Fast Speaking Women

That’s me, and not always thinking about it first either…

I have just been enjoying the interview with Selina Tusitala-Marsh on National Radio today. I first came across Tusitala-Marsh when she performed Fast Talking PI at Auckland Uni. She is now NZ’s poet laureate and first Pacific Islander to receive the award.

During the interview she mentioned that she got her inspiration for her poem from a poem by Anne Waldman and I have just enjoyed listening to it. Tonight we have our book club Christmas dinner and i just love getting together with those women. We are all a lot of the women described in Waldman’s poem and it made me think about my book club, my walking group, my women friends.  I hope you enjoy it too.

Warren Adler says on his blog called Why Do Women Read more Novels? , “There is ample statistical evidence showing that adult women read more novels than men, attend more book clubs than men, use libraries more than men, buy more books than men, take more creative writing courses than men, and probably write more works of fiction than men. If, as a demographic, they suddenly stopped reading, the novel would nearly disappear.”

Any ideas why? I know I would much rather read a novel or a biography about the Holocaust than a history book as it answers to my emotional core, my intuition and my heart in a much more direct way.

Any way back to Selina Tusitala-Marsh. I find it unbelievable that she is the first PI woman to graduate with a PHD in English from the University of Auckland.  She is a wonderful poet who also does so much encouraging young people into poetry. Influences are so critical I think, when it comes to poetry. I had a poem by Vincent O’Sullivan on my wall at university and The Merseysiders opened up a whole world of poetry that was presented in such a palatable way for a teenager.

I read and reread this book until it was in tatters. Eventually one of my students in my English class “borrowed” it so I’m hoping they reread it a lot too.

English teachers who valued our own writing at school and published them will always be influencers. I remember a colleague published a little book at school by Bec Runga and I still have it today. The poems remain powerful.

I went on to love Marge Piercy, Adrienne Rich, Carol Ann Duffy (my current bedside book again), the NZ poets of all dimensions, and now some newer poets like Hera Lindsey Bird. A while ago I decided to ditch all the books I knew I would never read again and I got down to one book case full. Mostly they are poetry books. What are two books you would keep if you were only allowed two?

Selina talks of the influence of her university colleagues who told her she simply had to do a doctorate, she was given no choice.


Pacific poet: Waiheke resident Selina Tusitala Marsh performing her poetry.

Here Selina is performing this great poem.

I had a Christmas card once of a woman with her hands tied in the kitchen sink and it read, “Merry Bloody Christmas”. It’s cool if you like cooking and doing the Christmas thing but its also cool if you say, nah, not my thing. Think I’ll read a book. What pleasure is there in rushing around trying to please everyone? I have got my present buying down to a few magazine subs and some presents for my son. My special friends and I will get together over a wine or a meal some time over the break and that is perfect for me and them.

It’s the book club bash tonight though and I am looking forward to the book swap, the bought pizzas and the homemade pav! Annabel Langbein’s recipe.

Yes, I like cooking but on my own terms. Happy Holidays, FG

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