Fellowship 2019 - Fellow Statement and Judging Notes
the ancient ones –
dead but not gone – their blood flows through us – gawimarra us
listen – the dead speak all the time…
The Red Room Poetry Fellowship recognises the achievements and artistic goals of contemporary Australian poets. Now in its third year, the Fellowship was established to foster the poetic and professional development of an individual within the wider poetic community, encouraging poets to undertake an intensive period of creative development involving a range of commissions, residency, recordings and publication outcomes.
Jeanine Leane’s Statement
'It is a great honour to win this fellowship among so many other distinguished poets. I want to acknowledge my Ancestors, my family, my community and community of writers. I'd like to thank Red Room Poetry for its support and for making this opportunity possible. The stories and memories realized through this project will give back some voice to Aboriginal stories buried beneath the colonial mythscape. It will give back some voice to the kidnapped memories of our Ancestors and honour the collective memories of Elders and Ancestors. National history - the story of Nation drags Aboriginal stories, her/histories into its colonizing nets. Poetry can set some of our captive memories free to story our Countries again. I hope that this is the beginning of a bigger, harder, ever so vital conversation that needs to be had amid the unfinished business and unsettled space of Australia.'
~ Jeanine Leane, Red Room Poetry Fellow 2019
Among the many excellent applications for the Red Room Poetry Fellowship, Jeanine Leane’s poetic project stood out in its incisive clarity and integrity as well as its cultural and political resonance. Titled ‘Voicing the Unsettled Space: Rewriting the Colonial Mythscape’, Jeanine’s project addresses the injustices and brutality of colonisation in its ongoing legacy while at the same time pursuing a decolonisation of places. Jeanine––a Wiradjuri poet and writer from the Murrumbidgee River near Gundagai, NSW, and an academic at the University of Melbourne––will write a suite of poems that give voice to the vital stories and poetry that are embedded in Country (focusing on places in NSW) but have been covered over by colonisation.
In her application Jeanine explains: ‘Our Old Ones speak to us in the present through Country – bringing back many sleeping stories that white Australia forgot. Country is speaking now. Country is seething now with stories below the surface of the myth of settlement. This project seeks to give some voice back to Aboriginal places that are screaming to be heard under the colonial mythscape of settler monuments, plaques and signage.’
Jeanine’s project is revolutionary in its political purpose, intimate in the way it empowers personal and collective memory, and restorative in its engagement of poetry and unflinching storytelling as a path towards healing. The poems Jeanine included with her application evinced the power of her poetry to realise these aims. It was clear to the judges that Jeanine’s project will foster the further development of her own writing, benefit the wider (national) community, and stimulate crucial dialogue on Australia’s troubled history. Envisioned as a re-voicing, reappearing, and surfacing of Country and Black history, Jeanine’s suite of poems will make a substantial contribution to two existing Red Room projects: ‘The Disappearing’ and ‘Poetry in First Languages’. Her proposed work is indicative of the power of poetry as both a creative and analytic tool for the decolonising of Australia, and of the contemporary importance of Aboriginal memory, story, and history.
All the shortlisted poets (as well as some applications that did not quite make it onto the shortlist) clearly articulated projects that would both benefit the further development of their writing and engage in inspiring and innovative ways with bringing poetry to a wider community (ranging from multimedia collaborations and new platforms for poetry to poetry workshops addressing problems in specific communities). Each poet carefully selected a robust set of poems demonstrating their craftsmanship and integrity as well as passion for their proposed projects. The proposals resonated with the aims of Red Room Poetry and articulated how they would build in significant ways on existing RR projects. The concerns at the heart of these proposals included ecological crises, sexual abuse, mental illness, philosophical questions, modern relationships and religious tradition, bringing poetry to unusual public places, and the impact of youth suicide and other tragedies on women in rural communities. As judges we were delighted to learn that the RR will be commissioning each shortlisted poet to write a poem connected to their proposal.
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