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Today is Montana Poetry Day, a chance for the spotlight to fall on a vibrant part of New Zealand's literary landscape.

Poetry may not be as fashionable as the novel, it doesn't get adapted for the movies and poets don't tend to grab headlines. But, as this year's festivities show, it's the most portable of art forms; events range from performance poets and poetry slams to poetry walls and trees.

For Karlo Mila, poetry is the supreme communicator.

"One of the things I love about it is that it cuts to the guts of what matters," says the NZ-born Pasifika poet. "You haven't got a lot of words to mess around with so every one counts. For me, the best thing about poetry is that it enables me to write about the otherwise 'unspeakable', give language to things that are too complicated, painful or difficult to say using prose."

Mila's latest collection, A Well Written Body (Huia, $35) was written in collaboration with visual artist Delicia Samporo whose lush Pacific images illustrate the book and inspired many of its poems.

"She was very keen to collaborate on a joint project where her paintings responded directly to my poetry with the idea that my poetry would subsequently chant back to her paintings," Mila says.

"We really did feed off each other's energy and ideas. She created a dreamscape for me and then I sort of filled in the missing poetry. And I created a terrain of images and then she painted them."

The work that resonated most with the artist was the Black Butterfly series of poems. Mila laughingly refers to these as "thirtysomething love poetry".

"What I mean is that I'm happily married with small children and a mortgage like many others my age," she explains. "However, being committed to a partner and children doesn't stop you relating to other people in the world or being attracted to them. The Black Butterfly series is about those thoughts, feelings and attractions that are 'not meant for flight' but exist in your personal underworld - and that I think everyone has."

La-di-da (right) is a poem that gives voice to those feelings. "It is about longing, essentially, and that latent desire for destabilisation that can be triggered when you're going through the motions of everyday life - in this poem it's triggered by some lovely lyrics by Jack Johnson."

Other poems in the collection are about identity which, says Mila, as a person of mixed ethnicity (she's Tongan/Pakeha with connections to Samoa) she will write about for the rest of her life.

"There is a fairly large sequence about Tonga because so much has been happening there and I've had lots of conflicted and ever-evolving feelings about it."

Mila also had other help with the collection.

"[Poet] Glenn Colquhoun was very instrumental in developing it from a series of self-contained but randomly aligned poems to a themed congregation of poems that tell a story in the way they are connected.

"There was a small series of poems he asked me to remove because they were so full-on they derailed the book and took it somewhere else. He asked me to try and make this my next project ... Watch this space."

Auckland-based for 10 years, Mila is returning to Palmerston North with her husband and two sons to complete her PhD in sociology.