speaking Te Reo Māori. Instead, he picked it up at university and learned it in a formal way but says his conversational Māori and his awareness of moteatea (ancient poetry) lack knowledge.

“I have written some Maori poems but native speakers will see my struggles on the page.”