Video transcript
2017 NSW PRC author interview - Indigenous Storytelling

Back to video Back to NSW Premier's Reading Challenge (PRC) 2017 author interviews

- Hi, everyone and welcome to Session Four, Book Fest on day two. Thank you so much for joining us from all across the state. We've got an absolutely massive audience watching us here. We're based in Sydney. Today, this afternoon, we're coming at you from the Stratfield studios, but we are reaching many, many thousands of students and teacher librarians out there, so I'd like to thank you very much for joining us.

My name's Yvette Poshoglian and I'm the Premier Reading Challenge Officer. And it's our great pleasure to run this session on indigenous storytelling. All the teacher librarians should have a resource to work with. And if you've joined the session at the last moment, there are a couple of things that you need to note. This session runs for about 30 minutes, and there are some elements where you'll be working with your students on poetry. This session is called Poetry Object and it's run in conjunction with our friends, The Red Room Poetry Company. And you'll be making our host, Kirli, in just a few moments.

There are a couple of things to remember at the outset. This session runs for 30 minutes. You will need some paper and pens. And for students in years K to 2, your teachers may act as scribes for these sessions. So, can teachers please be prepared to jump in and run certain parts of these sessions once we hand back to you.

I'd now like to introduce you to Kirli Saunders. Kirli is running today's session. She's a poet, she's a writer, she's a teacher, and she's a proud Yuin woman. She's running today's session. She's an expert at talking to you about poetry. And she's going to be really developing some incredible poems with you. So without further ado, I'd like to hand over to Kirli Saunders from Red Room Company. And thank her in advance for this incredible session.

- Hi, thank you, Yvette. It's such a pleasure to be here. Welcome to an indigenous storytelling session with a focus on poetry [inaudible]. So my name is Kirli Saunders. Kirli like curly hair, but not spelt that way. Kirli is the aboriginal word for a black and white bird that lives on the water, and it's also [? a numa ?] word for a boomerang.

So before we begin, I'd like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands on which we're working today. 140 schools are involved today, which is excellent. And we're coming to you from lots of different countries, lots of different Aboriginal nations. So just paying my respects to the custodians. And also to all of our deadly [? career ?] kids and their [? career ?] teachers involved today. Thank you for being a part of this session.

I'm going to put up a screen now about Poetry Object. And Poetry Object is the project that we're going to be running from. Poetry Object is a free poetry writing competition that's open to students from years three to ten and their teachers. Poetry Object is all about writing poetry about objects that are special to you, so anything that you would deem to be a curious object or something that's very important. For me, it's my badge. It's a [? manx ?] cap badge, and I'm going to be showing it to you a little later. I actually lost my original badge, so I'm going to be showing you one that I bought last week with my dad.

All of the poems that are written for Poetry Object are submitted onto our website, and once they are, they can be published online. If you haven't had your schools registered yet for Poetry Object, please make sure that your teachers register your school. And then when you send us your poems, we can put them on our website. And you can also go in the drawing to win a tonne of great prizes and to have your poetry published on trains. So everybody involved in the workshop today can be a published poet just like me.

I'm also going to bring up a map of the different Aboriginal nations in New South Wales. There's 250 different Aboriginal nations in Australia. This is just the map of New South Wales. So if you say that little purple nation down the bottom, that's the Yuin nation. That's where my [? mob is ?] from. I've also got family from Biripi and Dunghutti country and also Eora, so Sydney area, and then Gundungurra [? baral, ?] as well. So on the east coast, we say, our family is-- what we say, our mob is based on who our grandmother is. My grandmother is a proud Yuin woman from [? bega, ?] so then, I'm a proud Yuin woman, too.

Each one of those nations has its own dreaming, its own stories, and art, and dance, and songs. And the dreaming isn't like going to sleep dreaming. The dreaming is the story of creation of a different nation. So maybe you know a dreaming story from the country that you're coming to school. And maybe you have been told dreaming stories from your elders. The dreaming also tells us our responsibilities, as well as how we can relate with one another and our purpose.

So the dreaming was told to me, a Yuin dreaming, to have three parts. And the first part is to nourish ourself with food from the earth. The second is to take care of Mother Earth. And then the third is to share your gifts with community. So for me, sharing my gift with community is sharing my gift of storytelling. And the way I do that is through being a writer. I'm writing children's books. My first book comes out next year. And I'm really excited. I just signed the contract for my second book, which is called Our Dreaming. And that's going to tell you all about how the dreaming is handed from eldest to little ones.

In being a poet and a children's author, I get to share my gift with you. And today, we're going to look at how you can share your stories through poetry, as well.

Next, we're going to have an audio clip of one of our poets, Matt Heffernan. But before we do, I just want you to-- if you've got your booklet in front of you, and it might look a little bit like this, you're going to have lots of different poets who have written poems in the booklet. And there's five different poems from Aboriginal poets about objects that are special to them. This first one is by Matt Heffernan, and so we're going to have a listen to Matt's poem now.

MATT HEFFERNAN: Onto you with that withered hand, smiling face, and [? feinted ?] [? kanda ?] Reaches out with a gift of my manifested mantra. A small chest with speckled seeds, crimson sand, and freckle beads. It's timeless om, this stagnant [? sea, ?] constructs my being and disintegrates fear. A humble vessel enveloped in scratches, its sturdy geometry threaded by latches. My attachment transcends isolated raptures. Freedom from the abertoire, of which I'm a captive. The crimson sands' fragrance fluently unassuming, a little solace from the conspiring and betrayal that is looming. But from the rain's rage and sun's kiss, the unforeseen is blooming. The genesis of a memory for moments worth stealing. This essence that blankets is my psalm while I'm kneeling. Thank you, only words for the person, it's revealing. My manifested mantra. I have found my healing.

- All right. That was Matt Heffernan's poem. And I really love the way he uses rhyme throughout his poetry. Rhyme is just one poetic technique that poets can use. There's many others and we're going to explore some a little later on. Poetry and music go really well hand-in-hand and sometimes when you listen to a song or if you see lyrics from a song written on paper, they look a lot like a poem.

The next song that we're going to share is written by the Stiff Gins, and it's called Longing, Wanting. It's about a spear thrower that's been kept in a museum for quite some time now, and about how that spear thrower would feel-- sometimes they call them a [? womera, ?] depending on which country you're on-- how that spear thrower would feel to be removed from the man who once used it and also to be taken away from country. Because connection to country is really, really important for Aboriginal people. So next, we're going to hear this song from the [? stiff gins, ?]

[music playing]

My edge, my blade. Slice through air, slice through air. No breath, no rain. Stay in wait and wait to fade away. Wanting, longing-- for that arm, that fingernail. My edge, my blade. No breath, no rain. Stay in wait and wait to fade away. Wanting, longing-- for that arm, that fingernail. Wanting, longing-- for that arm, that fingernail. My edge is a blade of steel. Revered I reveal a man of pride. I hang proud at his side. I began again and again With hand, finger, nail. Etched in fine line, Wood, tooth, sinew, shell and twine, Combine to launch and strike, I kill divided evermore through time. I lie, wait, and wail, His hand, finger and nail. Wanting, longing-- for that arm, that fingernail. Wanting, longing-- for that arm, that fingernail. Longing for.

- I love that song. I really like the use of imagery that's portrayed throughout that. So you can imagine, when you're hearing that song, exactly what that looks like. There's great description throughout. And imagery is another poetic technique that we can use in our writing.

Next, I'm going to share a poem that I wrote about my [? manx ?] cat badge. And I've actually lost my Manx cap badge, but I found one, luckily, on the weekend. I went and bought one with my dad at the Very Celtic festival. So I bought one now, which I'm just going to show you.

So you can see, it's just a tiny little cat. But something about the Manx cat that you might notice is it has a three legged symbol on it, and that's the symbol of the Isle of Man. So the Manx cat is known to the Isle of Man, because on the Isle of Man, there is a huge international motorcycle race there each year called the Isle of Man TT. And I ride motorbikes, my dad rides motorbikes. I have really beautiful black Triumph Thruxton 900. And part of riding a motorcycle is that you wear a leather jacket, and lots of people have different pins that they wear on theirs. And the pin, the original Manx cat badge, was given to me by my dad to wear on my jacket. It was to try and keep me safe. And he had it on his jacket for 20 years before he gave it to me. So I was very sad when I lost it.

So I'll quickly read you the poem. I like to think-- I was riding through the national park when I lost it. So I like to think that maybe another motorcyclist has it on their jacket. And maybe this pin is being kept safe by another motorcyclist. So this piece is called Manx, and it's dedicated to my dad.

Allow another to hold you now, tender like the hands mine were cut from, and homely like the returning of your journeys. Permit another to guard you, to regift you a promise of safe passage. And when they wrap you in leather, stay close to the curious heart within. Promise you'll fuel their adventures with a pair just as you have mine.

So now that we've seen what different poetry can look like, we're going to write some of our own poetry. But before we do, I've brought today just a few different objects so you might think about which object you're going to write about, because maybe you weren't really sure yet. So you've seen my Manx cat badge. But perhaps it's a scarf that was given to you by somebody very dear. So I've got a scarf. We have a mug here today, as well, a very generously donated Book Fest mug. We love Book Fest. There's also books. So I brought along my writing journal today. I always have some kind of book with me that I write in while I'm on the train. Maybe it's a book by somebody that you admire. Maybe it's a book that you love to read. Perhaps a wallet, or a watch. It might be a bracelet. Or even something as extravagant as a drone. Lots of our different writers in the past have written about different gaming things. So perhaps you might be writing about your console controller or something like that.

I want you to take your object now and put it in your hand. And if you don't have your object or if you're writing about a group object, I want you to just think that you're holding it in your hand. You might close your eyes. And I want you to think, how heavy does it feel in your hand? And what is the texture of the object you're holding? Is it smooth? Is it rough? And can you picture the person that gave it to you and see their face in your mind now? And can you imagine how you would feel if you lost it, because losing an object like that is very sad? And where would you keep it safe? If you were going to put that object somewhere safe, where might you keep your object?

OK. Now that we have an idea of the importance of our objects and their textures and what they look like, we're actually going to turn to the drawing page in your book now. So if you can grab-- if you don't have the booklet with you, that's all right, just grab a pencil and a piece of paper. And I want you to turn to this Draw Your Object page, and in just two minutes, we're just really quickly going to draw a picture of our object.

Watch all of you do all your drawings. So can you please hold your drawing up under your chin. I want to see them now. So quickly hold your drawing up. Let's see some of those beautiful drawings of our special objects. They're magnificent. You guys are amazing.

OK. So now that we have a really good idea of what our objects look like, how they feel in our hands, why they're important, we're going to write a six word story. Because poetry is really like a very short story. So to give you an example-- and if you have a booklet in front of you, you can turn to the Six Word Story Page-- My six word story, because I lost my object, says, Manx cat, well-travelled, sadly missed. So you can get a sense that I'm missing this object. I wonder if you can write your own six word story now. And if you're finding that a little bit tricky, you can just write 10 adjectives. And if you write 10 and you're done, make sure you write 20 adjectives to describe your object. If you're in kindergarten, year one, or year two, you're going to help your teacher to write some descriptive words about one object within your classroom. So for the next couple of activities, you are just going to focus on one object in your classroom. So the teacher will pick one. And if you're in those older years, perhaps in high school, you might write a few six word stories, or maybe put in some imagery, assonance, alliteration, personification, into your six word stories.

So we'll bring up the image now of that shape, so you know which one we're up to. And if you're just working from a blank page, that's fine, too. Can you write a six word story or lots of adjectives to describe yours? We have five minutes for this activity.

Amazing. Thank you so much for your time on that one. I gave a little shout out to a few schools that are working really well. At the moment, I can only say 16 schools on my screen. And we have 140. So if I haven't given a shout out to your school, it doesn't mean that you're not doing a great job. I'm sure you are. And please make sure you send through those six word stories and your drawings later.

The next activity we're going to do is a collaborative or group poem. And for a collaborative poem, if you have 20 people in your classroom right now, your poem will have 20 lines, because every person in the room contributes one line to a group poem. And then the whole poem is read in entirety. So you're going to write about one single object for this one, too. So one object in your classroom that your teacher has chosen. Every person is going to write one line. And if you turn in to your books now for the Collaborative Poem Page, you'll say that you can write a simile for all of those kids who are in kindergarten all the way up until year four or five. And then if you're older than that, if you're in year four, or if you're a really [? tricky ?] year four student, and you'd like to have a go writing metaphors, maybe some assonance, alliteration, personification, or imagery, then you can write your one line with those different poetic techniques embedded.

But if you want to know more about a simile, a simile just compares one thing to another. So when we were looking at my badge before, you could say that it's black, it's a black badge. And we might say that it was black like the night without a moon. So we don't just leave it at black like the night, we extend our similes, and I'm looking to see how many people can extend this similes and really embed those poetic techniques into a group poem. So that's what we're working on next. We have five minutes for this activity, too. And then we're going to talk about our whole poem that you're going to submit for Poetry Object. So working on that activity now. And we're just going to bring up on the screen so you can see which sheet in the workbook we're up to. And we've got five minutes. Off we go.

Thank you so much for contributing your collaborative poems. I've been watching you on screen and seeing everybody contributing, raising their hands, and sharing either a simile, a metaphor, maybe another poetic technique, one line for a collaborative group poem. And if you'd like to share your collaborative group poems with us, please hashtag theredroomcompany or redroompoetry, and also bookfest2017, and also NewSouthWalesPremiersReadingChallenge, because we'd love to see them. And actually, I've seen our Twitter very quickly, and Croydon Park Public School, a big shout out to you for your six word story that you posted on Twitter-- You left and then you appeared, with a beautiful drawing, and also with your chain, so thank you for sharing. And if you'd like to share yours, too, please jump on Twitter, share them on Facebook, send them to us on email at education at

Next, we're going to talk about how you can actually contribute your poem to Poetry Object. So, if you turn to the final page in your books, you'll see that there's a 20 line poem, template ready to go for you. So for Poetry Object, you don't have to write 20 lines, but if you do, that's fantastic. Up to 20 lines about your object. And these are poems that can include all of those techniques we've been talking about today. So, simile, metaphor, assonance, alliteration, personification. I'm not sure if I said imagery. But we'd love to hear some great descriptions of your object. But see if when you write your object, you can maybe put the title as the name of your object, but see if you can not refer to it in the actual poem itself. So the title of my poem is Manx, but in nowhere in my poem do I say that it is a Manx cat badge. I wonder if you can write a poem just like that for yourself.

All of our poems need to be entered to The Red Room Company by the 22nd of September. If you'd like to go in the running to win a prize, to have your poetry published on trains this year, please make sure that you have your poems to us by September the 22nd. And you'll also have to have your teacher register your school online. So if you haven't registered yet, please make sure you jump on The Red Room Poetry Poetry Object web site and register your school. And there's links in the booklet, too, so if you've already seen it, please make sure you do that.

Lastly, I'd just like to throw out a big thank you. So I've got a screen that's got our thank yous on it. But I'd also like to say especially thank you to the New South Wales Premier's Reading Challenge for having us here as a part of Book Fest 2017. We would love to be involved in Book Fest again. And what an incredibly well-organised and planned out session it has been. And just to have a book fest that's entirely online, to me, is incredible. So thank you for the invitation.

Also, a big thanks to all of our Aboriginal poets that contributed to the learning resource. And to all of our 140 schools and all of the people that are streaming online. And a big shout out to my colleague, Christi, who gave us a little Twitter shout out earlier, too. So thank you for watching back in the office, as well. And thanks to [? posh. ?]

- Thank you so much, Kirli. Thank you, Red Room. And thank you to the students and amazing teachers who have participated in the session. This was a bit of a groundbreaking session for us, and we really hope you enjoyed it. We also hope you can go away and create some incredible poems. I know that I'm feeling really, really inspired.

Don't forget tomorrow, we've got some incredible guests for day three of Book Fest. We've got Aaron [? blabi, ?] [? mim fox, ?] Jackie French. The list goes on. Even a very special person by the name of Yvette Poshoglian, she will be appearing tomorrow. Anyway, that's my one and only shout out for me. But right now, I want to see you give some absolute love for Kirli Saunders and her poetry. We're watching you right now. Show us the love. Give Kirli a massive clap, a wave, a cheer, a dance, however you want to express yourself. Kirli's looking at the screen right now and she'd love to hear that from you. Well done, everyone. Congratulations on your poems. And keep on reading and writing, everyone. Till then, bye.

End of transcript