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Collective Spirit: First Nations Poetry

Listen to Collective Spirit: First Nations Poetry

Photo of four people on stage, seated on red armchairs, with an Aboriginal flag attached to the front of the stage

From left to right: Ali Cobby Eckermann, Ryan Prehn, Emily Munro-Harrison and Monica Karo — Photo: Anne Algar

‘The Christianity you hold so high / Is but a lie, / Justice a cant of hypocrites, content / With precedent.’ (Oodgeroo Noonuccal, in ‘Colour Bar’.)

Poetry has always been a powerful vehicle for ideas. As a genre, it’s often entangled with the moral and social conflicts of the age, and rich with references to politics, history, joy and pain. Forms like spoken word, lamentation and illumination offer unique critical possibilities. And for many First Nations Peoples, poetry has been an incredibly potent space for addressing country, relationships, community and identity.

This discussion, hosted by Ali Cobby Eckermann, showcases three emerging Victoria-based Indigenous poets – Monica Karo, Ryan Prehn and Emily Munro-Harrison – fresh from a residency at Kalang Retreat. They discuss their writing, the residency and poetic licence, and perform readings of their work.

This event is presented in partnership with Kalang Retreat. Collective Spirit is supported by the City of Melbourne Arts Grants Program, the Victorian Government through Creative VicArts Grants and Australian Poetry.


Portrait of Ali Cobby Eckermann

Ali Cobby Eckermann

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. 

Portrait of Monica Karo

Monica Karo

Monica Karo, a Gunai/Kurnai and Gunditjmara descendant is a Melbourne-based poet, actor and singer-songwriter. Having studied a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre at the Victorian College of the Arts, she is continuously expanding on her artistry. Reflecting a deep connection to spirituality through her ancestry, Monica brings a raw element by infusing her strong cultural values and personal experiences of womanhood into her poetry. Monica is a passionate young artist and mother who strives for an empathetic approach to life, all peoples and the environment. Monica believes a poet’s repertoire is scripted from the mind, but sewn into a channelled existence from the Heart.

Portrait of Ryan Prehn

Ryan Prehn

Ryan Prehn is a poet and writer living in Melbourne on Wurundjeri country. He is a descendant of the Worimi mob of coastal NSW. Ryan was a runner-up in Overland’s 2016 Nakata Brophy poetry prize, and more recently worked with Red Room Poetry & Australian Poetry on the New Shoots project as part of the 2017 Melbourne Writers Festival.


Portrait of Emily Munro-Harrison

Emily Munro-Harrison

Emily Munro-Harrison is a Wiradjuri woman who grew up on Kulin Country in Narrm. She has always had a passion for writing and story telling, and loved listening to her grandparents’ stories as a child. In 2013 Emily undertook a creative writing summer school intensive at Columbia University in New York, where she studied creative non-fiction and humour writing. Emily has been a member of the Blak Writers group since 2016, and has participated in many masterclasses, writing sessions, and events including Yirramboi and Emerging Writers Festival. Emily’s creative writing includes poetry, micro-fiction and creative non-fiction. She focuses on experiences of connection and familiarity, relating to family, culture, Country, place and history, and the emotions that these connections evoke.

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