Ricky Baker

roots of child neglect,

contort Ricky Baker’s feet,

strong hands cut safe paths.

(haiku inspired by Taika Waititi’s 2016 film, Hunt for the Wilderpeople)

How do the Ricky Bakers of the world keep from stumbling over the roots of child neglect? They are the refuse of an adult world that has failed them. Those young whose parents cannot care for them often end up juggled around the foster care system, their only possessions fitting in the bags they carry. Many of these children end up filling the cells in juvenile detention centers. Those who end up in child prison face suicide rates and rates of adult incarceration that dwarf those of their peers in the general population. The problem impacts minority children disproportionately. As a society, we allow them to trip over the tangled mess that grows from poverty, and then we lock them away when they fall.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople, directed and adapted by Taika Waititi from the Barry Crump novel, Wild Pork and Watercress, explores the question with the perfect mix of quirky humor, adventure in the gorgeous New Zealand bush and pointed social commentary. The movie follows Hec (Sam Neill) and Ricky (Julian Dennison) into the wilderness to flee a child welfare officer (Rachel House) determined to place Ricky in juvenile detention through a police response that escalates out of control. This is a wonderful film that gives voice to the kind of love it takes to rescue a child and change a life. It also reflects the inept and often ridiculous response we as a human family make toward those children in desperate need of our understanding and help.

In 2016, a first edition of my novel, The Legend of the Lumenstones, was selected for children in a juvenile detention center to foster creative expression and encourage them to develop their unique gifts, a theme of the book. One girl found so much inspiration in the book that she took it with her when she successfully transitioned into foster care and used it for a school presentation for her new classmates. She continues to explore her gifts in art and writing. For me, that experience served as a catalyst to pursue a project geared toward raising money to fund art programs for children in her situation. I began with a few free verse poems telling their stories, then I watched Ricky Baker.

I love the diminutive haiku. In Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Ricky Baker forms them prolifically. His 5-7-5 beat dance of words and his determined spirit to survive inspired the theme that grew into A Haiku for Ricky Baker, a compilation of my poetry dedicated to the troubled youth of this world. All the proceeds from the sales of this book go to fund art programs for at-risk children. Please consider supporting this project today.




Words and Photography ©2017 Tanya Cliff ~ to contact me

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