Voice and power in poetry
Another brilliant Melbourne Writers Festival session, this time with Aboriginal poet Ali Cobby Eckermann (middle) and Pacific Island poet Selina Tusitala Marsh (left).
The best panels feel more like a conversation, and this one was wonderfully facilitated by Eleanor Jackson (right), who created space for each poet to respond to her questions.
Some of my favourite lines from the panel –
Selina – To have power, you have to have true humbleness. You can’t have one without the other.
Selina – There’s a responsibility to find your own voice. Read a lot. Try on the voice of a respected poet. Always push to hone your unique voice.
Ali – Talking to the sky helped to heal the little girl who loved stories but was told she was wrong.
I bought a book each from both Ali and Selina – both signed. Ali wrote that ‘our stories live in our land’. Selina wrote – may your tightrope be forever taut.
Ruby Moonlight is a verse novel by Ali about a young Aboriginal girl who witnesses the massacre of her mob, and finds a new way to live. With lyrical language that just sings, Ali draws readers into Ruby’s world. It would make a wonderful addition to anyone studying Australian history.
senses shattered by loss
she staggers to follow bird song
chirping red-browed finches lead to water
ringneck parrots place berries in her path
honeyeaters flit the route to sweet grevillea
owls nest in her eyes
Tightrope is a collection of poems, about the theme of walking a tightrope over an abyss. I particularly liked the Queens section, with tributes and observations to Queen Elizabeth II (who Selina performed for), Oprah, Alice Walker and Dr Ngahuia. Tightrope also includes some black-out poems – where poems have been created, often less than ten words, from blacking out words from an article or novel page, creating a poem from the remaining words.
The working mother’s guide to reading seventy books a year
Don’t have the babies
Don’t have a full-time job
Don’t be working class
Don’t be time poor and extended family rich
If you did have the babies, don’t let them play sports
Definitely don’t let them play an instrument
(extramural activities increase peak-hour traffic commuting time)
Strong voices, authentic power.