There, and yet not there
For Issue 13 we decided to get a couple our contributing writers to tell us a little about their absent characters. The ones that play a role in the story, are even pivotal to the story, and yet do not appear.
Vaughan Rapatahana kicks things off with some musings about the kehua in his story ‘He pahemo’: Vaughan is widely published across several genre. His poetry collection, Atonement, was nominated for a National Book Award in Philippines in 2016, the same year he won the inaugural Proverse Poetry prize. His most recent collection, ternion, is published by erbacce-press, Liverpool, England. Currently, he is writing a further series of commentaries on Aotearoa NZ poetry, for Jacket 2 (University of Pennsylvania, USA), while he was also included in Best New Zealand Poems, 2017.
Kehua in the Text
In my short story one of the key characters is never seen, but is a nexus individual because he is a prime influence on the action. A key way to make such invisible characters somehow extant is to describe something about them quite vividly: their habits; their behaviours; or their effects on other individuals in the story, to the extent that they actually influence what happens.
In this particular tale, the character is still around, even though he is never visible. He is a kehua or spirit; someone who does not realise he is dead; someone who still seeks a form of release to depart once and for all. Thus, here, he can be felt as a presence and – more – as a sound. He strongly influences the main character, his ex-wife, even though he is deceased. This is because for us, kehua are in fact existing entities – they are between worlds, if you will.
For us, it is no surprise that kehua are around; we accept them and attempt to place them at rest. Other characters in this story, because of their cultural belief, also induce their reality – thus the wife’s father and aunt, who both express the requirement to karakia. Again, the interface with others brings about the ‘reality’ of a never visible character, a character who is in many ways the ‘main’ protagonist.
Read Vaughan’s story and 11 other amazing works in Issue 13.