The Monthly interviews New Zealand writer and poet, Makyla Curtis – Part 4 – Apertures

part three of this interview is here

From reading some of Apertures there are two things which come across in the work. A sense of sympathy, maybe even empathy, with the ancestors and secondly trying to accurately represent all aspects of their story. Could you say a little about that?

I really didn’t want to be in a position where I hated my ancestors. In fact I thought that that would be counterproductive. And it’s counterproductive in a range of ways.

There is an understanding that we carry our ancestors with us and to disregard them entirely would be unfair to myself and to my family. But it’s also worth noting that I do not shy away from anything either. I’m quite upfront about some of the information that I have about what my ancestors did to the land and people, the ways in which they appropriated that land, the dodgy laws and the dodgy sales that were not really sales. It is more accurately described as theft.

If we look at some of the other things that went on, a poem like Blankets, for example, I really try to look at the roots of that without shying away from it. I also like the impetus of poems like Hamilton’s Gap or The Homestead where I really wanted to be able to interact with my ancestor’s experiences as well, telling the story from their point of view, perhaps seeing experiences through their eyes.


Apertures starts with Homecoming and ends with Homegoing. Could you say a little about those choices?

With Homecoming I am opening up the conversation and thinking about what that might mean in the long term and then finishing off with Homegoing where I am discussing a reckoning, and that leads to an acknowledgement.

How has the work been received?

I’m going to say exceptionally well, but you need to keep in mind that it is only an edition of 40 copies of the book and that meant that it didn’t have a huge amount of reach. It’s a handmade book. It was very much produced for my master’s degree and it was a hand printed and hand bound edition and it sold out so quickly. I ended up selling my copy and only kept a proof and for myself. I had an exhibition which included this book, but also all of the other books that I made that were part of it and that was very well received.

I think the fact all of these poems had been read in advance by the two women I mentioned earlier, who were in my cohort, meant that I was always having another perspective on the poems and whether or not they were hitting the mark in terms of the cultural space we were investigating, meant that I was always answering to something along with my own conscience and my own code of ethics in that regard. I always had other people making sure I was keeping to the key ideas and a consistent approach.

What are you working on now?

A complete divergence, actually. Last year I was diagnosed with type one diabetes and it was a huge shock. And it turns out I had been ill for two years, working through the brain fog and all the rest of the symptoms that come along with adult onset diabetes.

I am going to be working on a project where I try to find a way to communicate through poetry the situation one experiences with a chronic long term illness like diabetes.

If you find out more about Makyla Curtis’ work see the links below

part one of this interview is here

artist forms link
New Belfast Community Arts Initiative trading as Community Arts Partnership is a registered charity (XR 36570) and a company limited by guarantee (Northern Ireland NI 37645).Registered with The Charity Commission as New Belfast Community Arts Initiative - NIC105169.