Ruby Solly (Kāi Tahu, Waitaha, Kāti Māmoe) is a writer, musician and taonga pūoro practitioner living in Pōneke. She has been published in journals such as LandfallStarling and Sport among others. In 2020 she released her debut album, Pōneke, which looks at the soundscapes of Wellington’s past, present and future through the use of taonga pūoro, cello, and environmental sounds. She is currently completing a PhD in public health, focusing on the use of taonga pūoro in hauora Māori. Tōku Pāpā is her first book.
Can you tell us a bit about Tōku Pāpā?

Tōku Pāpā is a poetry collection that looks at how culture is passed down to us through parenting practices, and the nature and nurture aspects of whakapapa. It aims to show that no matter how disconnected we feel, we have indigeinous ways of being that the colonizer could never erase.

What inspires you to write?

I think I write for people like me, and for our mokopuna. It’s so important to see yourself in books and after a year of reading only Māori authors, I felt so deeply affected by all the books I’d read because I felt deeply seen for the first time in my life. I think that’s why I write, to add to that legacy and to create resources for others.

Tell us a bit about your writing journey, and how you got where you are today.

I’ve always been into writing since I was small. But during the last few years of high school and then uni I would write for submissions to journals to give me goals to write towards, especially when life was busy, having a deadline always helped me keep moving. Eventually I realised that as well as this, Tōku Pāpā was starting to come into existence, then once it was finished VUP came on board.

How do you usually write your poems? Please guide us through the steps of a poem.

I wish I could tell you! My friend Whiti Hereaka told me the other day that writing a book is never the same process twice, and I feel that way about poems too. A lot of Tōku Pāpā was written from a notebook where I’d just write down a small idea when i had one, then I’d work on those ideas to connect them together to make bigger pieces. Renee might call them ‘story embryos’. Things like ‘When I was smaller than the family dog’ or ‘The time you cut your leg in the river and saw the red mix into clear’. 

How do you weave your culture(s) into your writing? How do(es) your culture(s) influence it?

I think because writing is just thinking that’d been written down and edited, it’s impossible to not have my culture be in my work. I don’t try to include it, but even if I try write in a world far away from te ao Māori it will still come through. Writing as resources for our people too is something I really value, and have in my head as a goal when I write.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers & creators from marginalized/underrepresented backgrounds?

Your voice is important, and your community can’t wait to read you. Keep going x