Brisbane is a great memory keeper: you can find stories in journals and lines of poetry in ceramic and walkways. Let’s go for a walk and find the words in Griffith Review, paper boat press and on Eleanor Schonell Bridge.
A bridge of poetry
When I studied Australian literature at the University of Queensland on one side of the river, and lived in a house with a jetty and a wild garden on the other side of the river, I always had to cross the Eleanor Schonell Bridge. From there, I could see the blow-up boat on the small jetty of our house, and on the other side was the much bigger CityCat on the ferry terminal. All this time, going from one side to the other, I was walking on lines of words. Poetry on pavement by Brisbane-born writers Luke Beesley and Samuel Wagan Watson. Above the water, I read “cups from up river” or “on the ferry home”. With each step and glance, there were new lines and stories and lyrics. And they are still there.
Literature can be the keeper of the past, it can remember, it can challenge myths. Just like in the latest issue of the Griffith Review “Forgotten Stories. The Novella Project II”, edited by Julianne Schultz. Five novellas and one photo essay explore individual stories within historical dimensions. Or, as Sally Breen puts it in her essay “This is not the end”:
These authors have brought something exlusive back into life, something forgotten back into the frame. They’ve brought us out of the museum and into a heady simulation, where the power of narrative allows us to taste and breathe and walk around in the richness of days and nights already passed. (p. 11)
Griffith Review 46 does not tell the history of Australia. It puts the light on individuals, on uncomfortable moments of the past and on the stories of migrants. Like the arrival of a Japanese family in 1960’s Australia, the country’s whaling past, the tension between Aborigines, white Australians and Afghan cameleers, and a family’s struggle in post-WWI Australia. “Fiction might offer motivation, observation, emotional insight,” writes Sally Breen. Fiction shows more of the country.
Ceramic artist and poet Kylie Johnson keeps stories in her own way. She writes and engraves her own fine poetry and other people’s poetry into ceramic, and there they are, lines on clouds and bowls, on hearts and stars. I found her book of poetry “Count Me the Stars” a few years ago on a bookshelf, and I found her again this year in her paper boat press studio in Ashgrove. What comes first, I asked her, the words or the form? “The words,” she said. And then she chooses the form, wether it be a bird or a boat or a pencil. Or a book, like her latest one: A collection of her favourite quotes called “melancholy and bright”. And so they all sail, the words, the stories, the past, into many different forms into the bookshelves and walks and kitchens. Into somebody’s everyday harbour.
Griffith Review 46. Forgotten Stories. The Novella Project II. ed. by Julianne Schultz.
With novellas by Cate Kennedy, John Kinsella, Emma Hardman, Megan McGrath and Masako Fukui. Photo essay by Michael Cook. 2014.
Kylie Johnson. Melancholy and Bright: Quotes of Wisdom and Wonder.
University of Queensland Press, 2014.
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