Jack Ross, ed.: brief 29 (April 2004)
John Puhiatau Pule, Tagata Kapakiloi/Restless People. Auckland: Pohutukawa Press, 2004. ISBN 0-476-00230-3. 56 pp.
John Pule: lithograph from Tagata Kapakiloi/Restless People (2004)
The book itself is certainly a thing of beauty. The sequence of poems which it contains begins with an expertly-reproduced lithoprint which is probably worth the price in itself. As for the poems, they seem to be constructed in layers: on the surface there’s a layer of literary allusion (Gogol, Huidobro, “Keats, Baudelaire, / Mayakovsky, Akhmatova, even a bit of Plath. / I knew every line to Ode to a Nightingale” ); below that comes a layer of cultural dispossession (“I grew up in an enlightened suburb, / in a house bearing a solitary rose” ); then one of finely-judged cultural admixture (“When she died I did not stay for the tangi. / I waved a taxi down. I kept staring at the id photo of the driver. / It read: expires 2003.” ); then one of passion and personal turmoil (“I pull my cock out of you / it’s been blessed with your / body / I love you / this may sound crazy” ); and below that, at the root of all, attempted fusion of the above:
Stability: a mountain in a painting
Desire: a chance to live with a tree
Ocean: my mother of hope and meditation
Song: a lighthouse as destination
Love: knowing water will suffice 
This is, primarily, love poetry, but it’s also culture poetry: not just the culture of John Pule’s native Niue against western – in this case Kiwi – values in general, but of the alienating world we all inhabit.
Time to give it a listen.