Inspirational poetry impresses

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By TRACEY ROXBURGH

A Queenstown author and poet is using her own experience with domestic abuse to help
others in a similar situation — and for her efforts has been named as a finalist in the 2021 Women of Influence Awards.

Poet Julia Strelou, managing director of Addicted to Media, is a finalist in the awards, sponsored by Westpac, being announced in February, in the arts and culture category.

The awards recognise women making a difference in the work they do, many of whom have overcome severe hardships and helped save the lives of others through their work, paving the way for other women to thrive.

Originally from Nimbin, Australia, where she was raised in ‘‘an isolated hippy commune without electricity’’, Strelou says poetry was in her genes.

‘‘When I was a kid, my mum was a poet and she used to drag me and my sister around to bars and we’d sleep in the car while she went to poetry slams around Nimbin and Byron
Bay area, and I was like, ‘I never, ever want to be a poor writer living on a commune like my mum’, and I never, ever thought I wanted to be a poet, but, somehow, I guess she put it in my blood.’’

She turned to poetry following the end of an abusive relationship — at that time, they focused largely on heartbreak and ‘‘unrequited love because I felt, naively, that I still wanted to be with him’’.

‘‘I needed to find an outlet for the trauma that I wasn’t really dealing with in any other way.’’

Strelou started posting her poems on Instagram in 2015 and quickly gained a global following, then self-published her first collection of those poems, You Are My Late Night Thoughts, in 2017.

She’s since published three more books — 10% of the profits from the sale of each one goes to Women’s Refuge.

Her latest collection, Her Story, published this year, has earned her the award nod.

Strelou reached out to her followers, asking them to submit their stories of trauma, domestic abuse, heartbreak, finding true love and healing, and used the stories to write poems in their honour, ‘‘to tell a tale of personal development’’.

She says she was ‘‘gobsmacked’’ to have been named a finalist, particularly given the calibre of finalists.

‘‘There are some really inspirational and exceptional women that I know of and I feel honoured.’’

Her work’s only just beginning, though.

Strelou’s organising a Women’s Refuge Gala and Inspirational Women Awards — nominations for which are now open — in Queenstown in March, raising funds to establish a much-needed safe house in the Whakatipu.

At present, women here, and throughout the district, often with children, need to travel to Otago or Southland for that service.

‘‘I’ve been told it’ll cost a lot of money to get a safe house here, but I think the first step is to raise awareness,’’ she says.

‘‘So I think one of the ways we can [help] is to start talking about it and making it something women aren’t ashamed of, to help them move forward and get help.

‘‘The next step is to raise money.’’

Nominations for the Inspirational Women Awards can be made through bit.ly/3HqXNHF

tracey.roxburgh@scene.co.nz