J.C. Sturm

We are proud to collaborate this month with our friends at Artspace Aotearoa to present the work of Jacquie (J.C.) Sturm. We will be reading J.C. Sturm’s work together at Artspace on February 22nd March at 6:30pm.
Artspace also invite us all to their exhibition Door, window, world: 
Maree Horner, J.C. Sturm
11 Feb — 6 April, 2023  
Other shared reading groups will also be exploring Jacquie Sturm’s stories and poetry this month around Tamaki Makarau so join us!

Weather report
it will rain
or not

Blue dreams

Jacqueline Cecilia Sturm (born Te Kare Papuni, also known as Jacquie Baxter; 1927 –  2009) (Taranaki Iwi, Parihaka and Whakātoa) was a New Zealand poet and short story writer.  Jacquie (J.C) was a pioneer of New Zealand literature, and paved the way for later female Māori writers like Patricia Grace and Keri Hulme. Witi Ihimaera described her as one of the three women he considered his elders when he began writing; they were “like spinners working on a loom” who began “spinning the tradition from which all contemporary Maori writers come”. 
Jacquie Sturm received an MA in philosophy from Victoria University and published her early work in student magazines from the 1940s. In the 1950s she was the first Māori author to publish a story in English in the journal Te Ao Hou. In 1966 C. K. Stead selected her story “For All the Saints” (written in 1955) for inclusion in his anthology of New Zealand short stories. Sturm had a collection of stories written by the mid-1960s, but the book “House of the Talking Cat” was not published until 1983 by the Spiral collective, She published How Things Are (1996, with Adrienne Jansen, Harry Ricketts and Meg Campbell, Whitireia Publishing with Daphne Brasell) and two poetry collections  Dedications (1996, Steele Roberts) and Postscripts (2000, Steele Roberts). The Glass House (2006, Steele Roberts) satisfied her “contrary nature” of wanting to write poetry when she was writing stories and the other way round. Sturm also received an honorary doctorate from Victoria University.
Jacquie spoke about finding her practice in her earliest days. She remembered being sick as a child in Pukerua bay and challenging herself to describe the view 

I wrote and I wrote... the important thing was not what it turned out to be... not what I was seeing, but how I felt about what I was seeing

Jacquie’s stories show us the tensions humming within ordinary women’s lives in her time and we feel her in the continuum of the writers she studied for her MA like Katherine Mansfield. “Her female narrators, although rarely defined by their race, are marginalised figures that give a vivid sense of the constriction and restrictions of a young woman’s life in Wellington in the 1950s.” (The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature.)
Jacquie took a 21 year break from writing after being left as a sole parent when her husband J.K. Baxter went to the commune Jerusalem.

Two memos
Do not lie
as thought he lies
beside you

Do not move
as though he moves
inside you

Do not wait
as though he's coming back
because he's not

You are bound
to meet again

Not like ships
in the night

That would be
too easy

But as strangers walking
round a fountain

She worked full time at the library to raise her moko Stephanie Baxter before returning to poetry. Jacquie says that this baby, whose birth stopped her writing, started her writing again when a 21st birthday card grew into the first poem she had written in 21 years! 

It's my birthday next," said John. So I sat down and wrote him one and so it went on. I guess I just got a bit carried away!

(These family poems grew into her collection “Dedications”)
 Speaking later in her life Jacquie passionately spoke about the rights of artists: 

They should be allowed to do what they want to do, what their emotional memory tells them to do & they should be allowed to do it with all the passion in the world! Never mind about their ethnicity. Never mind about their gender. Just let them do it right? And if you can't understand it, well, work at it till you can!!

Behind every great prophet
is often a woman left
holding a baby.

All that need,
he had
to be
the seed.

you nurtured
the seed
of flesh and blood.
Gave up on your writing
to look after your moko.

These are the seeds that bear fruit.


Door, window, world: Maree Horner, J.C. Sturm


11 Feb — 6 April, 2023 
Artspace Aotearoa 300 Karangahape Road. 
Wednesday February 22nd, 6:30pm – 8pm
Shared Reading group at Artspace Aotearoa.
Weekly on Thursdays 5.30pm
Guided tours through the exhibition. Please register via [email protected] the day before.

Thursday 16 Feb, 6pm
in certain lights, and not clearly then, a lecture by Victoria Wynne-Jones.

Saturday 18 March, 4pm — 8.30pm
Auckland Arts Festival Open Late night.
Thursday 30 March, 6pm
The Ani Waaka Room, Debbie Broughton reads from her recent collection and selects favourites by J.C. Sturm.

One Response

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share the Post:

Related Posts

Dominic Hoey

Dominic Hoey is a poet, author and playwright based in Auckland, New Zealand. His debut novel Iceland was a New

Read More