This is a collection of writing that posits the very real paradox of the precarious and staunch (female) body as lived and encountered within society, front and centre. It looks at the ways in which certain life structures draw out or exaggerate the relationship between these forces—the weak, the strong. The collection explicitly folds out from a selection of poems by J. C. Sturm, one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most significant Māori women writers of the twentieth century. Sturm’s poetry is placed in relation to new writing by five women working today: Ruth Buchanan, Anna Gritz, Sarah Hopkinson, Hanahiva Rose, and Sriwhana Spong.

for Janet

Too late now to hope
To see the sun reclaim
A desert from the night,
Or sink its Inca gold
In the swollen Amazon.

Nor will I ever again
Swim for my life
Through liquid turquoise
In subterranean caves,
Or bargain for amethysts
At roadside stalls
In the High Atlas.

Time now to travel instead
The interior landscape,
Life-long familiar
But still unknown,
Continually adjusting itineraries
To a shifting juxtaposition
Of time and place,
An ever changing order
Of priorities.

And in brief stopovers,
Plot with careful calculations
Not always relevant,
The best possible route
To the next destination.
Make elaborate preparations
Not all necessary,
For the journey ahead.

In spite of all endeavour,
The end of the day
Will always find me
Oceans and continents away
From discovery.