Kupu rere kē

1 February 2021

My friend was advised to italicise all the foreign words in her poems.
This advice came from a well-meaning woman
with NZ poetry on her business card
and an English accent in her mouth.

I have been thinking about this advice.

The publishing convention of italicising words from other languages
clarifies that some words are imported:
it ensures readers can tell the difference between a foreign language
and the language of home.

I have been thinking about this advice.

Marking the foreign words is also a kindness:
Every potential reader is reassured
that although obviously you’re expected to understand the rest of the text,
it’s fine to consult a dictionary or native speaker for help with the italics.

I have been thinking about this advice.

Because I am a contrary person, at first I was outraged –
but after a while I could see she had a point:
When the foreign words are camouflaged in plain type
you can forget how they came to be there, out of place, in the first place.

I have been thinking about this advice and I have decided to follow it.

Now all of my readers will be able to remember which words truly belong in Aotearoa and which do not.

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About Alice Te Punga Somerville

Alice Te Punga Somerville (Māori) is a scholar, poet and irredentist. Her collection Always Italicise: how to write while colonised (AUP 2022), has been shortlisted for the Ockham NZ Book Awards 2023. Her scholarly publications include Once Were Pacific: Māori Connections to Oceania (Minnesota 2012) and 250 Ways To Start an Essay about Captain Cook (BWB 2020).

Further reading:

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