Each month, the Verity La Poetry Podcast talks with a member of our poetic community. We discuss a poem they’ve published in the journal, as well as hear about a poet they admire. Our interviewers are Melbourne poet Alice Allan and her faithful sidekicks, Verity La co-poetry editors, Robbie Coburn & Michele Seminara. Occasionally Alice may be joined by a mystery guest interviewer, because, hey, that’s just how we roll.
In our first episode, Alice and Michele chat to poet Phillip Hall about the joys and challenges of working in a remote Indigenous community, the raucous collaborative writing process of the Borroloola Poetry Club, and the evolution of a postcolonial eco-poetics. Phillip reads from his magnificent poem, Concourse, and introduces us to one of his favourite poems, Dorothy Hewett’s luminous ‘Inheritance‘.
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Alice Allan’s poetry has been published in previous issues of Verity La as well as in Cordite, Rabbit and Australian Book Review. She is the creator and convenor of the Verity La Poetry Podcast, as well as producing her own weekly podcast, Poetry Says.
Phillip Hall has worked for many years as a ‘wilderness’ expedition leader throughout NSW & Far North Queensland; but between 2011 and 2015 he worked in remote Indigenous education in Borroloola, the Gulf of Carpentaria. Phillip designs sport and Outdoor/Environmental Education programs designed to teach emotional resiliency, cooperative group learning, safe decision-making and respect for Country. He has been adopted into Gudanji family; where he is also known by the skin name of Jabala and the traditional or bush name of Gijindarraji (given to him because it was the bush name of his nana’s pop); he is a member of the Rrumburriya clan; and is a Jungkayi (custodian) for Jayipa (Catfish Hole). His Mother is the emu and goanna though his nana jokes that his real Dreaming is the curlew or ‘Worry Bird’.
In 2012 Phillip established Diwurruwurru (The Borroloola Poetry Club). Diwurruwurru means message stick and is used by permission of the Traditional Owners. Diwurruwurru is an Indigenous writers’/storytellers’ group that meets at the local school, or at the local Warralungku Arts Centre. The club is made up of both adult and school student members and meets every Friday afternoon/evening (and sometimes on camp out bush). Diwurruwurru has established an annual poetry prize (with children’s, young adult and adult sections) as part of the Borroloola Show. In 2014 the prize attracted over 70 entries; and was a glorious testament to the club’s dynamism. Diwurruwurru has also collaborated with The Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation, since 2012, to establish an annual poetry festival in Tennant Creek; to publish member poems electronically on The Barkly Poetry Wall and in the print publication, Coming to Voice. In 2013 the Club also worked with the NT Writers’ Centre to secure an Australia Council grant to host Lionel Fogarty (an award-winning Indigenous poet) and Amanda King (a digital artist) in a month long residency in Borroloola. This exciting program saw Borroloola school students writing poetry, learning to perform and then recording their efforts onto film. In 2014 twenty members from Diwurruwurru were invited to WordStorm, the NT Writers’ Festival, to launch the Borroloola poetry film onto the national stage – a wonderful celebration of creativity in the Gulf.
Phillip has completed a Doctor of Creative Arts at Wollongong University where he researched Australian poetry, contemporary place theory, ecocriticism and postcolonialism. For many years Phillip has published his poetry, reviews and essays in such journals as Antipodes, Cordite Poetry Review, Meanjin, Meniscus, Plumwood Mountain, Overland, Southerly, Verity La and Westerly. He has completed a poetry manuscript about his time in the Gulf of Carpentaria called fume.
Phillip experienced some medical issues in 2015 and has now retired to Melbourne’s Sunshine (western suburbs). He is a very passionate member of the Western Bulldogs Football Club. He also continues, through his writing, to honour First Nations in the Northern Territory’s Gulf of Carpentaria where he has family and friends.
Phillip has published a chapbook of collaborative poetry from the Borroloola Poetry Club called Diwurruwurru: Poetry from the Gulf of Carpentaria (Blank Rune Press, 2015). His first full length poetry collection, sweetened in coals, can be purchased online from Ginninderra Press.