Walk Back Over (Cordite Books, 2018) – Dr Jeanine Leanne, Senior Lecturer
Aboriginal women are the great gatherers of many things – food, of course, but also stories and inner strength. The women who raised me had vast reserves of inner strength, and to pass that on was a powerful act of activism. In particular, they taught me to listen to the past as it speaks in the present.
This work is about listening to the past and walking back over it, step after step, to see what you missed the first time. It speaks to what has been left out of official records, recordings and documents – the emotions, the other sides of paper – and what is not said. These poems engage with the ongoing, interventionist nation-state and the crime scene that is Australia in the lives of Aboriginal people. In contrast to state archives, museums, libraries, universities and collection agencies – and their methods of ‘recording the lives’ of Aboriginal people – my work explores the body where memories are stored as an archive; anchored and etched. Writing is an act of remembering a dismembered past.
The title Walk Back Over alludes to a bridge across the Murrumbidgee River where I grew up but, more symbolically, mirrors the need to revisit our past. Much was made of the 2000 Reconciliation Walk across Sydney Harbour Bridge – many settler Australians walked across this and other bridges, and I am not cynical about that – but there are many other spans in Australia that must be walked: not just once, walked back over.