Fire Front: First Nations Poetry and Power Today
Fire Front is a new anthology of First Nations poetry, edited by Gomeroi poet, essayist and legal academic Alison Whittaker. Featuring both established and emerging poets, it showcases the breadth of First Nations poetic voices, alongside essays from leading Aboriginal writers and thinkers who offer their own reflections on the power of the form.
In this special showcase of Fire Front contributors, hosted by Whittaker, we’ll hear a Welcome to Country from Parbin-Ata Carolyn Briggs, followed by readings from Tony Birch, Charmaine Papertalk Green, Ali Cobby Eckermann, Meleika Gesa-Fatafehi, Jeanine Leane, Natalie Harkin, Lorna Munro, Raelee Lancaster, Luke Patterson and Evelyn Araluen. Then, Araluen will speak with Whittaker about how this landmark collection came together.
Alison Whittaker is a Gomeroi multitasker. Between 2017–2018, she was a Fulbright scholar at Harvard Law School, where she was named the Dean’s Scholar in Race, Gender and Criminal Law. Alison is a Senior Researcher at the Jumbunna Institute at UTS.
Her debut poetry collection, Lemons in the Chicken Wire, was awarded the State Library of Queensland’s black&write! Indigenous Writing Fellowship in 2015. Her latest poetry collection, Blakwork, was published in 2018 and was shortlisted for a Victorian Premier’s Literary Award and won the QLA Judithe Calanthe Award for a Poetry Collection. She is the editor of the anthology Fire Front: First Nations poetry and power today.
Alison was also the co-winner of the 2017 Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize for ‘Many Girls White Linen’. She was the Indigenous Poet-in-Residence for the 2018 Queensland Poetry Festival.
Evelyn Araluen is a poet, researcher and co-editor of Overland literary journal. Her widely published criticism, fiction and poetry have been awarded the Nakata Brophy Prize for Young Indigenous Writers, the Judith Wright Poetry Prize, a Wheeler Centre Next Chapter Fellowship, and a Neilma Sidney Literary Travel Fund grant. Born and raised on Dharug Country, she is a descendant of the Bundjalung Nation.
Natalie Harkin is a Narungga woman and activist poet from South Australia. She is a senior research fellow at Flinders University with an interest in decolonising state archives. Natalie is currently engaging archival-poetic methods to research and document Aboriginal women's domestic service and labour histories in SA. She has been published widely, including Dirty Words with Cordite Books and Archival-poetics with Vagabond Press.
Luke Patterson is a Gamilaroi poet and folklorist living on Gadigal lands. He is interested in the ways bioregional identities and consciousness are expressed through localised and vernacular forms. Luke’s research and creative pursuits are grounded in his extensive work with Aboriginal and other community-based organizations across Australia.
Lorna Munro, or ‘Yilinhi’, is a Wiradjuri and Gamilaroi woman, multidisciplinary artist and regular radio and podcast host at Sydney’s ‘Radio Skid Row’. A long-time active member of her Redfern/Waterloo community, her work is informed by her passion and well-studied insight in areas such as culture, history, politics and popular culture.
Meleika Gesa-Fatafehi AKA Vika Mana, is a proud Torres Strait Islander and Tongan storyteller that takes many forms. They descend from the Zagareb and Dauareb tribes of Mer Island and the village of Fahefa in Tonga. They perform poetry, write criticism, breathe life into worlds and lastly, can share a joke or two, max. That’s because they only know exactly two jokes.They've written for Overland, The Big Issue, the Saturday Paper and several publications both at home and internationally. Vika is also a part of the FAMILI collective, rapping about Afros and abolition. In 2019, Meleika became one of ten writers that were chosen to be a part of The Next Chapter scheme from the Wheeler Centre.
Ali Cobby Eckermann is the first Aboriginal Australian writer to attend the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa in 2014. Her verse novel Ruby Moonlight was published in the USA in 2015 and a collection of poems translated and published in Kolkata, India. She returned home and launched her seventh book Inside My Mother in Alice Springs. In 2017, Ali was the first Indigenous poet to receive the Windham Campbell Prize for poetry from Yale University.
Jeanine Leane is a Wiradjuri writer, teacher and academic from southwest New South Wales. After a long teaching career, she completed a doctorate in Australian literature and Aboriginal representation and a postdoctoral fellowship at the Australian Centre for Indigenous History at the Australian National University.
Tony Birch is the author of three novels: the bestselling The White Girl, winner of the 2020 NSW Premier's Award for Indigenous Writing, and shortlisted for the 2020 Miles Franklin Literary Prize; Ghost River, winner of the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Indigenous Writing, and Blood, which was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award in 2012. He is also the author of Shadowboxing, and three short story collections – Father’s Day, The Promise and Common People.
In 2017 Tony was awarded the Patrick White Literary Award. In 2021 he will release two new books, a poetry collection, Whisper Songs, and a new short story collection, Dark as Last Night. Tony Birch is also an activist, historian and essayist.
Raelee Lancaster is a writer, collaborator and creative industries professional based in Meanjin (Brisbane). She is the co-director of the National Young Writers Festival (NYWF).
Charmaine Papertalk Green is from the Wajarri, Badimaya and Southern Yamaji peoples of Mid West Western Australia. She has lived and worked in rural Western Australia (Mid West and Pilbara) most of her life, and within the Aboriginal sector industry as a community agitator, artist/poet, community development practitioner and social sciences researcher. Her poetry has appeared in Antipodes, Artlink Magazine, Cordite Poetry Review, the Kenyon Review and the Lifted Brow, as well as in the anthologies The Fremantle Press Anthology of Western Australian Poetry, Inside Black Australia: An Anthology of Aboriginal Poetry, Ora Nui: A Collection of Maori and Aboriginal Literature, The Penguin Book of Australian Women Poets and Those Who Remain Will Always Remember: An Anthology of Aboriginal Writing. She lives in Geraldton, Western Australia.
N'arweet Dr Carolyn Briggs AM is a Boon Wurrung senior elder and is the chairperson and founder of the Boon Wurrung Foundation. A descendant of the First Peoples of Melbourne, the Yaluk-ut Weelam clan of the Boon Wurrung, she is the great-granddaughter of Louisa Briggs, a Boon Wurrung woman born near Melbourne in the 1830s.
Carolyn has been involved in developing and supporting opportunities for Indigenous youth and Boon Wurrung culture for over 40 years. In 2005, she established the Boon Wurrung Foundation, which has been responsible for significant work in cultural research, including restoration of the Boon Wurrung language. The Foundation also helps connect Aboriginal youth to their heritage.