Something is chasing us.
Is it a powerful virus called Corona?
Is it anxiety turned to
cruelty stripping the supermarket shelves?
Is it fear turned to arguments
on the public transport when someone coughs?
We aren’t we worrying more
about what are we running towards?
Can we take a deep breath and run towards it stripped
of anxiety and fear
naked of ego and selfishness?
Can we clothe ourselves in
the discoveries we will make?
Remember to breathe
to take in with compassion the fear and despair
to understand these feelings
breathe them out into kindness
into a sense that everyone of us has the power to give
and do things,
swap seeds, give away excess
heal each others scars
after the virus has run its course.
How many can we take with us as we run?
How many of us will fall?
How many, ashamed finally,
will share the seedlings and goods
they stripped the nurseries and supermarkets of or
admit that we threw teachers and hairdressers
under the bus in pursuit
of economy and beauty.
I knew when the cyclone would end.
I saw the green leaves return in the rainforest
one by one.
Now the lines of unemployed cascade down the streets
and a sense of a modern day depression is born
and Bindi is our Shirley Temple
she marries her beloved without wedding guests.
And now we must breathe
breathe ourselves into
(c) June Perkins
Reflecting on ancient and modern legacies and wondering what they will be?
In the seventies
old souls with young faces
went looking for revolutions’ places
found heroes called Bob Dylan
looked in music for something
more than melody
danced with metaphors deep
Now young souls with old faces
say, ‘Who on earth was he?’
and one wonders is there any
such thing as
to the old and young set in stone
are they open to change?
When will young faces have
and old souls have old faces
Or is it all a dreamer’s mask?
And a distraction to the true task
as we all face the fading of our bones.
To live the poet’s life
let the words
find the souls they belong to
doesn’t matter old or young
look beyond the face
listen to wisdom from every voice
keep alive the questioning of youth
and in the silence after sing
the open door.
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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.
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’
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?’
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.
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.
June’s verse reads:
‘You can do anything, be anything
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 email@example.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
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.
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.
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)