On ANZL – Letter from Cape Town: Selina Tusitala Marsh on coconuts and colonialism

Selina Tusitala Marsh has written an account of her recent visit to Capetown that includes poems and journal prose. It has just been posted on the Academy of New Zealand Literature site.

The full here.

A brief extract:

Nearly There

There’s a poem that needs finishing. It began in London and will end in Cape Town. It started on the night of March 14 after a conversation with Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, at Malborough House. I had been commissioned to write and perform a poem for Queen Elizabeth II, Head of the Commonwealth, for Commonwealth Observance Day on behalf of its 53 member states. After the Westminster gig we were invited back to one of the palaces, where I met the Duke of Edinburgh and had the following exchange:

‘Good evening, Your Highness.’

‘Yes. And what do you do?’

‘I’m a poet.’

‘Yeeess. But what do you dooo?’

‘Oh, I teach postcolonial literature at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.’

Cocking his head and holding my gaze, the Duke replied, ‘Post?

Slight smirk on his face, he then moved on down the line to other greeters.

After sharing this story with some poets, it was suggested that I record the conversation and turn it into an audio poem, capturing as many people with as many different accents saying the word ‘post’. I said I could do one better, that in July I was going to the Association of Commonwealth Language and Literature Studies conference in South Africa. There, I’d have Commonwealth representatives galore to give me their own accented enunciations of ‘post’: ‘POST!’ ‘post –‘, ‘post?’, ‘PoSt’, ‘Post!’, ‘P**T’, and perhaps even ‘!//post’ (if there were any Khoisan speakers around).

So, I’m off to Cape Town to finish a poem, write some poetry, and give my conference paper on an experiment where I apply avante garde poetry techniques (a mixture of Found Poetry, Erasure Poetry and Open Field Composition) by blacking out Albert Wendt’s classic 1977 novel Pouliuli (which happens to mean ‘black’, ‘void’ and refers to a metaphysical darkness). I’m also running a poetry workshop with Glen Arendse, a Boesman Mouthbow musician (the hunting bow is also a traditional instrument of the San Boesman – yes, think The Gods Must Be Crazy, then think again).

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