Words and Pictures Reviewed by Renee Hills

Review of June Perkins’s Words and Pictures Tour (Queensland Art Gallery, Sept-November 2018)

French artist Edgar Degas (1834 – 1917) famously said ‘Art is not what you see, but what you make others see’.

This was truly my experience when I joined June Perkins’s tour of Words & Pictures. June’s interactive journey through the Australian Collection features poetry and micro stories inspired by 12 different artworks. Her responses are written for visitors of all ages, with particular appeal to children and families; a delightful glimpse of art through the eyes of a poet and children’s author.

Words & Pictures is part of an ongoing project to increase engagement with artworks in QAG. Local artists and writers are invited to respond to artworks in the Australia Collection. June was thrilled to be commissioned to do this work. ‘This was one of the best emails in relation to my work I’ve ever received,’ she said.

June had complete freedom over her choice of artworks. Each response was limited to a maximum of 80 words and everything had to be completed in three weeks with a couple more weeks for editing! She spent a lot of time in the gallery, finding works that appealed to her, thinking of a child’s perspective (choosing works above and below their eye level and in a variety of media) and developing a concept for her poetic responses. The result is engaging, inspiring and easily accessible to children and adults.

June’s poetry appears in a display adjacent to author information beside each artwork. Each poem carries a delicate feather motif. This is a reference to an imaginary character that June created – Perceval’s Angel, inspired by John Perceval’s Herald Angel, a richly glazed sculpture.

John Perceval, Herald Angel, Queensland Art Gallery

June imagined the tour like a giant picture book with Perceval’s Angel guiding viewers through the pages. June was delighted to tell John Perceval’s grandson, a friend from her university days, that she was using the angel in her creative pieces for the gallery. Some of her poetry pieces begin with a quote from Perceval’s Angel who speaks directly to the viewers, guiding them to the next artwork or helping them interact with it.

‘Hop on board’ the angel invites viewers of Yvonne Koolmatrie’s Hot Air Balloon, and June adds:
‘Take yourself to the balloon’s edge,
Feel the breezes, through the sedge’

Yvonne Koolmatrie, Hot Air Balloon, Queensland Art Gallery

This is an enticing invitation to adventure and travel,  and lets the imagination ride free in this sedge grass, coil woven work suspended in space.​

On a time travel wall displaying different artists’ approaches to the Australian landscape, the angel says:
‘Listen to the music of landscapes
through the portal of Australia’s artists’

One of June’s choices on this wall is Rosalie Gascoigne’s Lamp Lit, a large work made up of letters and shapes from cut up road signs. June’s response draws on the personal experience of destruction and loss wrought by Cyclone Yasi in 2011 when a road sign ended up in her front yard; or as angel says: ‘But the real question is what will you design in response to loss?’ ​

Rosalie Gascoigne’s, Lamp Lit

And so, the adventure in art continues, stopping by at Ian Fairweather’s Epiphany, Sydney Long’s romantic and ethereally beautiful Spirit of the Plains, Sonya Carmichael’s colourful Baskets of Culture, Fred William’s vivid Echuca Landscape, Irene Chou’s suggestive Universe within Our Hearts, William Delafield Cook’s amazingly detailed and skilfully toned A Haystack, and Ray Crooke’s Woman with blossoms, reminiscent of Gauguin. June said she saw her identity in this particular work.


Woman with Blossoms, Ray Crooke, Queensland Art Gallery

Our tour ended as it had begun with an invitation to travel on in the imagination, this time on a representation of Ian Fairweather’s ramshackle craft; the one he used at the age of 60 to make a potentially suicidal 16 day crossing of the Timor Sea from Darwin to a remote coral island west of Timor in 1952.


The gift (from ‘Argonauts of the Timor Sea’), Michael Stevenson, Queensland Art Gallery
Kudusur, Alick Tipolti, Queensland Art Gallery

June’s verse reads:
‘You can do anything, be anything
travel anywhere…’


​The child in her poem makes the sacrifice necessary to travel to Kudusur – a reference to the dramatic mural visible through the hole in the craft’s sail. Painted by Torres Strait islander Alick Tipoti, it references paddling a canoe, seasons, ocean currents, journeying between islands and spiritual ancestors – the universal journey through life.

Don’t miss this Words and Pictures journey. Grab a child or find your inner child; help yourself to the drawing board, paper and pencils, and create your own responses.

You can take yourself on a tour anytime between 10 am to 5 pm, until the end of November.

June’s final in person tour will be on November 17th 2 pm (contact gumbootspearlz@gmail.com for more information).

You won’t regret it. All those attending on 17th Nov are invited to sponsor Magic Fish Dreaming books to go to PNG.

Pdfs of POEMS UNTIL END OF NOVEMBER

Renee Hills 2018-11-06

June with a tour group

Dr June Perkins is a Brisbane-based poet, blogger and children’s author, of Indigenous Papua New Guinean and Australian background, raised in Tasmania by Baha’i parents. She utilizes multiarts and multicultural stories to inspire an enriched sense of belonging and compassion in those who encounter her work. She was recently invited to share Magic Fish Dreaming at the Asia Pacific Triennial, Summer Program 2019 and became a member of Mana Pasifika research Institute. She maintains an interest and dedication to promoting diversity in the Australian literary landscape. Her first children’s book was the award-winning poetry collection, Magic Fish Dreaming (2016) illustrated by Helene Magisson.

​June Perkins’s Website
Ripple Poetry Blog

Renee Hills has always loved words and writing. A founding member of Write Links, she writes picture books (Turtle Love was published in 2017); flash fiction (Proof was published in Short and Twisted,Celapene Press 2017); and a short fantasy is to be included in the Rainforest Writing Retreat Anthology 2018.

Renee Hill’s Webpage

This review originally appeared on the Write Links Blog as curated by Lucy McGinley

(Photo credits: June Perkins, Renee Hills, Rebecca Sheraton and Maria Parenti-Baldey)





Submissions Week

The world in and outside the window – June Perkins

This was a watershed week of submissions for me.

I have spent most of the year reworking and editing a number of promising writing pieces, and working out whether some earlier projects are short stories, picture books or novels.  Sometimes I don’t know in the early drafts what the final form will be.

Each piece chooses its destiny, as I write and rewrite.  I play, experiment and do radical things when it just doesn’t seem to be working but the story tells me it must be told.

Then there are some other tips I have picked up during the year like to, remove telling not showing from my work through avoiding ‘thought verbs.’

The other thing that’s happened is now that so many rules have been absorbed about writing I pick and choose which ones to follow.  This is based on which ones improve my writing.  Sometimes I even reverse a rule.  I will share more about that one day.

The most enjoyable part of editing is reading my pieces loud to find the musicality and poetry.  I realise I love things that have a beautiful sounding and flowing sentence, but it must also be purposeful.  My family often hear me in my room doing this and wonder who I am talking to.  ‘Just editing’ I say afterwards.

So with all of these things now happening, I reworked some stories I have always wanted to tell, and sent three completed pieces off.  All three were reworked pieces that I have filed away to keep working on and had rediscovered.

If they don’t place in the competitions, and even if they do, I will then begin submitting to other places like publishers.  There are so many competitions and not all of them result in publication.  The stories feel just right to me.  They still make me laugh or cry.

When I write I go looking for magic sentences, engaging characters, and use setting as a character when I can.

Now onto some much longer pieces, to apply the same process!

As well as editing and reworking, I do keep on writing new pieces.  But my patience for the time a work might take to come to fruition has grown.  Especially when the difficulties with it that niggle at me feel solved!

Over and out, off to do more writing.

Gregg Dreise Presents

It was a wonderfully dynamic, interactive, educational and personal guest presentation by Gregg Dreise, an award winning illustrator and writer of books like Silly Birds and Mad Magpie, at the recent Book Links AGM at the State Library of Queensland.

Gregg is a descendant of the Kamilaroi tribe, from south-west Queensland and north-west New South Wales. You can find out more about him on the Speakers Ink site.

Gregg  began by honouring the Indigenous people of the local area we were  meeting in, and then gave the audience a sample of what he does when goes on his various visits into the community, but especially into schools.This gave us a chance to learn some of his language and sing it, and do the accompanying actions just as the students would.

Then he used a number of images to structure his talk around the memories of his upbringing, including one of his mum as a little girl, which he gave a a thought provoking back story to.  I’m not going to fully detail that here, as I think that will be something Gregg may one day do himself if he ever writes a memoir or maybe if he is busy one of his family might do this.  If you attend one of his presentations you will hear it directly from him as well.

Gregg  gave some critique of the notion of ‘blackness’ and Indigenous identity as well how little diversity appears in Australian children’s books, in libraries, publishing and schools. 

This observation was used to spring board into suggestions of how illustrators might consider including more diverse characters in their picture books.

However, it was suggested not to do this in a tokenistic way, or with stereotyping, but in a naturally inclusive way. 

Later on this point was discussed further by the authors in attendance of the AGM.  As authors shared with Gregg that they have little control over the work of illustrators if they are not author/illustrators.  He suggested that authors could at least make a note about wanting diversity in the illustrations of their book.

Gregg said, non-Indigenous could still include Indigenous characters, but should ensure they do their research and be accurate in those portrayals.  If there is an opportunity to include, do it! But just do the research.

He said often, however, there are picture book stories  that require very little change of the writing to embrace an inclusive society, rather a subtle change in illustration where the main character could be Indigenous instead of Anglo Australian, or in a wheelchair instead of walking is what makes the difference.  He gave us a specific example, which he had gained permission from the author to do so, to show how simple the task of inclusivity can be.

He did not advocate however taking on traditional stories, and explained that authors who truly want to support Indigenous people should instead empower an Indigenous person to tell and illustrate that story.

At times it might be relevant to consult Elders when undertaking a project, but the writer should be open to the answer being no, or yes and not try to railroad communities into assisting them with their research or books.

Mentoring is a rewarding experience, and can not only be taken on board as best practice when wanting to support Indigenous people, but can and should be acknowledged.  This is also work he himself does for regional and remote students especially.  Equally if writers receive assistance in research or from Elders they should acknowledge it.

On a positive note Gregg observed that in film and television there are great advances in diversity and the positive deconstruction of ‘blackness’ with films like Black Panther and also Star Wars.

He shared that Indigenous authors and illustrators should avoid stereotyping their own communities, and showed us an illustration where he represented the different skin shades of Indigenous Australia today.  Sometimes ‘blackness’ is taken as a sign of Indigenous authenticity, when it is not the major indication in contemporary society.

Another very heartening aspect of Gregg’s presentation was sharing the story of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and his work mentoring young Indigenous writers and illustrators.

So far we have gifted more than 260,000 new books to over 250 remote Indigenous communities where books are scarce.
Working with more than 30 generous publishers, we gift culturally relevant books to schools, libraries, playgroups, women’s centres, youth centres and other service organisations.
We have books available for babies through to adults, 40 per cent created by Indigenous authors and illustrators, with a new catalogue released each year. 

He is hosting a group  of talented Indigenous creatives in Sydney soon and taking them to Google and Hachette so they can aspire to become writers, illustrators and more.  It’s all about the doors that writing and books can open and broadening the horizons for Australia’s Indigenous people.  This work is made possible through a bequest from Pamela Lofts.

He showed us an example of a beautiful book co-produced with a school, which exemplified the kind of work possible.

I was very blessed to have a fantastic earlier discussion session with Dimity Powell and Gregg where we discussed the potential of  picture books and poetry to contribute to social justice and unity in diversity in the Australian literary community and how we might advance that happening.

June Perkins, Dimity Powell and Gregg Dreise

It was a highly uplifting and inspiring conversation for all three of us, and  we will be continuing our conversations as like minded, but very diverse background humans.

There were of course many more things shared during the presentation and this day, so this blog is only highlights that particularly struck me.

Book Links will  be sharing a blog of the day with several comments from participants in the AGM.  I will add the link to this post when it goes up.

All the best,

June Perkins

Beckoning Autumn

Magic Fish Dreaming

Collin Key Flickr Woman walking with her dog through an autumn landscape

Come burnt orange

golden yellow and burnished red

leaves.

Bring us

relief from heat waves

and air conditioners.

Remember my light red jumper

and favouriteboots

They’re out once more.

Loosen your leaves

to reveal sculptural trees

on the hillsides.

Let the fading days of summer

whisper listening toautumn jazz

with a milo.

By June Perkins

An Invitation Poem

This poetry idea is based on ideas in Barbara Esbensen’sbook A Celebration of Bees: Helping Children Write Poetry

You write a poem like this when you want something to happen, like a season, event or a birthday party.

Published on Australian Children’s Poetry

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Brilliant News

IMG_8085crop
photo by Heidi Den Ronden

I am so excited to announce I have been selected for a mentorship to work on one of my picture book manuscripts.

Thirteen talented writers have been selected as mentorship recipients under the ASA’s Emerging Writers’ and Illustrators’ Mentorship Program.

Congratulations to all other recipients. May we all have the best year ever!

“Applications were addressed on literary merit, with reference to their genres.

The twelve writers awarded Copyright Agency supported mentorships are:

Elizabeth Bryer (Literary non-fiction)
Steve Fraser (Fiction)
Denise Cummins (Fiction)
Dr June Perkins (Children’s)
Alison Quigley (Fiction)
Nadine Craneburgh (Young adult)
Scott Williamson (Young adult)
Claire Roberts (Poetry)
Siang Lu (Fiction)
Jake Goetz (Poetry)
Amber Moffat (Picture book/text only)
Frances Olive (Children’s)

The children’s writer awarded The Edel Wignell Mentorship is:

Marian McGuinness

The five highly commended applicants are:

Vanessa Fairbrother (Young adult)
Orsolya Parkanyi (Non-fiction)
Patrick Thwaites (Young adult)
Rowena Sierant (Fiction)
Melissa Manning (Fiction)

 

The feedback on my section was :

“The successful picture book manuscripts clearly stood out for their dynamic characters, innovative genre-bending concepts, and/or their lyrical use of language. “

To read more head to  ASA Mentorship Winners 2015-16