Also a chance to celebrate the arrival of Iain’s new book.
Also a chance to celebrate the arrival of Iain’s new book.
This is a photo of my house
It has pink bricks and a big tree. This is the driveway, you can lie on it in the summer, it keeps you warm if you are wet. This is the screen door, swallow. Front green door, hold your chest. The carpet is dark grey and hurts your knees, it doesn’t show any blood. Here are the walls, be careful of the small girl in the corner. Here is the door into the hall, be careful of that too. Here is the line where the carpet stops and the kitchen starts, that is a different country—if you are in the kitchen you are safe, if you are in the lounge on your knees you are not. Watch out for the corners. She isn’t going anywhere. There is the piano. There is the ghost. Here is the hall, it is very dark. Here is the bedroom. Here is the other bedroom, babies come from there. Here is the last bedroom, it is very cold, there is a trapdoor in the wardrobe, it goes down under the floor and you can hide if there is a flood or a tornado. There is the bath. The aunty punched the uncle in the face till he bled, they lived in the small room, the cold one, that was before I was born. Here is the lounge again, here is the phone: ringthepoliceringthepolice. Here is the couch, it is brown, watch out for the man, he is dangerous. Here is the beginning of the lino in the kitchen again, here is the woman. Watch out for the girl in the corner, she is always here. There is the woman, she just watches and then she forgets.
I am cutting a big hole in the roof. Look down through the roof, there is the top of the man, you can’t see his face, but see his arm, see it moving fast.
I am removing the outside wall of the bedroom. Look inside, there are the Spirits, that’s where they live.
Stand outside in the dark and watch the rays come out through the holes—those are the people’s feelings.
©Tusiata Avia, Fale Aitu | Spirit House, Victoria University Press, 2016.
This is not a favorite poem. It is not kind or gentle on the ears, eyes or heart. But it is unforgettable. Its quiet violence, the way it creates in-breaths of silent horror through concrete objects, the materiality of the powerful against the powerless in domestic spaces, the neutrality of nothing, imbalances me. The manner of this poem reflects the nature of domestic violence – that all is seemingly known and visible, like a normal brick house on a normal street, and yet, inside the walls thrive secret spirits inhabiting the dark corners of our lives. The voice in the poem remembers and pries open these walls, as one would do with a doll’s house. She stands back and notices the pinprick light escaping through the openings she’s made. This is how she begins to exorcise secret pain. This is how memory might work.
Selina Tusitala Marsh
Selina Tusitala Marsh is Associate Professor of English and Pacific Literature at the University of Auckland. She is of Samoan, Tuvaluan, English, Scottish and French descent. Her first collection of poems, Fast Talking PI (Auckland University Press, 2009) won the 2010 NZSA Jessie Mackay Best First Book Award for Poetry. Selina was the Commonwealth Poet for 2016 and performed her poem, ‘Unity,’ for the Queen at Westminster Abbey. She was made Honorary Literary Fellow in the New Zealand Society of Authors’ annual Waitangi Day Honours, 2017.
Tusiata’s collection is longlisted for The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.
Acclaimed poet and scholar, Selina Tusitala-Marsh, has been made Honorary Literary Fellow in the New Zealand Society of Authors’ annual Waitangi Day Honours.
“As the country’s largest writers’ organisation, we believe it’s important to celebrate significant literary achievements, especially on the international stage,” said NZSA President, Kyle Mewburn. “Each year more and more kiwi writers are achieving exceptional things internationally. Last year was no exception.”
“As 2016’s Commonwealth Poet, this year’s NZSA Literary Fellow, Selina Tusitala-Marsh, was able to share her unique and powerful voice with the world. This included a memorable performance before the Queen at the Commonwealth Day of Observance in Westminster Abbey, which placed the diversity of our local poetry in the international spotlight,” Mewburn said.
“Fa’afetai tele lava for this lovely acknowledgment,” said Tusitala-Marsh. “The wondrous thing about a poem is that it’s an ‘ala’ – the proto-Polynesian word for ‘path’. As a ‘Tusitala’ my poems are paths between cultures and world views. In 2016 a poem found its way into Westminster Abbey connecting my Tuvalu grandfather with the Queen of England, Samoan philosophy with global ecology, and a New Zealand Fast Talking PI poet with the Commonwealth. How marvellous is that? Here’s to paving more poetic paths!”
First introduced in 2013, the NZSA’s Waitangi Day Honours celebrate success on the international stage.
“As the only writing awards bestowed by peers, they have become a highly regarded and prestigious honour,” Mewburn said.
Previous winners include Eleanor Catton, Paul Cleave and Philip Mann.
Read and hear Selina’s poem at The Spin Off
Two free public events, 28-29 November
Writing Workshop: Monday 28th, 12-2pm, University of Auckland, Arts 2, Room 501, Pat Hannan Room.
Luci Tapahonso Reading: Tuesday 29th, 12-1pm, University of Auckland, Arts 1, Room 209.
For more info, contact Selina Tusitala Marsh, firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to: University of Auckland School of Humanities, Academy of New Zealand Literature, in partnership with Wai-te-ata Press, Victoria University, and the Embassy of the United States of America.
Luci Tapahonso (1953) was born in Shiprock, New Mexico, where she grew up on a farm within the Navajo culture. Tapahonso received her B.A. and M.A in 1980 and 1983 respectively from the University of New Mexico, where she was a Professor of English Literature and Language. Tapahonso has served on the Board of Directors at the Phoenix Indian Centre, was a member of the New Mexico Arts Commission Literature Panel, steering committee of Returning the Gift Writers Festival, Kansas Arts Commission Literature Panel, Phoenix Arts Commission, Telluride Institute Writers Forum Advisory Board, and commissioner of Kansas Arts Commission. She is a member of the Modern Language Association, Poets and Writers, Inc., Association of American Indian and Alaska Native Professors, and New Mexico Endowment for the Humanities. In 2013 she was named the inaugural poet laureate of the Navajo Nation. Tapahonso is the author of three children’s books and six books of poetry, including A Radiant Curve, which was awarded the Arizona Book Award for Poetry in 2009. Tapahonso’s work has appeared in many print and media productions in the U.S. and internationally. Her poems have been translated into German, Italian and French. She was featured in Rhino Records’ CDs, “In Their Own Voices: A Century of American Poetry” and “Poetry on Record: 98 American Poets Read Their Work” and in several PBS films. Tapahonso received the 2006 Lifetime Achievement award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas and a Spirit of the Eagle Leadership Award for her key role in establishing the Indigenous Studies Graduate Studies Program at the University of Kansas. The Native Writers Circle of the Americas named Tapahonso the 1999 Storyteller of the Year. She has also received a Kansas Governor’s Art Award, and Distinguished Woman awards from the National Association of Women in Education and the Girl Scout Council of America. She was honoured as Grand Marshal for the Northern Navajo Fair Parade (1991, 1999) in her hometown of Shiprock, New Mexico.
The New Zealand Book Council Lecture has become a prominent part of the literary landscape in Aotearoa New Zealand. It provides an opportunity for one of our country’s leading writers to discuss an aspect of literature close to their heart.
The Lecture seeks to enlighten – and also provoke. As James K. Baxter said: “It is reasonable and necessary that… every poet should be a prophet.”
Our 2016 prophet is Pasifika poet and scholar, Selina Tusitala Marsh. Not only is she an accomplished writer and teacher on the national and international stage, Selina is a feisty, restless, generous, collegial and unique contributor to Aotearoa New Zealand’s sense of itself – as a culture and as a country.
This is the third recent Book Council lecture. Eleanor Catton gave the 2014 Lecture, and in 2015 Witi Ihimaera confronted us with the question: What new New Zealand will our writers write into existence? Selina, in her 2016 Lecture, gives us the beginning of an insightful and original answer.
Read Witi and Selina’s NZBC Lectures here.