I am fresh back from teaching tonight and have that hum of poetry coursing through me, so wanted to post another feature on one of the many emerging poets in Brisbane, Yolanda Newman.
What excites you about poetry?
Being able to see into the inner mind of the poet. Knowing how he/she thinks and feels. Being able to have feelings and insights identified.
What are the themes that interest you / that you like to explore in your own writing?
Charles Bukowski once said, ‘poetry is what happens when nothing else can.’ How does a poem happen for you?
A memory followed by a feeling. A wanting to understand why that memory is important and what I can learn from it.
The room is hot
Tiny, no door
Just a screen of thin cloth taking up half the space
My mother is with me
Her fear taking up any room left
I am not allowed to take off my clothes
To try on the Chinese dress
It’s called a ‘Cheong Sam’ and is
Blue and red, patterned in flowers and birds
With fabric buttons diagonally from neck to hip
I have no idea why I am trying it on
I didn’t ask for it
Didn’t see it in a window
And we are in Aden, the tip of
Saudi Arabia and not China
But I have to have it
Our family, unlike some
Follow the rules told us on the boat
We don’t drink the water
Wait to eat till we get back to the ship
Don’t buy except from proper shops
And we escape the white slave traders
Apparently eager to get their hands on my
Unhappy in Australia
I escape my family by trying to create another
We move often
But I never wear the dress again
It doesn’t fit and besides my husband
Shows no interest in undoing those buttons tenderly
Running his hands down the smooth material
Discovering me, sweet and vulnerable underneath
He doesn’t work and in one of our many moves
He leaves the dress behind
I wonder where did that dress go?
Who wore it after that one time in the small changing room?
I’ll never know
And I don’t know where that girl went
That confused girl
Standing in the changing room
Having my mother’s fears fitted over me
Never to be taken off
Yolanda Newman is a Brisbane-based poet currently enrolled in QLD Writers Centre’s, Introduction to Poetry #2.