The Wheeler Centre
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Words for Now: Poetry as Processing
not in Aus, mate
bad things don’t happen here
our beaches are open
they are not places where bloodied mattresses burn
Ellen van Neerven writes fiction, poetry, plays and non-fiction. An award-winning Mununjali Yugambeh writer and editor, their highly celebrated books include the experimental fiction collection, Heat and Light, and a book of poems, Comfort Food. This month, they released their second poetry collection, Throat, which explores love, language and land, and interrogates the colonial impulse.
Maxine Beneba Clarke is also a critically acclaimed writer and poet, whose work – including her award-winning 2016 poetry collection, Carrying the World – is known for its intensity and inventiveness, and for speaking truth to power.
Both writers bring humour and heart to critical questions of who we are, where we come from and the burden of Australia’s unreconciled history.
Speaking from their respective homes during the COVID-19 restrictions of May 2020, these two poetic powerhouses discuss their shared passion for the form, and consider ways in which poetry can help us process what’s happening in the world today. Introduced with a Welcome to Country from Parbin-Ata Carolyn Briggs.
Presented in partnership with Australian Poetry with the support of the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund.
Ellen van Neerven is an award-winning writer of Mununjali Yugambeh (South East Queensland) and Dutch heritage. They write fiction, poetry, plays and non-fiction. Ellen’s first book, Heat and Light, was the recipient of the David Unaipon Award, the Dobbie Literary Award and the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Indigenous Writers Prize. Ellen’s second book, a collection of poetry, Comfort Food, was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Kenneth Slessor Prize and highly commended for the 2016 Wesley Michel Wright Prize. Throat is Ellen’s highly anticipated second poetry collection.
Maxine Beneba Clarke is a widely published Australian writer of Afro-Caribbean descent. Maxine's short fiction, non-fiction and poetry have been published in numerous publications including Overland, the Age, Meanjin, the Saturday Paper and the Big Issue. Her critically acclaimed short fiction collection Foreign Soil won the ABIA for Literary Fiction Book of the Year 2015 and the 2015 Indie Book Award for Debut Fiction, and was shortlisted for the Matt Richell Award for New Writing at the 2015 ABIAs and the 2015 Stella Prize. She was also named as one of the Sydney Morning Herald's Best Young Novelists for 2015.
Carolyn 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.