Loose Canons28.06.23
#loose canons#pijf

Loose Canons - Isla Huia

Loose Canons is a series where we invite artists we love to share five things that have shaped their creative practice. Writer, te reo Māori teacher and musician, Isla Huia shares the five things she grounds herself in.

Loose Canons is a series in which we invite artists we love to share five things that have informed their work. Meet the rest of our Loose Canons here.

Isla Huia (Te Āti Haunui a-Pāpārangi, Uenuku) is a te reo Māori teacher, writer and musician. She has performed at the national finals of Rising Voices Youth Poetry Slam and the National Poetry Slam, as well as at Christchurch’s Word Festival. Isla can most often be found writing in Ōtautahi with FIKA Collective, and Ōtautahi Kaituhi Māori.

Isla’s decadent debut collection of poetry Talia, is a critique of hometowns, an analysis of whakapapa, and a reclamation of tongue. It is an ode to the earth she stands on, and to a sister she lost to the skies. It is a manifesto for a future full of aunties and islands and light.

Isla Huia’s debut collection of poetry, Talia is available online from Dead Bird Books, and in selected independent bookstores nationwide.


Living here on Kāi Tahu land in Te Waipounamu is a privilege that I don’t take for granted. Being born and raised away from my own tūrangawaewae in Whanganui is hard, but the maunga down here are the ones I’ve grown up looking up to, and are the ones I look still come back to for guidance. I discovered the peace that comes from walking alone in the ngāhere a few years ago in my early twenties, and now my addictive personality has me ticking off a new hike most weekends. In the middle of nowhere is where I most often find that I have everything I need - to write, breathe, and feel.

Te Henga / Talia

Te Henga is like the real backdrop and all of my words are written on top of it. There’s something unattainable and desperate about the moana out there, something totally untamed that keeps me coming back and back, almost to the beginning. When I told one friend about the āhua out there, I tried to explain how it’s half scary and half brilliant, she reminded me about how much history it holds - all the pā that once were, and all the mauri that still is. When I told my mirimiri practitioner, he told me that Te Henga is a portal that changes with the tides; the ones inside and out. My best friend Talia, who my book is named after, lived in Te Henga for a while. Her body is still there, in more ways than one. She is the biggest shaper of my creative practice that there ever will be. This photo is from straight after her tangihanga, when it was the only place I knew how to be. When I write, I think of her pitbull, Peggy, bolting down the black sand, through the fog. It’s that kind of wairua that gives my poems both their grounding, and their dreaminess, I think.


As a te reo teacher, and writer, my tīpuna inform everything I make. Ko tēnei tōku tino tūmanako: ka tū au hei tētahi whakatinanatanga o ngā moemoeā o ōku tīpuna. When writing, I often feel as if my ancestors are guiding my hand, and that they know what I want to say. To feel understood is a key part of what I aim to achieve when I put pen to paper, but sometimes, the knowledge that my tīpuna already know me and understand me proves to be enough. When I write in te reo Māori, especially, I feel the most honest. Our language is innately poetic, metaphoric and ancient.

Are We There, Sharon Van Etten & Bon Iver, Bon Iver

Bon Iver and Sharon (van-Etten) (...um yes, we are on a first name basis) have accompanied me through the piki me ngā heke of it all. To me, their music and their genius somehow fits  my human experience in a way that feels so true, so painful and euphoric and all the rest of it. There’s a video of me ugly crying on Courtney Place, in Pōneke after Sharon’s most recent show here in Aotearoa. If Justin (the main man behind Bon Iver) comes back, I’m going to make him a sign asking him to be my sperm donor. Please. And thank you. And ngā mihi.

Annemieke Montagne

My partner Mieke and I have been little love bugs for twelve good years, just a little less than half of our lives. What I make with words, Mieke does with ink. I will never understand how her brain can come up with images that her hands can then create, nor will I ever be able to see what she sees with her stupidly clever eyes or how that can translate onto a page, or a body. Mieke is a tattoo artist at Absolution, in Ōtautahi. I believe there is truly no visual format that her creativity can’t take. She blesses people's skin every day. I am continually in awe, and totally malleable to her influence and love and the takataapuitanga of being her wahine. Can’t wait for Justin to say yes to the sperm situation, so we can shape babies, as well as art….

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The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

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