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Soakai, Zech
Writer's File

Zech Soakai

Auckland - Tāmaki Makaurau
Soakai, Zech
In brief
Zech Soakai is a storyteller, educator, and spoken word poet of Samoan, Tongan, German, Scottish and Irish descent based in Tāmaki Makaurau. His writing often explores diaspora and Pasifika identity. He has written, performed, and taught poetry both nationally and internationally, and attended the Rhodes Poetry Retreat in Monolithos under the tutelage of Greek-Australian Poet Luka Lesson.
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Soakai, Zech (1995 - ) describes himself as ‘predominantly a spoken word poet.’ He is regular and popular performer in the Auckland spoken word and slam poetry circuits. He was the winner of the 2016 Auckland University Poetry Slam and the 2017 winner of GROUNDED: Battle of the Arts inter-disciplinary showcase. Zech is also a mentor for the inter-highschool Slam Poetry competition, WORD the Frontline. Zech describes spoken word as a form of poetry that, at its core, "demands to be seen and/or heard beyond the page."

Zech is a co-founder of Niu Wave, an arts collective comprising of six Auckland-based artists committed to creating ‘spoken word from the borders.’ Niu Wave has been described as ‘making waves’ and ‘fearlessly creating authentic connection through their unique lived experiences.’ 

Zech has also written for, and performed in the poetry theatre shows SKIN and MOUTH:TEETH:TONGUE in collaboration with the Auckland Theatre Company and Grace Taylor. He contributed to the spoken word film When We Speak directed by Miliama Tamiano. He has exhibited work in various locations including Auckland, Christchurch, and internationally in Samoa, where he ran a poetry workshop at the Pacific Arts Association Conference, and in Ottawa, Canada, as part of the Asinabka Film and Media Art Festival.

In 2017 Zech was approached by the Auckland War Memorial Museum to record a spoken word poem for the opening of their new gallery, Pou Kanohi New Zealand at War Memorial. Prompted by the Māori and Pacific Island soldiers who died and were buried at O’Neill’s Cemetery, he writes that ‘my spine remembers all the broken vertebrae that brought me here, allowing me to stand.’

Half Tongan and half Samoan, Zech’s poetry is often inspired by his experience of being the son of Pacific parents. In  thepoem Pink Plastic he expresses empathy towards ‘Pacific brothers’ who ‘suffer from the disease of stereotype.’ Zech says, "those are the sort of stories I want to tell, about migration and displacement, and what it means to belong or try to find belonging."

Zech holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature & Pacific Studies and a postgraduate diploma in English literature from Auckland University. He has worked under former New Zealand Poet Laureate and Professor Dr Selina Tusitala Marsh as her summer research assistant. He was also employed at Auckland University as a Senior Arts Advisor and tutor. He was also involved with the Poetry Project at the Michael King Writer’s Centre for two years as a poetry facilitator. 

In 2018 Zech participated in Teach First Ako Mātātupu, and travelled to Greece to partake in a writer’s residency funded by the Manuwera Local Board’s Rāngatahi Youth Award, and crowdfunding.

Zech's written work can be found in 'Rapture: An Anthology of Performance Poetry in Aotearoa New Zealand' (AUP, 2023) and 'Remember Me: Poems to Learn by Heart from Aotearoa New Zealand' (AUP, 2023).

June 2024
June 2024