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Who is Nanushka?

Like so many who have read Nanushka’s poetry, I’ve wondered “Who is Nanushka?” and, “What is she like?”

My all-time favourite poem follows. I loved it so much I included it on my wedding invitation, so hopeful was I that my marriage would respect the principles in this eloquent, moving, short and truly wonderful love poem.

‘I love you – and yet I do not presume to know you

Your secret self is a beautiful mystery upon which my heart will not intrude’

Words of love

Nan Witcomb is probably Australia’s foremost authority on romantic love.

If you haven’t heard the name, perhaps you know her nom de plume, Nanushka. Nan’s poetry appears in a series of books titled The Thoughts of Nanushka, which to date have sold more than 200,000 copies.

Her pieces are short, simple and wise, and they have made her a cult figure with men and women of all ages.

It’s an unlikely success story in a country with no history of romance. Paris we’re not. Where are the boulevards lined with cafes at which sit lovers, old and young, sipping coffee and gazing into each others eyes?

And yet… We must be closet romantics. We must be, if the reaction to Nanushka is anything to go by.

Her favourite theme (but not her only topic) is love – the pleasure it affords and the pain it can cause when it goes away or turns into something else.

“I never did stop loving you, only what you have become.” “Yes, yes, that’s exactly how I feel, but have never been able to put into words,” is what thousands of her fans have written to Nan to say.

At her Adelaide home she has spoken abut the response – and about love, at which she is something of an expert.

“I’ve loved lots and lots and lots of men,” said the 60-year-old poet.

“Actually, I was pretty keen on doctors, many of them were doctors,” she said, laughing.

“But much of it was romantic love. It wasn’t all physical, otherwise I would have died of exhaustion.”

Her overall philosophy is this: “It is better to love than not love – go where your heart tells you, but realise that romantic loves does not last. It’s important to be free to love.

“Also, I would say, don’t keep asking the other person if they love you – that only kills love.

“And there’s the business of allowing love, once you’ve fallen out of it, to turn into friendship – that is lovely.

“Some people are hooked on falling in love, it’s like a drug, and I certainly was that way. That’s a lot of what I write about.

In volumes one to six (published by Pan) most of the experiences are mine, but in the volumes seven to 12 (due out later this year) I have drawn on the experiences of friends.”

She has finally returned from the Front.

“I didn’t give up on it, it gave up on me. It stopped seeking me out when I was about 50. I didn’t feel that excitement any more, which is sad. Unfortunately, I can’t fall in love any more.”

For herself she wrote: “I wonder if I’ll feel again the ecstasy that drowns out common sense – that takes away my conscience and my strength. Shall I, just one more time, forget duty is enough, throw caution to the winds and give my self again to love?”

In the prime of her life, Nan Witcomb admits she was “in love with falling in love.”

“I couldn’t get enough of it,” she said, “and it wasn’t until I was about 35 or 40 that I woke up to the fact it was love I was in love with.

“I was an air hostess then and it was in the days when you had to walk out onto the tarmac to get on the plane. Many’s the time I’d get to the tarmac and I just couldn’t bear to leave the man of the moment, so I’d go over and get my bag from under the plane and go back to have another night with him.

“I was very big on walking along lonely beaches with men, and on candlelit dinners and doing silly things like dancing down the street on the way home from a night out.

“I was continually being hurt, because that’s what happens when you go for it, without seeing the dangers, but it’s all part of growing and living and those who are afraid to take chances do miss something.”


“None at all.”

Nan has never married.

“It would have been a disaster. I’ve never been able to sustain a relationship – at most, they went for two years. I’m unable to do all those traditional wifely things.

“To be honest, I know of only two happy marriages and another that would have been happy if the wife hadn’t died.”

The letters that pour in to Nan from readers include some from people in jail and from those who have lost someone.

Often they say: “It’s good to realise others have been there too. Now I can put my mind in order.”

With so many letters from men, Nan is encouraged about the emotional state of the nation.

“When I was a teenager, men weren’t even supposed to cry. Now when I go on radio, I’ll have big macho men ringing to read their beautiful love poems. It’s wonderful.”

A final poem to end on:

“One bed, one pillow, two souls who understand what’s left of the night is precious – because this night will never be again.”

Related Articles:

Believe in the Dream (The Thoughts of Nanushka) – A Selection of Poems(http://www.mannwest.com/bookshop.php?isbn=0949332143)


Apparently, one of the most accurate portrayals of Nanushka’s exquisite personality is revealed in Janise Beaumont’s feature article of the Sunday Telegraph February 10, 1991. I will try to track it down.