Example poetry

A new collection of poetry that finds fun and fantasy in a dark world

by Chris Tse third collection of poetry, Super Model Minority, often oscillates between the bizarre and the banal, writes Naomii Seah.

Chris Tse is The Spinoff’s poetry editor.

“Can you blame me

for trying to dismantle utopia as a means of survival? »

In his opening poem, Chris Tse sets the agenda for his latest collection, Super Model Minority. Described as the final book in a “loose trilogy” of collections including How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes and HE’S SO MASC, in Super Model Minority Tse looks to a future as absurd, unsettling, hopeful and unexpected than his writing. . In his first two collections, Tse wrote in the past and in the present in a “strange coming of age”; now he dares to dream of a new era, speaking of his coming into existence.

“It’s not a prediction if you have your say

it’s a reality”

In the first section, Super Model Minority, Tse dwells on intergenerational trauma; in vexillology, it travels through colors and emotions and finally lands on a growing hope; and in Poetry to make boys cry, Tse explores homosexuality in modern New Zealand and synthesizes themes from previous sections into a symphonic crescendo.

“I wrote all my desires in my breath for anyone to read.”

In all three sections of the book, Tse manages to capture another aspect of the sheer chaos that accompanies life in Aotearoa in the 21st century. In his words:

“They’re tiny hammers that pound your skin and don’t know why you wake up every morning covered in bruises.”

Super Model Minority comes on the heels of the poetry anthology Out Here (2021), edited by Tse and Emma Barnes, which is making space for LGBTQIA+ and takatāpui writers in Aotearoa. Super Model Minority holds the space in a different form, but it’s also an example of Tse’s sharp observation of the social fabric of Aotearoa, and an unabashedly loud call to action. Sometimes Tse’s words sounded like a long, controlled scream, sometimes like a tired whisper. In Super Model Minority, Tse builds a future rooted in the past and the present, but always yearning, daring to ask for more.

“I wonder if knowing the meaning of now will be enough to prepare me to embrace tomorrow.”

Tse’s poetry often oscillates between the bizarre and the mundane, the familiar and the unexpected, and he juxtaposes the two with lightning-quick wit. His words are sometimes literal, sometimes figurative in the extreme. One of my favorite lines in the whole book is:

“Sometimes you’re Holden Caulfield strapped in someone’s boot and I’m a pumped-up Holden Commodore with a subwoofer so fierce everyone in traffic shits their pants.”

It shows Tse’s talent for crushing the recognizable into a strange and unfamiliar form. It’s a line that could get desperately deep if you let it marinate long enough, but it’s also ridiculous. It’s an example of how Tse doesn’t shy away from showing the everyday in all its fluorescent light glory, but in a surprising and new way. Through Tse’s eyes, we see that the deep and the everyday coexist. Chris

Chris Tse

As a member of a double minority, for me, the conscious portrayal of Tse’s existence in New Zealand is relatable and, for that reason, deeply uncomfortable. As a diaspora and as tick boxes of diversity, we have all sacrificed and commodified aspects of ourselves in an attempt to fit the mold. Me too, “I had gone somewhere far away using all my tricks to convince a racist country to love me”. This collection signals the beginning of a healing process.

A sense of catharsis is also embedded in these deeply conflicted narratives. Tse gives the reader permission to be angry and leaves room for tough questions and strong emotions, never apologizing or minimizing them.

“What is security? / it’s

never fearing the silence / or the sound and fury within us”

Tse uses its characteristic spacing and thoughtful form to bring the collection to life, letting some poems sit heavy and square on the page, and others dance through space. In doing so, he leaves plenty of room to mourn the sense of loss that comes with embracing the future – like in “Backbreaker,” where lines and sentences float across the page like “refractions.” splitting apart like beleaguered blood cells”.

Light is a recurring theme in this collection, and with each poem Tse urges us to keep searching, however uncomfortable we may be. Because loss and love are both “too bright to look eye to eye, too bright to ignore” – no matter how badly we want it to be. In this collection, Tse challenges us to examine our own trauma to understand the collective.

“The fastest to supernova wins.”

But the collection is also deeply funny. Tse’s dark and sometimes dry humor is on full display, because if you don’t laugh, you cry. Super Model Minority is the burning effigy of a world that is sometimes unfriendly, sometimes broken, but always wonderful: “I can so easily put aside my distrust of water as soon as I am caught by its exquisite roar” .

And Tse writes many exquisite roars, managing to strike the perfect balance between borderline silly and deeply poetic. A particular favorite is when he writes “I realize now that nothing is ever really over” and “I’m a blinking corpse regenerating in a video game with limited credits” in the same stanza. Tse writes about explaining bukkake to your mother and seeing the aurora in Iceland with the same deft hand, showing the diversity of her poetic voice.

But above all, Tse’s collection works because it is deeply accessible. It is embedded in the landscape of Aotearoa, referencing New Zealand artists like Sam Duckor-Jones and Guy Ngan. It’s also peppered with references to pop stars like George Michael and Carly Rae Jepsen, with an opening quote from Bic Runga sitting right next to Confucius. Tse’s unerring instinct to find fun and fantasy among the otherwise bleak state of the world, and to give these seemingly contradictory perspectives equal weight, is the shining beacon that draws the reader through the collection. Super Model Minority truly heralds the future – a future full of possibilities; a future that is what we make of it.

“The future scares me,

but it’s okay to be afraid of what I want”

Super Model Minority by Chris Tse (Auckland University Press, $24.99) is available from Unity Books Auckland and Wellington.


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