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Review: Fast Talking PI, by Selina Tusitala Marsh

[...] As a poet of Samoan, Tuvalu, English and French descent, living in New Zealand, she [Selina Tusitala Marsh] works as an academic specialising in Pacific literature, acclaimed by her peers, such as Karlo Mila, for fusing "the precision and principles of the Western English literary tradition" with "the fluid and flowing oratory of Polynesia". In practice this means long declamatory poems deploying repetition of words and names, these rhythmical forms achieving a musical effect of prayer, invocation, the music of drums and chanting voices. So in 'A Samoan Star-chant for Matariki' the use of the first person suggests the poet as public orator and priest rather than individual self spilling private beans:

I call forth Mata Ariki, the Eyes of God
to watch over Papatuanuku and her people
I call forth wishes for the new June moon
spoken in shadow corners
steaming in palmy places.

These poems, exhilaratingly mixing words from different languages, may seem exotic to western eyes. The poet sternly warns, in her section 'Talkback', against the exoticising she names as part of colonialism. In 'Guys like Gauguin' she sends an ironic thank-you letter to invaders:

thanks Bougainville
for desiring 'em young
so guys like Gauguin could dream
and dream
then take his syphilitic body
downstream to the tropics
to test his artistic hypothesis
about how the uncivilised
ripen like pawpaw
are best slightly raw
delectably firm
dangling like golden prepubescent buds
seeding nymphomania
for guys like Gauguin.

These polemical observations will not be new to those with radical political consciences. I respect the poet's determination to make them. [...] This is poetry that demands to be heard live.