KARLO MILA was born in Rotorua in 1974 to a Tongan father and a Pakeha
mother. She grew up in Palmerston North and now lives and works in Auckland.
Karlo is an emerging poet and her poetry has been published in a small
number of anthologies including Whetu Moana, Short Fuse:
The Global Anthology of Fusion Poetry and Coffee and Coconuts.
Karlo performs live poetry regularly in Auckland and is working on her
first collection of poems. A lot of her work focuses on identity and
the various negotiations of what it means to be Pacific in New Zealand.
Mila comments: ‘This poem is about my father, Maka ‘Ulu’ave
Mila, who is Tongan. I stayed with him while I was doing post-graduate
study and was completing Albert Wendt’s creative writing paper
at the University of Auckland. For Albert’s paper, each week we
would be asked to write a new poem. I was sitting in our kitchen watching
my dad wash the floor and the poem jumped out of his mouth onto the
paper in front of me.
‘It is quite an irony that my father can’t read, especially
when words are such an important part of my life. He is one of those
Pacific fathers who believed passionately in educating his daughters
to “find a better way” in the Palangi world. He remains
one of the smartest (and stubbornest) people I know, even though he
is not literate. I have tried to write many poems about him and yet
he is somehow captured best in this little scenario of a poem, which
holds his energy and personality with uncanny accuracy. It always makes
me smile when I read this poem in public – I can never get his
Poem: Wednesday afternoon