Sarah Jane Barnett

Sarah Jane Barnett is a poet, teacher, and book reviewer. Her poetry has been published in New Zealand, Australia, and the US. Her debut collection, A Man Runs into a Woman, (Hue & Cry Press, 2012) was a finalist in the 2013 New Zealand Post Book Awards. Her second collection, WORK, (Hue & Cry Press), was released in October 2015. Sarah has a PhD in creative writing and teaches at Massey University. She lives in Wellington with her husband and son.

Barnett comments: ‘The poem “Addis Ababa” is a work of fiction. The idea for the poem grew out of conversations with my friend Judah Seomeng, my own grief that Christchurch, the city of my childhood, no longer exists as it once did, and my interest in the African communities in New Zealand.

‘The Ethiopian Civil War began in 1974 when a coup d'état was staged by the Derg. It lasted until the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front overthrew the government in 1991. It is estimated that 1.4 million people died during the war, and many civilians died in the final conflicts. New Zealand statistics on Te Ara show that from 1993 to 2002, when this poem is set, nine hundred and sixty six Ethiopian refugees arrived in New Zealand.

‘The details in the poem were sourced from a personal interview, news reports of the Ethiopian Civil War, traditional Ethiopian grieving practices, and first person reports from African immigrants to New Zealand. Various details were also gleaned from street maps, my own experience of working with archives, New Zealand immigration forms, and images of the exquisite Addis Ababa on Google Earth. The translations of English into Amharic primarily came from and were checked against a secondary source. All mistakes are my own.

‘Addis Ababa is the capital city of Ethiopia and means “new flower” in Amharic.’

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