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6th September 2017

"We could learn a lot from the diversity of these magical places." - Carissa Lee reflects on New Shoots

By Carissa Lee

Photo by Phoebe Powell


for it’s only natural that forever reaching could make one grow weary.
Perhaps instead of dreaming of lands from before,
you long for flight, or reaching unreachable things.
With age, height and absolute majesty, you have grown to love
the world moving as periphery, while you aim for sky.

~ from 'Arms of a friend' by Carissa Lee Godwin

Carissa Lee Godwin 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.


My name is Carissa.

I’m a Wemba Wemba and English woman.  I was born in Swan Hill, a lovely little river town, which I think could be the reason I’m drawn to bodies of water live with animals.

In Indigenous culture, there is this idea of belonging. It’s a longing that we all experience, because of our connection to country, and some feel this more than others after years of being displaced because of the Assimilation Policy. This concept of belonging is this beautiful knowledge that we belong somewhere. It could be with certain people, it could be with mob, it could be in a certain kind of place, or a specific place. And these things can change, too. It’s this feeling that we feel in our soul, body, whatever you believe, that this is where we’re meant to be.

This is why I felt compelled to write about this beautiful old tree, the Monterey Cypress, because although he’s from another country, I’d like to think that he’s found a home by the body of water where he resides, with chatty birds, and no doubt a plethora of possums during night time. Not to mention his other multicultural friends, in the plantlife that the botanic gardens has also planted alongside him. We could learn a lot from the diversity of these magical places.

One the amazing things about gardens such as these, is that it gives us an opportunity to meet an assorted range of plant life that we might not otherwise have the opportunity to, in our busy lives. I believe wholeheartedly that when we have a connection to these flowers, trees, shrubs, whether it be through their beauty, an olfactory attachment, or just a slight sense of comfort, that there is a sense of belonging with them. Perhaps it’s an indication of a place we should go, or a time previously forgotten, but there is a connection to country for some, and when you feel it, you finally know where you belong.


Related poem


When Tamryn from Red Room Poetry invited me to be a part of this beautiful event, where we would be giving voice to these living beings, it was such an honour, and I will forever be thankful to be given the chance to stop and listen to the environment around me, as I’ve not done before. Together Red Room Poetry and Australian Poetry have created a wonderful occasion where those of us who have felt a strong connection to land and place, have been given the opportunity to share that with generous like-minded audience members. The Royal Botanical Gardens was the perfect place for this, as not only is there a multitude of plants to work from, but there is a love and empathy for these living beings found evident in the curation of the plants, the care in which we were introduced to them, and the honouring of these precious specimens through this event and the accompanying words we were blessed to offer them.

Many thanks to the amazing collaborators at Red Room Poetry, Australian Poetry, and The Royal Botanical Gardens for this gift. Particularly with wonderful guides like Caroline from the Royal Botanic Gardens to light up with an unabashed love, when they speak of these plant friends. Not to mention the generous patrons like the ones we were so lucky to meet and read to at the launch event.

Carissa Lee Godwin is a Red Room commissioned poet for New Shoots Victoria.

Carissa is a Wemba-Wemba actor, writer and academic. Since concluding her role as the ATSI Writers Program Coordinator at the SA Writers Centre, Carissa has become more established as a freelance writer with Book Riot and a Research Associate at the University of Melbourne.... read more »