Wild Dogs Under My Skirt
Tusiata Avia’s first collection of poetry, Wild Dogs Under My Skirt, draws on two different cultures, and charts the sometimes painful points of their intersection. These poems are both confrontational and entertaining, raw and lyrical; they occupy legend and history – ‘we are direct descendants of flesh-eaters’ – yet break through into an urban landscape that is just as arresting and richly patterned. Avia’s poetry is alive with the energy and rhythm of performance poetry and of an oral tradition, but it also stakes out a unique physical life on the page, reshaping our language and our understanding of New Zealand culture.
‘Tusiata’s poetry is quite revolutionary in the sense that, not only does it define the face of Pacific literature in New Zealand, but it redefines the face of New Zealand literature itself.’ —Sia Figiel
‘In Tusiata Avia's first book of poems, Wild Dogs Under My Skirt, a culture hitherto sidelined steps to centrestage. Born and educated in New Zealand, Avia remains indissolubly connected to her Samoan heritage, even as her poems subvert its stereotypes. Samoa is the Other, a place of differences, and Avia, moving between two cultures while only half belonging to each of them, is our guide to its songs, jokes, customs, clothes, food and games. With her cool mocking style, her marvellous mimicry, her implied critiques of both neocolonialism and globalisation, she is an irresistible multicultural strategist. ...Sexual decadence in nightclubs, corporal punishment from church ministers: the stories in these poems, told by a multitude of speaking characters, hold your fascinated attention.’ —David Eggleton, New Zealand Listener
Tusiata Avia was born in Christchurch in 1966, of Samoan descent. She is an acclaimed poet, performer and children’s book writer. Her poetry collections are Wild Dogs Under My Skirt (2004; also staged as a one-woman theatre show around the world from 2002–2008), Bloodclot (2009) and 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 also the 2013 recipient of the Janet Frame Literary Trust Award. She teaches creative writing and performing arts at Manukau Institute of Technology.