The Savage Coloniser Book
Winner of the 2021 Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry
8 October 2020
Kneel like a prayer full of lynching
This is my God-given white
‘Savage is as savage does. And we’re all implicated. Avia breaks the colonial lens wide open. We peer through its poetic shards and see a savage world – outside, inside. With characteristic savage and stylish wit, Avia holds the word-blade to our necks and presses with a relentless grace. At the end, you’ll feel your pulse anew.’ —Selina Tusitala Marsh, New Zealand Poet Laureate 2017–19
The voices of Tusiata Avia are infinite. She ranges from vulnerable to forbidding to celebratory with forms including pantoums, prayers and invocations. And in this electrifying new work, she gathers all the power of her voice to speak directly into histories of violence.
Avia addresses James Cook in fury. She unravels the 2019 Christchurch massacre, walking us back to the beginning. She describes the contortions we make to avoid blame. And she locates the many voices that offer hope. The Savage Coloniser Book is a personal and political reckoning. As it holds history accountable, it rises in power.
'This is a book bursting with alofa, profound pantoums, profanity and FafSwaggering stances, garrulously funny, bleakly satirical, magnificent.' —Judges' comments, 2021 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards
'A welcome autopsy of colonisers in past and present times, penned with a scalpel's precision, the inspection of parts, minced down to the floor. Sit in your blood-splattered apron and feel as the verdict is read.' —Ali Cobby Eckermann
‘Tusiata Avia’s poetry . . . is a full-body plunge in winter seas. It’s breathtaking, skin tingling and teeth rattling. I feel alive. It’s as real to me as a salt-crested wave smashing me full in the face until I am nothing but that moment . . . Exhilaration, pain, vulnerability, joy, cheeky confidence and acknowledgement. But what I don’t feel is lonely.’ —Nafanua Kersel, The Hook
'With exquisite poise in every aspect of its poetic execution, The Savage Coloniser Book is a torch that sets alight hundreds of years of racist kindling that has been gathering under the oppressive yolk of colonisation . . . and lets it burn.' —Leilani Tamu, Kete
Cover: Pati Solomona Tyrell
Paperback, 138x210mm, 96 pages
Tusiata Avia is an acclaimed poet, performer and children’s writer. Her previous poetry collections are Wild Dogs Under My Skirt (2004; also staged as a theatre show, most recently Off-Broadway, winning the 2019 Outstanding Production of the Year), Bloodclot (2009) and the Ockham-shortlisted Fale Aitu | Spirit House (2016). Tusiata has held the Fulbright Pacific Writer’s Fellowship at the University of Hawai‘i in 2005 and the Ursula Bethell Writer in Residence at University of Canterbury in 2010. She was the 2013 recipient of the Janet Frame Literary Trust Award, and in 2020 was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to poetry and the arts.