Writer in residence
Award winning poet and historian, Nandi Chinna, was Kings Park's Writer in Residence in 2016. During her time with us, she gathered inspiration from around the park and was moved by the park's visitors and beautiful natural environment.
Her publications include 'Our Only Guide is Our Homesickness' (Five Islands Press, 2007), 'How to Measure Land', which was joint winner of the 2010 Picaro Press Byron Bay Writers Festival Poetry Prize, and 'Swamp; walking the wetlands of the Swan Coastal Plain' (Fremantle Press, 2014). Her wetland poem 'Cut and Paste Lake' won the 2014 Tom Collins Poetry Prize.
We're delighted to share examples of her poetry here.
After staring through the window of the emergency ward
where tissue of extinct and endangered plants
grows on shelves under fluorescent lights;
and examining the 10 000 vials suspended
in liquid nitrogen, those minute memoirs
of species frozen in Cryo storage;
Tall men, pale and white, stand along the Avenue
wrapping their arms around the sky,
reaching out to each other across time;
the conversation is all memory, sometimes bursting
their skin with stories they thrust their hands up urging me next!
The Law Loop path binds across the escarpment;
muzzling the fraying scree of the park.
A man in a pink shirt
sits cross-legged on the edge of the track,
sending his thoughts down into the hill
like tap-roots; eyes closed to the water's mirror
where a flock of shags V across the evening pool.
Is when poems arrive, swooping at me
from across Derbal Yerrigan, diving out of clouds,
caught on wind stampeding up the river,
they fling themselves against the escarpment;
lodge in the tangled arms of tuart trees
where they are mistaken for blossoms
raining to the understorey.
All I have to do is stand, walk, fall, trip
over poems as they lounge on the grass in the arms of a lover,
thrust beaks into nectar and fall about drunk
with the music of Ngoorlarks ringing in their ears.
One class stands in orderly lines
politely applauding the naturescape activity officer;
the other class have decided to become Aliens.
Their ship has landed in rocky terrain
and for this mission they need to fling
their shoes off, discard papers and books
and swarm over the tree root island,
wade up and down the waterfall
soaked to the bones.
After the surgery we gather leaves from the hillside,
fill the hospital room with branches;
crush green and grey leaves in our sterilised hands,
their scent dispersing into the quiet room.
Over the weeks the leaves begin to curl and dry;
drift to the tiled floor, crackling underfoot.
For some reason the cleaners never sweep them away;
as if they know that 'Eu', means well,
and 'calyptos', veiled or covered like the calyx
holding the heart of the flower until it is born
glistening and shining into the world.
A man will take his chances;
dodge the buses and cars along Kings Park Road,
lope through the bushy border of jacaranda and peppermint trees,
and step onto the soft mattress of Kings Park
where his feet drift and hover, no longer weighed down
by rooms and walls and pavements.
He glides in amongst jarrah too twisted for the blade;
throws his suit down onto the grass
with his body inside it warm and collapsed;
the spine and shoulders that have hunched
over a keyboard all morning
swooning back into their sockets.
Talking while running,
joggers drop fragments of plot;
a husband, job, daughter,
the struggle, the boss, the lover;
you my best friends,
huffing these steeping paths
sweating for me.
And the cyclists, talking while riding;
about races won and lost
and the various moving parts of a bicycle
while they spin across the city skyline.
Losing my way along the bush tracks,
I stumble into a junction where banksias
throng like an unruly crowd; and a marri tree,
adorned with green and gold parrots
screeches Australia, Australia.
Soon the bones of Brookfield Place
loom above the tree horizon, ghostly
skin of a lemon scented gum, wrinkled with age,
limbs amputated and healed over;
stands in memoriam to Sapper Gordon WH Milne
who died at Sandakan on Valentine's Day 1945.