More of Us edited by Adrienne Jansen with Clare Arnot, Danushka Devinda and Wesley Hollis
Wellington: Landing Press (2019)
RRP: $22.00. Pb, 92 pp
Reviewed by Tim Jones
More of Us is a companion anthology to All of Us, the 2018 Landing Press anthology of poems about migration and the refugee experience by Adrienne Jansen and Carina Gallegos. More of Us includes poems by migrants and refugees who have lived in Aotearoa for many years, and others who have arrived recently. Some are well-known New Zealand poets, while for others, this is their first publication.
Including such a range of contributions and contributors might seem to run the risk of producing a disjointed book. But the editors’ skill in sequencing this anthology has ensured that it flows well.
Many of the poems reflect the disclocation and sadness of adjusting to life in a new land:
A new passport skin reduced her
down to its version of her name
the taste of hunger still on her lips
she frowns at
a dumped loaf
they throw away their clothes (Qalina, “Count your blessings”, p. 48)
though I particularly enjoyed the flashes of humour that dot this anthology:
Dear little engineer, my true friend,
I never asked if you felt lonely,
isolated among mops and rubbish,
or whether you missed your country, as I did.
What were you thinking about all day,
impatiently awaiting my company? (Danushka Devinda, “The mechanical migrant: a cleaner’s ode to a Hoover”, p. 76)
Language – not only the language of the poems, but the role of language in both mediating and accentuate difference – is central to More of Us. Fittingly, my favourite poem in the anthology finds the common point between languages:
I close my eyes and rest my mouth
as silence is the only language that does not
need an interpreter. (Abdalla Gabriel, “Silence”, p. 41)
The great strength of More of Us is a diversity of voices articulating experiences that are both common to many migrants and refugees, and unique to the individual poet.
Tim Jones (b 1959) has had one novel, two short story collections and four poetry collections published – most recently, New Sea Land (Mākaro Press, 2016) – and has co-edited two poetry anthologies. He was guest poet in takahē 89 (April 2017).