Interview with J. C. Sturm: 6
RP: I'm looking at the painting here. Jacqui's showing me the front cover of The Glass House.
JCS: Yes. And you've got two bird people, which I love. And besides that you've got a sailing ship, which relates to one of the stories in the book. I won't tell you which one – which is about culture clash. And then besides that you've got these rather mysterious symbols here, and there's a story in the book which relates to how we deal with death, not so much dying but what we do with our very dear remains.
RP: Yes, I know the story youÕre talking about.
JCS: Yes. The main character in that story is a bit dysfunctional. In that story I try and make it plain that she is what she is and we have to accept it.
RP: And even her husband in that story talks about her. Whatever he does she's going to remain the same, particularly in relationship to him. And he takes advantage of that.
JCS: Yes that's right. And now the rest of it, you've got this mysterious background because the whole thing is that there's something almost mysterious about loving anything, is there not?
RP: Yes. I mean we can't always quantify it.
JCS: No we canÕt.
RP: There's not a sort of equal scales – you do this and I'll do that. And it doesn't always have anything to do with an everyday reality or being sensible.
JCS: Ah no, it's not that so much, but European Pākehā when they refer to love what they're usually talking about is sexual attraction. Whereas with Māori I think it's fair to say that we use the word aroha, which has got nearer to the meaning, curiously enough, of the quote from Auden.
RP: It's far more all encompassing isn't it?
JCS: That's right.
RP: It's a much broader attitude if you like.
JCS: Yes. Not only do I love you and hopefully you love me, but I love that as well, ok? (Points to sea)
JCS: Washing against Papatūānuku (the earth mother).
RP: I was thinking of some of your poems too and some of the themes. We're actually sitting in Jacqui's house in Paekākāriki and we can look out through her front window and see the beautiful Kapiti Coast. So we're looking out towards Tangaroa though we're here firmly anchored on the land.
So you've brought up that kind of closeness or linkage of things. I note too that your identity as a Māori or a Māori woman comes through clearly in all of your work. And several other elements stand out in your books too, in terms of your comment on whānau and friends. Poems dealing with love, with ageing, art and music are also constants. So I wondered if you wanted to talk a little about some of the themes that range across your work?
JCS: I have very strong feelings about the freedom of the artist. If there's one area in an artist's life where you should be free, feel free to be yourself, to write whatÕs on your back or on your chest at the time. Some would say, “YouÕre not a Māori writer.” The fact that I'm at least half Māori doesn't seem to make any difference, if you don't write about Māori themes. As far as I'm concerned if it suits me to write about Māori themes I'll do it. But if I want to write instead about the plight of the very poor in India, or the plight of the Kanaks in Noumea before the failed rebellion there, I'll do that. I don't feel obliged because I'm Māori to restrict myself to Māori themes.
You'd be surprised the number of people that do have that expectation of a Māori writer. There are one or two people that I saw were under that restriction for quite a long time.
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