lyrics without melody - reviewed by LE Scott

JAAM 16 October 2001

Mahinarangi Tocker's lyrical poems (without melody) are about the human spirit seeking "a truth" and about the truth we find in our exchanges with each other. From the first poem in lyrics without melody, "never", Tocker declares the field of battle: "a breath is a breath / is a sound is a sigh / is a knot in my belly / that I'll never define / I'll take all I get / and get all I give / to be caught in the bow / of a ship I'll not sail / and the season of truth / is a season of change / as abrupt and as sharp / as a thunderous rain"

lyrics without melody is Tocker's first book of poetry. She is Ngati Raukawa, Ngati Tuwharetoa and Ngati Maniapoto and just to make the rainbow complete, throw in some Jewish and Celtic ancestry. Tocker states that she has written poetry for most of her life, but she is best known as a singer/songwriter and in her poetry the singer in her lives in the movement of the words. And as all good singers of blues/jazz know, the song ain't right until you sweat - and with the sweat comes the knowledge that life is full of many grey streets and avenues. Truth is a hard friend - or enemy - to seek out.

Mahinarangi Tocker's poems are about love, personal love, love in all sorts of colours and fashions. From "speaking in parent turn": "we make our own space / we make our own place / she holds my hand / she rubs my shoulder / she kisses my cheek / i am sorry / for my childhood perceptions / she is sad / at our memories / i sing her lesbian stories / she finds new melody / for me to respect / i hold her closer / to my heart / she tells me / i am stronger than i know"

lyrics without melody speaks the truth of understanding love spoken and given between folks - and don't we know love don't always come dressed right. From her poem "quiet the rage inside": "somebody said / love is all that matters / love is all that shatters / quiet this rage / someone's turning bedroom sound / to whisper / a hotel scent of seed / and / lusted temper / the city falls to pieces / in her / what makes stronger / woman in me / quiet the rage / inside / it matters / what shatters / this love / it shatters / what matters / this rage / inside"

After reading this collection, one comes away with the feeling that the poet hasn't over-dressed her words, nor has she tried to embed trick mirrors in her poems. Take these poems as the skin they wear and what you feel is what is being offered - food for the spirit. There is a common over-riding flavour that comes through: we are not here for that long and we need to be less hurtful to each other and more embracing of love on a human level. And as the old folks will tell you - that ain't a bad colour to paint the house you live in.