Sunday, April 10, 2022

Campaign to Save Trees on the Northam-Pithara Road

Tracy (not in the pictures, of course, but as committed as any of us!) and I are not long back from time spent out at the site of Mains Roads' destruction of salmon gums and other trees on the Northam-Pithara Road about 10-12ks outside Northam heading north, on Ballardong Noongar boodja. Tracy took photos and videoed me speaking against the damage and reading my 'Sammies' poem originally written to help support efforts by many to stop Main Roads' destruction of ancient trees (we're talking up to 400 years old) along the York-Quairading Road a few years back (gathered in the collection I co-wrote with Yamaji poet Charmaine Papertalk Green, False Claims of Colonial Thieves). You can see that poem here.

Main Roads have an ongoing campaign of roadside (and beyond roadside) habitat destruction that is remorseless and gathering pace. Road widening, road realignment, remaking to suit increasing truck traffic and exploitation of country... with only the bare minimum effort applied to ecological concerns. Good people are out there campaigning constantly to stop this catastrophe, and sometimes they have small successes, but it's hard to be everywhere. The philosophy of utility and development needs shifting on a fundamental level. The destruction of these trees is the destruction of heritage and history, it is the deletion of vital elements of the sacred. It's an ongoing disaster on a massive scale (consider the fate of bush along the Toodyay-Perth road, along the Great Eastern Highway near Wooroloo etc). It's a deeply ingrained systemic problem. 

I am delighted that campaigners who spent time on site through the week succeeded in saving trees — or at least to have them tagged as being saved (in my experience, sadly, this doesn't necessarily mean they will be saved in the long run, so extra vigilance is required and the road design plan has to change). I fear, looking at the markings and pattern of road-widening (and sadly from much experience), that whatever they have tagged in the short term as to be left will in fact be removed unless it's changed at the planning level. I celebrate the communal work of the on-site protesters who at least had the workers listening to them. Good on them all — it's how and where change is really made. At the face of things. I arrived days after this, but documented nonetheless and worked on site on a new poem of peaceful but determined resistance.

I stood between two sammies (salmon gums) close to the road and the poem located itself. 

As it also located itself in the chopped down two/three-hundred-year-old trees further down the road... one with the word 'owl' painted on its corpse. 

Here is the on-site poem:

Sammies Sammies — Ancient Trees on Northam-Pithara Road



sammies sammies,

deep reach, earth to sky,

and location location

for so many birds,

written into their DNA.


sammies sammies

deep reach, earth to sky,

part of the elemental sacred,

essential to health of country,

cut to the quick, deleted.


sammies sammies

deep reach, earth to sky;

owl markers, cockatoo compass,

honeyeater spires, insect plumage —

hold out against the onslaught.


sammies sammies

deep reach, earth to sky;

sammies sammies

deep reach earth to sky,

deep reach earth to sky.



            John Kinsella

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

New Poetry Books from Tracy Ryan and John Kinsella

Tracy and I both have new poetry books out. Tracy's Rose Interior is out with Giramondo and the first volume of my collected poems, The Ascension of Sheep: Poems 1980-2005, is out with UWAP

As Tracy says of Rose Interior, 'Interiors suggest exteriors', and the poems seem to me to pulse with inner and outer perception, creating a flow between states of being. It's fascinating for me to have experienced the 'externals' of many of the poems, but to have processed them internally in very different ways. No matter how well you know each other, and despite such close proximity a lot of the time, poems come from very different places, and the figurative is the result of such interior processing. It's quite exciting for me to encounter things I think I 'know' in such different configurations, events that seem quantifiable in time and space, in such different narratives. And this isn't just to do with 'place' or even 'experience', but also how we read the world around us and why we read it in such ways. I love the dialogues with language that are such a part of Tracy's work — how a misheard 'sound' can bring a cascade of alternative meanings, how a hedgerow in West Cork is like a text in itself, how a moment of encounter in nature can evoke an array of discordant memories making things uncanny. And there is a fascinating 'sequence' of homeschooling poems that speak before and during the pandemic, that both disorientate and reify.

My Collected Poems is coming out over three years in three volumes with University of Western Australia Press. I am grateful to Tony Hughes-D'Aeth for his generous, intense and contextualising introduction to the first volume, The Ascension of Sheep. This volume includes my (anti-)pastoral trilogy, The Silo, The Hunt and The New Arcadia, along with my other collections, chapbooks, pamphlets, unpublished collections (that were intended for publication but, say, a publisher closed down etc.), and some material retrieved from archives, covering the period 1980-2005. I am particularly pleased to be able to include poems that were intended as part of The Silo but were cut at the last moment. I discuss some of this briefly here.

Oh, a word on covers... Tracy's was done/designed by Jenny Grigg and is part of her excellent general redesign of covers for the latest Giramondo poetry series. There are some stunning abstract covers and the promise of fascinating collections (it is such a consistently strong poetry list) by poets such as Adam Aitken, Claire Potter, a forthcoming Lionel Fogarty entitled Harvest Lingo (I am really excited about this), Andy Jackson, and Eunice Andrada.  Find them here. And here's Tracy's cover:

My cover is part of a series in which the frame will change colour for each volume. The image is of 'Painting' by brilliant Karl Wiebke  — see my piece on Karl here. I have written many poems on Karl's work over the decades, and have known him a long time, so I was excited to have this cover which includes words I painted over Karl's painting (as part of a collaboration we were planning over a quarter of a century ago... Karl has the second painting with my words, I think) from my poem 'Helen Frankenthaler's Interior Landscape, 1964' (p.135, Volume One) plus a couple of extra words for the occasion!

Anyway, I hope people find things in these books that interest them. 

    John Kinsella