What’s a good name for a novel?
One-time Kerikeri High School teacher Vaughan Rapatahana has a new novel out — with the intriguing title of Novel.
It covers a lot of ground, from a violent murder in a New Zealand meatworks to the Philippines, Hong Kong and the People’s Republic of China, in many ways mirroring the prolific writer’s contribution to publications in countries around the globe, from the UK to France to Asia and the US.
He has contributed to dozens of literary journals in various languages, and published academic texts and fiction. And now he’s entering retirement and looking to write the followup to Novel. Money and time were finite resources, he said, which was where his family had been helpful.
His daughter, Pauline Canlas Wu, a tattoo artist in Hong Kong, had illustrated Novel, while his wife, Leticia Canlas, had helped out too.
It was 1977-79 when the then24-year-old taught in Kerikeri, returning to live at Pakaraka and then Awarua after a stint in Nauru.
During his Northland years, literature was at a low ebb.
“If there was stuff going on I wasn’t much aware of it. I was starting to write myself. I got a couple of stories published in the PPTA Journal,” he said.
“I remember going to see Sam Hunt and Gary McCormick up north about 1981. Sam Hunt definitely was an inspiration. We have since sporadically kept in touch, eh.”
Talk of the popular poet gets Vaughan name-dropping contemporaries who have made a mark in New Zealand literature, which is fair enough considering he has shared schools, universities and workplaces with David Eggleton, Roger Horrocks and James Norcliffe, and now sees a lot of fellow Waikato poet Bob Orr.
By his own assessment it was only in the last 10 years that he really hit his straps as a writer, however. His books had “probably not” made a lot of money, but he wasn’t in it for that. And he chose Rangitawa Publishing for Novel because it tied in with the marginalised perspective from which he writes.
Amongst other achievements, Vaughan has won the Proverse Poetry Prize, his poetry collection Atonement was nominated for a National Book Award in the Philippines, and his writing has been published in French, Tagalog and te reo Ma¯ori. His poem ‘Rangiaowhia’ has been shortlisted for the NZSA Canterbury Heritage Book and Writing Awards 2018.
■ Novel (rrp $38) is available for purchase from www.RangitawaPublishing. com or https://amzn.to/ 2Ex8KLt
Vaughan Rapatahana is still putting pen to paper.