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6th September 2017

"Part of the essential fabric of our diverse landscape" - Cameron Lowe reflects on New Shoots

By Cameron Lowe

Photo by Phoebe Powell

Tired my eyes
     having done nothing but speak 
          turtle talk to tortoise
cat, there is no beautiful magnolia 
        poem to send 
The petals are their own news
      Go try painting 
the wind

~ from 'Botanic / Commission' by Cameron Lowe

Cameron Lowe featured in New Shoots: A Garden of Poems in the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria. The launch tour followed poems 'planted' in the gardens, an installation of 'poetic pathways' which will remain indefinitely.

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Botanic: Reflection

I’m extremely grateful to the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Red Room Poetry, and Australian Poetry for the opportunity to participate in the New Shoots project. I’m not a Melbourne local and the only time I’d previously visited the gardens was many, many years ago as a teenager to see Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I still have a very clear vision of Puck hanging out of one of the trees. In my imagination, the gardens have always possessed something of the magical and mysterious quality of that play. 

One thing that struck me during my visit to the gardens—and through subsequent research—was how the various garden spaces opened out to other spaces, in particularly the space of memory, but also on a more quotidian level to the everyday spaces we inhabit. In a sense, being in the gardens, engaging with the different plants and landscapes, led me to spaces outside the gardens; which isn’t a particularly interesting observation, simply an acknowledgment of the dynamic at work in a number of the poems.

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Related poems

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The final poem in the suite, “Commission”, gestures to certain anxieties I had from the very beginning of the project. What if, having been commissioned to write poems within a limited timeframe, the poetry didn’t come? Or if the poems were no good? Unfortunately, those anxieties didn’t resolve themselves and I feel a degree of ambivalence about the work produced. The suite of poems I’ve written does little justice to the wonderful spaces and beautiful and intriguing plants of the gardens. However, participating in the project has reinforced to me that many of the plants the gardens preserve are part of our everyday lives; they’re not simply rarefied specimens in a living archive, but part of the essential fabric of our diverse landscapes, streetscapes and suburban backyards. I hope my poems—however flawed or modest in scope they may be—‘speak’ to that notion in some way.

Cameron Lowe is a Red Room commissioned poet for New Shoots Victoria.

Cameron Lowe is the author of two book-length collections of poetry: Porch Music(Whitmore Press, 2010) and Circle Work (Puncher & Wattmann, 2013). His poetry has featured in the anthologies... read more »