Loose Canons02.06.19

Loose Canons: Tayi Tibble

Loose Canons is a series in which we invite artists we love to share five things that have informed their work. Tayi Tibble is a poet and writer based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Ngāti Porou/Te Whānau ā Apanui).

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.

Tayi Tibble is a poet and writer based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Ngāti Porou/Te Whānau ā Apanui).

In 2017 she completed an MA at the International Institute of Modern Letters and was the recipient of that year’s Adam Foundation Prize. Her MA portfolio was the basis for her first book, Poūkahangatus, published by Victoria University Press in 2018. In our roundup of the best books of 2018, we described Poūkahangatus as “a remarkable book by a bold and talented writer who has things to say”. Sure enough it won the Best First Book Award for Poetry at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards 2019.

Tayi’s work has been published in various journals and magazines, including StarlingThe SpinoffThe Wireless and Poetry Magazine. Her essay ‘On Being Skux’ is one of the most-read pieces on The Pantograph Punch ever.

Tayi recently worked at Toi Māori Aotearoa, where she was the editor of the Toi Māori blog, profiling the work of emerging Māori artists and creatives.


The hottest 2-dimensional bitch who was ever animated. Have you ever seen anything as beautiful as her cartoon weave hitting those magic forest winds? I stan Pocahontas because even in the 90s, when everyone was violent with their lip liner, Pocahontas knew that you should pat your lipstick on softly, and round out your Cupid’s bow. Pocahontas was way ahead of her time, though I must admit that she lowkey had me thinking I could talk to trees as a kid. And as an adult, she had me equally delusional thinking I could have relationships with Pākehā men wherein all I had to do was “listen with my heart” and “I would understand” and vice-versa. However, life isn’t saturated in Disney jewel tone hues and making soulful eyes at a white man while standing either side of a waterfall won’t spontaneously make you understand each other or your different colonial histories. So when the no-coddling parenting style of my mother exposed me to what really happened to the IRL Pocahontas, Matoaka, she also exposed me to the awareness that the depictions of indigenous women fed to us through the white man’s gaze, lens and pen both romanticises and perpetuates colonisation. So to me, Pocahontas kind of became an emblem of my consciousness as an indigenous woman, and she taught me the importance of having control over our own narratives in order to reclaim our histories and decolonise ourselves. Pocahontas reminds me of why I wanted to be a writer and as such she is an endless source of inspiration. It is no coincidence that my first book, Poūkahangatus, is named for her.


At least once a day I think to myself, What would Blair Waldorf do? This is because Blair Waldorf impressed herself on my adolescent mind at the peak time of its development and as a result, all of my decision making revolves around her, sort of like trauma. But why tho? What did I see in Blair Waldorf – that Park Avenue Princess – that I might have recognised in myself, an Ascot Park Brat? The answer is the world. Blair has been described by the Gossip Girl wiki as a “comical overachiever” and that is also how I would have described myself; The Māori Miss Wardolf but at a Porirua public school. Blair Waldorf is like the quintessential Capricorn bitch, despite this opinion being disproved by Google. I related to many of her traits: her determination, her focus, her striving, her success as well the occasional lots of stress and the constant fear of failure. You might say, “why Tayi? You are very obviously a Libra.” Well, I also have equal parts Capricorn in my chart. I remember a specific scene where lil’ Jenny Humphrey tells Blair, “You might be privileged, Blair, but you work for every single thing you’ve achieved. Like me. Serena just glides through.” I no longer have any bitter feelings towards anyone who glides through. Good on you. My easy-breezy-blonde best friend’s name was Sarah. But ‘gliding through’ was never something that I related to or wanted to relate to tbh. I was more on that Britney Spears telling me “you better work bitch” in a British accent type buzz and so was Blair.


I talk about this book and a particular reading from this book so often that I’m pretty sure Courtney would prefer it if I removed my lips from her ass. I first discovered Courtney and her book Brown Girls in Bright Red Lipstick way back at Litcrawl 2015. I was freshly twenty, and had just finished my first ever paper from the illustrious International Institute of Modern Letters and so was I entertaining the dangerous idea of pursuing a literary life. So I went down looking bookish to Pegasus Books in Left Bank, just off of Cuba, and that was where I first laid my starry eyes on Miss Courtney Sina Meredith. When she read the title poem from her book Brown Girls in Bright Red Lipstick I was fully shook, sort of nearly spewing I was that shook, like a V can in the hand of a insufferable 11-year-old boy. My friend was nudging me in the ribs with his bony elbow all like “lol heey” because fatefully, I just happened to be wearing a bright red dress and matching bright red lipstick, and now my face was turning entirely bright red too. I have used the phrase “I felt entirely seen and see-through” to describe this experience before and that still feels as true now as it did then. I fell in love with her words and in love with her delivery; the way she read her work was exhilarating. It was really sexy, but her confidence seemed to be sourced both internally, but also spiritually. She was the essence of mana wahine in a way I hadn’t experience before. A few years later, I was in a workshop with Apirana Taylor and he told us we should read our poems “with the mana they deserve”. I immediately thought of Courtney, and this occasion. He also said by reading your poems with mana “you honour the poem, you honour the audience and you honour yourself”. I felt honoured being in that audience, and now I recall her performance and Api’s words when I read my own work. It was also at that event, and around that same summer when I discovered other writers like Tusiata Avia, Hana Pera Aoake, Faith Wilson, Hinemoana Baker, Anahera Gildea and Coco Solid, just to name a few, who just by their contributions made me feel like their might be a space in New Zealand literature, for me to write too.


Actually my favourite Lana album is Born to Die The Paradise Edition obviously, even if only for the powerful visual trifecta that was the Tropico music video. Of late however, I have been drawn back to the sultry sarcastic moods of her sophomore album, Ultraviolence. I think what I love about this album is its attitude and how Lana leans in to the misconceptions and judgements the public has about her for her art but also for a lol. Singles like ‘Money Power Glory’ and ‘Fucked my way up to the top” are so obvious and ironic that they are light and really funny. I am big on the power of reclamation, humour by way of being deadass af, and the eye-rolling throughout this album is like, so rock and roll. Lana has had my soul since I was sixteen, the ripest age for her plucking. She was hugely freeing, or I should say enabling to me, as a girly melodramatic writer who wanted to say flowery vapid things but have those things be taken seriously. I admired that despite the criticism she received about her image, her persona, her looks etc, she took herself seriously and always referred to herself as a writer first. This has become increasingly relevant to me. And while she is not my favourite musician she is definitely my favourite “artist” and I really love the way she has evolved from project to project, growing without abandoning her prior selves and albums completely. As an air sign the temptation to be like “I don’t know her” to the past versions of myself is real, but I also know it all part of the embarrassing process. From her first album Born to Die to her most recent release Lust for Life, the sentiments could not be anymore different and yet, they’re so perfectly circular, satisfying and cohesive. I hope my own work evolves similarly so when I’m an old looking back at my literary contributions I can see how much I have changed, but also what has persisted, and what has stayed the same.


The Bratz taught me that diversity is hot. Of the four original dolls, one was Pākehā, one was Hispanic, one was African American, and one was Asian. Barbie was always white. Cloe, Yasmin, Sasha and Jade were 100 percent home girls and a healthy example of true e hoas. They were kind of like the ideal K-Pop group in the sense that each of them were unique in their own way, completely held their own, but came together to bless the world with their collective hotness. They had a passion for fashion and served hard af looks. The drove vintage Cadillacs to school and had boyfriends that were nice to them. They had a rock band and a fashion magazine. They also starred in the film Starrin’ and Stylin’ one of the century’s most riveting pieces of cinema about the classic woes of friendship, betrayal and forgiveness. Their makeup was always snatched. They had Kylie style lip fillers and Bella Hadid worthy Rhinoplasty. They were the original baddies. They are the founding mothers of all Instagram models. I loved them a lot. I still remember getting my first Jade for Christmas. She was the one I wanted the most because she had black hair and bangs and I had black hair and bangs and that was like, wild to me. The Bratz proved once again, that creating with diversity and representation in mind is a) literally not that hard and b) way hotter.

Feature image: Tayi Tibble, Photo: Tessa Aitchison.

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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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