Journal » Trout 14 » Interview With J. C. Sturm [Roma Potiki]
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Interview with J. C. Sturm

Roma Potiki

Distinguished New Zealand Maori author, J. C. Sturm, has written five books of fiction and poetry. House of the Talking Cat would have been the first short story collection by a Maori writer, but its publication was delayed until 1983. Her three volumes of poetry are How Things Are, Dedications (1996), and Postscripts (2000). Dedications won the Montana NZ Honour Award for poetry. Her latest book is The Glass House, recently published by Steele Roberts (2006).

J. C. Sturm is interviewed at her home in Paekakariki, Wellington, by leading New Zealand Maori poet, Roma Potiki.


RP: I think that New Zealanders interested in literature, and a wider public in fact, want to hear your voice and know more about your writing. So I'd like to look at a few things about you becoming a writer and the kind of context that your writing sits within, from your viewpoint. Then I'd like to ask about your latest book of short stories and poems, The Glass House. I thought we'd start with a bit of context if that's alright?

JCS: Yes that's fine.

RP: Cool. First let me ask you perhaps how did you become a writer? What was that sort of journey?

JCS: I was thinking about this the other day. It started when I was about 10 or 11, pre-puberty in other words, and we were living at a place called Pukerua Bay just south of where we are now. And I got very sick. It was supposed to be chicken pox but it developed into something else. They weren't really quite sure what it was. I just turned into a blister. Anyway, I was put into quarantine, and I was off school for about six weeks if I remember rightly.

During that time no friends were allowed to come near me, so I read everything that I could lay my hands on. Then I was just about bored out of my little brain so I tried doing watercolours and painting Kapiti (Kapiti Island) and they weren't any good, I knew they were no good. Then I thought, well I'll try writing. And I did and I wrote and that worked. I could paint pictures with words. And I learned then, probably the most important thing, the power of words.

RP: So you could even feel the power of them at that age? Something in you knew that this was something that had life in it.

JCS: Oh yes. I'd done a lot of reading and I'd soaked myself in the French Revolution and Madame Defarge sitting beside the guillotine as the heads rolled and all those images.

Now of course I'm putting them into adult words – as a child I couldn't have described it like that. So I wrote a lot of stuff during that period. Then when I was well enough to be convalesced they got the doctor to come and tell them what they really needed to do with me and he used a most non-medical term. He said, “Well she's waterlogged. You'll have to take her inland.” (Laughing)


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