A spiky and acidic new voice in Indigenous writing

 Alison Whittaker, picture by Amelia J Dowd

Alison Whittaker, picture by Amelia J Dowd

In summary: 
  • Final-year UTS Writing and Cultural Studies/Law student Alison Whittaker launches her debut poetry collection Lemons in the Chicken Wire next week
  • Focusing on the experience of queer and trans Aboriginal women in regional and rural Australia, the manuscript won the State Library of Queensland's 2015 black&write! Indigenous Writing Fellowship

Resonating with "wordplay, subversion and innuendo", the debut poetry collection of Alison Whittaker, Lemons in the Chicken Wire, has seen her dubbed "a force to be reckoned with" by Books+Publishing.

The collection by the final-year Writing and Cultural Studies/Law student at the University of Technology Sydney will be officially launched at UTS next week.

"Lemons in the Chicken Wire is a collection of poetry, or a novella in verse, depending on who you ask, about queer and trans Aboriginal women in regional and rural Australia," Alison said.

"I am a Gomeroi woman, poet and essayist who is also queer and the work draws on my experiences.

"It's an experimental collection in form and it is also nominally bi-lingual – Aboriginal English and Gamilaraay."

The manuscript won the State Library of Queensland's 2015 black&write! Indigenous Writing Fellowship and has been published by the fellowship's co-sponsor Magabala Books.

The judges described Alison's poems as "skilful and honest; this poet challenges the unimaginative".

Alison told Books+Publishing, "I find poetry gives me the gall I don't otherwise have. Perhaps the difference with the written voice is that I can capture the initiating spark and sit with it for a bit.

"You can very carefully play with a poem in a way that you can't with speech without bruising that tender, clear moment."

Nan sliced her finger on a crossword
and wrote with that a dissertation, then she
browning, spoke to me
her contested trinity
the messianic, and the self, and the
blades of grass that pierce the pulp
of weedy toes, that the world should meet you
and wound you as you wound it
made Descartes wrong about that split
O, Eureka!
 
And O,
the first time I said
a long white theory word
she yarned stiff to impress me
like, with that word
came authority, and with it, fear
that she had been misunderstood
her praxis clumsy or unheard
O, the weaker!

An extract from O, Eureka! by Alison Whittaker, published in Lemons in the Chicken Wire

Aside from her writing and her studies, Alison is working as a research assistant with both the UTS Faculty of Law and the Centre for the Advancement of Indigenous Knowledges (CAIK).

The official launch of Lemons in the Chicken Wire is supported by CAIK and will be held in the centre’s offices in UTS Building 10 on Friday 8 April.

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