From poems landing on International Space Stations, we head west to the big sky country of Western QLD; a landscape that continues to reveal its beauty to Vanessa Page.
A Moment of Serenity
A sense of place plays a central role in my creative process. I feel deeply connected to the land in particular, with many of my poems set against the landscapes of central and western Queensland.
I enjoy working with the idea of examining the complexities of human relationships against these settings. Sometimes I will start a poem with a landscape in my mind and this will later become the base for the layering of the storytelling component. When simple, powerful stories develop on these canvases that is when I really begin to feel my poems ‘sing’. While the process of writing poetry usually starts in an organic, sensory way it usually ends with a lot of painstaking fine tuning as I meld all the elements together.
I am inspired by the landscapes of western Queensland, and in particular the places between Toowoomba (my home town) and Mitchell (a town where my family lived for many generations) and out as far as Charleville, Blackall and Barcaldine – places where I have spent quite a bit of time.
I think because of my personal connection to these places, I get a lot of joy and satisfaction in showcasing them through words. Part of this is about wanting to share the beauty I see with others, and part of it is paying a bit of a tribute to my heritage and the pioneering bush labourers, drovers and bullock team drivers who were my grandparents and great grandparents.
Quite often it is a moment of serenity or beauty that sparks the creative process. It might be something as simple as sitting by a weir at daybreak watching tiny birds stamp signatures in the red dust or admiring a flock of black cockatoos propped in an enormous river gum like some kind of strange and beautiful fruit that strikes a chord and either becomes a metaphor for a story that is developing or which is just a beautiful picture in its own right waiting to be painted in words.
I think the extreme and sometimes desolate beauty of these places helps me to connect more deeply to different concepts particularly around the theme of human relationships – like the way connections between people are tested through processes like loving and losing.
There is nothing like the ‘big sky country’ in central Queensland to create the perfect environment for this sort of thinking. More often than not it is just the quiet and the relative emptiness of journeys in between places that inspires creative thinking in me. I find that I can draw deeply on my own experiences, and my observations while at the same time being in tune with the landscapes that are unfolding around me. Simply driving west seems to bring me into an incredibly rich creative space, because of the connection I feel to the land.
In my poems I try and bring the reader with me to the places where the story is unfolding. I like them to feel – if not connected to, then aware of – the environment I am describing by using words and visual arrangements to evoke the senses. I tend to write in a detailed manner, finding the perfect descriptors and then reshaping the lines until they glow and reflect my concept and vision.
I like discovering beauty in little ‘polaroid moments’ and have written poems about very simple experiences, like observing how the first light of the morning inhabits an outback town or the tiny ways in which the landscape changes and prepares ahead of an approaching summer storm.
For me it’s ninety percent about getting the level of detail right, choosing the right words and then piecing the elements together to help transport the reader to these settings and moments. The other ten percent comes from my personal passion and joy and love for the natural environment, helping me to complete the connection.
by Vanessa Page
for Billy Page
Out here, he might find the shape of her face
in a night basin speckled with stars
just by purchasing shares in the thought of her,
a lifetime south in Gunggeri territory
She’s a vignette back there, with five children
topped and tailed in two small rooms,
shadow-formed; getting by on instinct
Sleep pulls through her like an accordion.
Next time, before regret can come into it
he might leave off the drink, and whisper her
a homecoming as sweet as wood-smoke
A dog’s bark slices through the morning pink,
as day cups the edges of the Gulf country
It won’t be long now, til it begins again
Saddle dreaming drenched in sun violence,
and the miles of emptiness drawn out between.
Vanessa Page is a Rosewood-based poet who hails from Toowoomba in Queensland.Vanessa is a frequent reader at Brisbane’s SpeedPoets events and was one of the featured poets at QPF’s Riverbend Poetry Series in 2011. Her work has been published at kipple, bluepepper, SpeedPoets zine and in the 2010 Central Coast Poets Inc Anthology. She won the USQ Poetry Prize in 2011 & 2010, and in 2009 was runner up at the Ipswich International Poetry Feast. Vanessa will be one of two poets published in Brisbane New Voices III, which will be released in April 2012.