Why Dominic Hoey is an advocate for the underdog

by India Hendrikse / 24 August, 2017

Help us find and write the stories Kiwis need to read

Dominic Hoey, photographed in Grey Lynn, near his boyhood home.

It’s not common in New Zealand society to wear the word “poor” proudly on your sleeve. To conjure prose from your poverty. To draw on your turmoils and shitty food and old things and create literature that speaks proudly of your roots. Yet Dominic Hoey, aka Tourettes, has built his career on being the underdog.

The poet, author, musician, youth mentor and now novelist, sends “fuck yous” to classists and the wealthy. He is an advocate for the kids who roam the streets, the kids who graffiti walls and the kids who have lots of ideas but no way to express them.

In his recently-released first novel, Iceland, 39-year-old Hoey remembers the streets of his youth in Grey Lynn, depicts a romance and ruminates on the world, youth and society.

Organising our interview, I suggest Grey Lynn cafe Kokako, a vegetarian spot I imagined Hoey, a vegan, would jump at. But no. “It sounds silly but I try not to go to Kokako since they replaced the post office and bank,” he emails me. “They” is a term he often uses to refer to the status quo, a structure that never favoured him or his friends.

We settle for Occam near the top of Williamson Ave, a couple of streets away from where he grew up on Firth Rd.  When I arrive, I find him staring across the road, his phone sitting unused on the table. He’s heavily tattooed, wearing baggy jeans and multiple layers, grey hoodie on top.

I ask him about his reservations about Kokako. “It’s not Kokako’s fault, but that was actually the post office, that was a thing people were fighting against, the closing of that, because there’s still heaps of poor people and old people who live down that hill and that was their bank and their post office. I feel like if you have to live under capitalism, you may as well do some kind of voting for your money.”

Hoey’s passionate distaste for capitalism has fuelled his spoken-word poetry for years, and now his political and social views have trickled into his novel, a romance with a heavily political undertone.

Iceland was written in 2012, after Hoey broke up with a long-term girlfriend and, when drunk one evening, applied for an artist residency in SkagastrÖnd, Iceland.

The book, written in Iceland and a work-in-progress for the past five years, was inspired by how Hoey’s youth in Grey Lynn shaped who he is today. He wanted to make heroes out of the marginalised, the underdogs, so the story follows protagonists Hamish and Zlata: drug-users, musicians, dreamers and artists in the punk scene in Auckland.

“Under capitalism, there has to be an underclass, and if you’re in that it doesn’t mean you’re stupid or your parents are stupid or there’s anything wrong with you,” says Hoey.

The novel presents a rose-tinted view of the past, before gentrification forced Hoey and his friends out of the central-city fringe. “It’s that feeling of being forced out because of the rents, you know, and people who didn’t grow up here just buying everything and being like, ‘fuck off’. There was something where they were doing some redevelopment and they literally said they were going to bring a better caste of people here. It’s so blatant, you know? That kind of class divide.”

Now, Hoey, who is about to move from Sandringham to Titirangi, feels no affinity to the area where he grew up. “Every other month, someone’s getting kicked out of their flat and getting forced further and further out of the city. When I left home, it was still really shit but at least you could get a place, but now I don’t know where the fuck people live.”

Hoey created Hamish and Zlata and their love story as a tribute to his friends, feeling that he didn’t ever see heroes made out of the people existing at the edges of neoliberal societies.


“I don’t normally talk like this, but I felt like this was something that I had to write, and not that this book’s going to change anything, but I just kept on coming back to the story over and over again,” he says.

“My friends who grew up here and lived lives similar to the characters in the book, those are the people that it has really resonated with, and it just meant so much when they read it.”     

Iceland, By Dominic Hoey (Steele Roberts, $34.99).

This is published in the July- August 2017 issue of Metro.


How to know if you have coeliac disease
92118 2018-06-18 00:00:00Z Health

How to know if you have coeliac disease

by The Listener

Coeliac NZ suggests you consider getting tested if you have some or all of the following symptoms of coeliac disease.

Read more
For coeliac disease sufferers, there's hope of treatment on the horizon
92091 2018-06-18 00:00:00Z Nutrition

For coeliac disease sufferers, there's hope of tre…

by Nicky Pellegrino

As many as 100,000 New Zealanders, many of them undiagnosed, are afflicted by coeliac disease.

Read more
As Jacinda Ardern takes her baby exit - the show goes on
92466 2018-06-17 00:00:00Z Politics

As Jacinda Ardern takes her baby exit - the show g…

by Graham Adams

The PM can happily go off on maternity leave knowing there is a cast of colourful and capable people to fill the gap — most notably Winston Peters.

Read more
The Spanish flu pandemic killed more than WWI. Are we prepared for the next?
92222 2018-06-17 00:00:00Z Health

The Spanish flu pandemic killed more than WWI. Are…

by Sally Blundell

This year marks a century since a flu pandemic killed 9000 NZers. Three more such plagues have swept the world since then – and another is inevitable.

Read more
How to stay safe from the flu this winter
92238 2018-06-17 00:00:00Z Health

How to stay safe from the flu this winter

by Sally Blundell

According to research, soap and water are more effective at removing the flu virus than alcohol-based hand-rubs.

Read more
How Las Vegas gets people coming back for more
86454 2018-06-17 00:00:00Z Travel

How Las Vegas gets people coming back for more

by Sharon Stephenson

Sharon Stephenson swore once was enough, but here she is, back in Sin City.

Read more
How to understand New Zealand's political tribes
92212 2018-06-16 00:00:00Z Social issues

How to understand New Zealand's political tribes

by Jane Clifton

In New Zealand politics, small groups often exert more influence than large tribes.

Read more
Revealing Earth's secrets: How JOIDES deep earth sampling missions help us all
92306 2018-06-16 00:00:00Z Science

Revealing Earth's secrets: How JOIDES deep earth s…

by Jenny Nicholls

When an odd-looking ship came to NZ in May, few would've known it was a symbol of one of the world’s oldest and most successful scientific collabs.

Read more