Getting to Know Tayi Tibble

April 16th 2020

Tayi Tibble, poet, writer and all-round boss, sat down with us (via the wonders of the internet) to talk about how she’s dealing with isolation, reflect on some scarily accurate predictions, and to describe what her ideal post-COVID-19 world looks like. 

What’s your day job?

I'm freelancing atm/on the artist hustle; I write for The Pantograph Punch and I'm a columnist at Re: News.

What's your connection to Vic Books?

Vic Books is the book shop of my city and university. It is also significant to me as it was the location of my first ever public poetry reading way back in 2015, and they have continued to support me and my writing ever since. Thank you so much e hoas. Love you.

Tell us a little about your latest publication, Poūkahangatus.

I wrote Poūkahangatus during my MA at The International Institute of Modern Letters in 2017, and it earned me The Adam Foundation Prize that year. It's roughly about... colonisation lol, but also my family/four generations of wahine and how they navigate the world around them. It's poetry, but also my take on oral storytelling. It was published in 2018 and won The Jessie Mackay Prize for best first book at The 2019 Ockham Book Awards. Love that lil pou, she's taken her dumb author around the world; Argentina, Edinburgh, London.

What's been your most rewarding publication to work on so far?

Sport 47. I felt a lot of responsibility editing that journal to sort of open it up, and reflect what I think is hot about NZ literature, and where NZ literature and storytelling is heading. But it was a great privilege, to be trusted with other peoples mahi and I must say, Aoteroa's standard and quality of writing is absurdly high. All the worst submissions were from random 50-year-old men in America. I'm really proud of Sport, from the contents to the cover. It's all, how do you say, poppin. It was rewarding as it encouraged me to believe that I do have capacity and the confidence to hold space for others.

How do you think being a Libra has impacted your isolation?

Being a Libra impacts every aspect of my life so of course it's affected my isolation. Firstly, I miss my friends so much that it's making me revert to teenage coping mechanisms like Tumblr, and I miss flirting to the extent that I could feel myself making a flirty face when I accidentally caught the Countdown delivery driver on my property, and I had to be like stop that. But for me, it's all about balancing it out, doing some meditation and introspection. I've been spending a lot of my time working on my aesthetic and looking in reflective surfaces.

In January, you predicted the collapse of society. Do you think this has happened?

Yeah tbh! Maybe not a complete collapse (yet) as I do have a flair for the dramatic, but it really has come to a standstill. And while I miss eating out (aka not cooking), and weekends in Auckland, and I've been dreaming about the club most nights, I'm finding a lot of positives in this isolation period tbh; slowing down, having a rest! I already feel a lot more clear headed.

I think, just like a lot of people, plus the economy, plus Papatūānuku, I was feeling quite burnt out. I'd had an insanely busy 18 months previously, touring Poūkahangatus, editing and publishing Sport, working full time, with two part time jobs and multiple other commissions and hustles on top of that, and a bunch of appearances and social obligations I had convinced myself I needed to go, that it doubled as work too. I literally would go weeks and weeks and weeks without a day off, hardly saw my family, and I literally thought that was okay and that was the vibe cos that's how so many of my artist mates were having to work to make ends meet too.

So I just had this real weird sense of dread and borderline despair when I tweeted that. I was like, it's only January and I'm over it. I was like lol, collapse already, cos I could see that the lives so many of us are leading under capitalism just aren't sustainable, or happy.

But then I also knew that astrologically Saturn and Capricorn and Pluto were gonna be on one, which means basically the whole year is gonna be fully cooked.

But Saturn is at home in Capricorn, and it's the sign of the teacher/of hard lessons but also of transformation and rebirth. COVID-19 has come along to highlight what is wrong with our society, our weaknesses forcing us to address them, and change. Because if we don't do it, and resist change, Saturn's gonna keep serving our ass to us and hammering our thick homosapien skulls until we learn our lesson. We exist on a continuum and we can't go back to the way things were before, we have to go forward.

What does your ideal post-COVID-19 world look like?

I personally want some technological Kaupapa Māori indigenous futurism where we work smarter not harder for the collective good that values art, fun, sustainability, equality and taking care of earth and each other. Ihumātao was my first irl glimpse of the kind of society/koha economy I can see, it was so chill and efficient!

What are you reading at the moment?

Joy lent me Emily Perkins' first book of short stories, Not Her Real Name.

Are you enjoying it? Why?

Yes because Emily Perkins is iconic.

Which literary character do you most identify with?

There's this character called Heather Wolfe in this novel called Starting Out in the Evening by Brian Morton. She's an ambitious 24-year-old writer doing her masters thesis in New York and she's brilliant, and pretentiously self-conscious about it. She has all these sort of, wonderfully horrifying confessions, like how she always wanted every teacher she ever had to be in love with her and single her out, and that she genuinely believes you can go from pleasure to pleasure in life if you are lucky enough.

Even though I'm not consciously aware of ever having these thoughts myself, every time I read one, I feel a quick hot shame, like I'm being read for filth. And even though she's Daisy Buchanan-esque, quite careless and monstrous, I admire her. I think we have a kinship.

I'm a humble Māori girl tho.

Hardback or Paperback?

Paperback

Best thing about working from home?

Mornings are so soulless to me. Now I can pretty much avoid them if I want to and work right into the night with a whiskey, like a real writer.

Hardest part about working from home?

No one sees my outfits.

Black or white coffee?

I don't really drink coffee. I go through periods of drinking coffee for like two weeks, but then I feel like I need to go to rehab.