Poetry Shelf celebrates new books: Seven poets read from Sista, Stanap Strong! A Vanuatu Women’s Anthology

Sista, Stanap Strong! A Vanuatu Women’s Anthology, eds Mikaela Nyman and Rebecca Tobo Olul-Hossen, Victoria University Press, 2021

Sista, Stanap Strong! gathers new writing from three generations of Vanuata women. This groundbreaking book includes poetry, fiction, essay, memoir, and song. While most of the contributors are ni-Vanuatu living in Vanuatu, some live in New Zealand, Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Canada, and some were born overseas and have made a home in Vanuatu. The arrival feels special – the anthology assembled with love, the voices tender, fierce, probing, with vital connections to both Vanuatu and the wider world. In celebration, seven poets read their anthologised poems.

Grateful thanks to editor Mikaela Nyman for assistance in assembling this post.

The Readings

Sharon Wobur reads ‘A strong woman’

Rebecca Tobo Olul-Hossen reads ‘as you turn 2 weeks old, koko dearest’

Frances C. Koya Vaka‘uta reads ‘Leiniaru, the girl from Pele Island who picks the fruit of the Niaru tree’

Elsie Nalyal Molou reads ‘This body is mine’

Nancy Gaselona Palmer reads ‘And she wept’

Pauline Chang Ryland reads ‘WIFE ‘ Woman in Ferocious Environments’

Ketty Dan-Napwatt reads ‘Givem wata lo olgeta’ and ‘For you today’ 

The Poets

Pauline Chang Ryland Having grown up in an environment where expressive arts was encouraged, I have been writing poetry, but have only recently begun to share my writing. My poetry is often written when I feel words spilling out of my heart, brain and lips and I just have to grab my pen and write. It’s my expression of what life dishes me and those around me, my significant memories and concerns about life and humanity, especially in the Pacific.

Ketty Dan-Napwatt:  I began writing by accident and I still do it sporadically. Because I think a lot and mull over decisions that I have to make or plan something spontaneously, it makes writing my thoughts down easier. I love language and use it creatively for writing, especially when my children urgently request words to create a specific song for public and national events – from a capella to R&B to reggae/dub and spirituals. I write about everything I feel strongly about and more as a relief activity than something to be read by others.

Frances C. Koya Vaka‘uta – Of mixed heritage with links to Sāmoa, Fiji and Vanuatu. Artist and poet, her work explores what it means to be of and belong to the islands, and contemporary issues in the islands under the pseudonym 1angrynative. She’s published in journals and anthologies. Her poetry collections of schizophrenic voices (2002) and Fragments (2018) are available through the University of the South Pacific Book Centre. She is working on two collections.

Elsie Nalyal Molou As a young woman in a very cultural based and patriarchal society, it can be difficult to find a space to voice your views on certain issues, such as violence in relationships and particularly violence against women. Poetry, is not only an escape for me to reflect on these issues, but a way for me to point out to others that these are issues we need to address. And I’m thankful that I’ve been given this space to do just that, and I hope that other young women will find their own outlets to do the same.

Rebecca Tobo Olul-Hossen completed her undergraduate studies at Massey University in Palmerston North. She is co-editor of Sista, Stanap Strong! A Vanuatu Women’s Anthology together with Mikaela Nyman. Rebecca’s and Mikaela’s collaborative poem ‘I Love You?’ was published in Sport 47. In 2020, her collaborative poem with Ketty Dan-Napwatt appeared on Sista website and her poems were included in the poetry collection Voes (published by Alliance Française in Port Vila) and in the South Pacific Communit’s poetry anthology Rising Tides. She is one of the authors and editors of Vanuatu’s first non-fiction book for children, Taf Tumas: Different journeys, one people (2020). Rebecca lives in Port Vila with her husband, sons and daughter. 

Nancy Gaselona Palmer is a poet and writer, she self-published her first book of poems Rock of Strength in 2019. She now is a contributor to Save the Children Solomon Islands project to write short stories for children below ages of 8. The stories are digitised and made available for little children on their mobile phones or tablets.

Sharyn Wobur – Works for World Vision and is originally from Gaua and the Solomon Islands. Poetry is her passion – a strategy to relieve stress where negative thoughts are written into positivity and she gains strength to soar. 

Victoria University Press page

‘Voices of Vanuata’: interview on Standing Room Only, RNZ National

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