The words of writer Airini Beautrais form the backbone for a live album recording at the Royal Whanganui Opera House this week.
Poems from her 2017 book Flow: Whanganui River Poems have been set to music written by Whanganui musician Elizabeth de Vegt, who will be joined on stage by a band of well-known locals.
The group will record behind closed doors on Monday and Tuesday, before performing a full concert, 'Flow: Beautrais+de Vegt', on Wednesday night.
That too will be recorded in full, before everything is sent for mixing and mastering at Creative Sounds - The Stomach in Palmerston North.
De Vegt said she wrote 15 songs for 15 poems about a year ago, and performed them for the first time during the La Fiesta festival in March 2021.
"Some have repeated refrains and others stay very true to the text.
"I wanted to serve the words. They come first and the music comes second."
Making up the group are Hamish Jellyman (bass, synth bass and vocals), Andrew Wetherall (guitar), Nina Goodge (taonga puoro and vocals) and Brad McMillan (drums).
De Vegt will be singing and playing piano and acoustic guitar.
They convened late last year to begin rehearsing.
"I'm really lucky to have these guys, they got onboard with the kaupapa right from the start," de Vegt said.
"Even with something like the drums, Brad always puts the words first. No one has an agenda of 'I want to put a ripping solo in there".
Entry to Wednesday's concert is totally free thanks to funding from Whanganui District Creative Communities.
De Vegt said she made an initial shortlist of 30 poems from the book.
"When I read the book I thought 'Wow, this lady is a genius'. It's not just the writing, it's the way she put it all together."
"There are three sections, and I had the aim of having a similar amount of songs from each one.
"Right from the beginning, it felt bigger than what I can do myself. It's not about me anyway. This is about the stories and the river, and it's so cool to have all these people as a part of it."
Beautrais said the poems themselves drew on different stories, times and people.
"It's cool that Lizzie and her band are putting their own threads and interpretation into it.
"It doesn't just feel like an individual project, it feels like more of a collaborative, communal sort of thing. It's exciting."
She heard the songs for the first time at last year's La Fiesta festival, and will be in the audience again on Wednesday.
"Sometimes poetry feels like the poor cousin to music, because it's just the words.
'With a lot of the stuff she's using, I actually used old song forms like hymns and ballads as an experimental kind of thing.
"That means a lot of the songs have four beats in a line anyway. It fits pretty well around a musical track."
Beautrais had been incredibly supportive throughout the process, de Vegt said.
"I initially approached her in July 2020 about doing a song or two for La Fiesta and before I knew it, that had turned into 15 songs.
"There's something so magical about being able to write beautiful things in only a certain amount of words."
The capacity for Wednesday's show has already been reached, but an album release show will be held at St Peter's Anglican Church in Gonville on March 5.