What drew you to become a writer and poet?
I think it was time, space and stillness. I have a background in Rugby League and I played professionally for the Auckland Warriors; I played in Sydney, Australia, as well with the Western Suburbs Magpies.
I had a very serious injury which kept me at home for a long time, I was in a lot of physical pain and eventually I wasn’t able to continue with my career. That was very difficult to deal with so I started writing to get all the pain I was experiencing on the outside rather than having everything build up inside of me. It was a serious mental health situation in terms of feeling like I had lost my identity which was also very difficult to deal with.
Was that the first time you decided to write?
I wrote a little bit a school and I was involved in some speech competitions and I did well in them, but writing was something I did in my own time, quietly.
Did someone encourage you to write when you were injured?
I was housebound for some time, it was a back injury and it ended up being very serious, I couldn’t walk, I was in a lot of pain and so I decided to write. I was very young at the time, around 19 or 20.
What happens then?
A little bit later on after I kept writing I discovered Slam Poetry and I would enter competitions and eventually I competed in the National Poetry Slam Final and I placed second. I really started to pick up some traction regarding what I was doing at that point. People started asking me to perform my poetry for them.
I also started to be asked to use my poetry to help with the well-being of young people in my community. I have been working with organisations for some time using creative writing to facilitate a connection with these organisations’ core values. I also do work with young men from my community regarding connecting with their heritage.
Why Slam Poetry?
I think I started out in Slam Poetry because it had a little bit of a competitive element to it and for me that might have been a hangover from playing sport. I was also inspired by Def Poetry Jam and I really liked that style and I was also influenced by rap music, so if you blend all of those things together, that is what started my involvement in writing and performing Slam Poetry.
At the time I started though New Zealand Slam Poetry was doing really well and there were a lot of very impressive slam poets. Te Kahu Rolleston is a good example of someone I was listening to. It was a very inspiring period.
Did you find you were drawn into it because there is an immediate connection with an audience?
I think it fitted in with a part of Maori culture, we had an oral culture and oratory was very important to that. I had uncles in my family who were great orators and that is definitely something special in Maori culture, so that is another element which drew me towards slam poetry.
Part two of this interview is here