Friday, November 15, 2019

Wild Fridays: I Wish I'd Written This

This is the Place 
by Christine Strelan

Do please click on the (short) video before scrolling down to read the text! Christine's delivery is clear and beautiful, and should be your first experience of the poem.

The poem itself is clear and beautiful, and is from her latest book, electric lady lands, published 2015.

When (in late 1994) I first came to live in the Mt Warning caldera, in the sub-tropical Northern Rivers region of NSW, Australia, I discovered two of Christine's poetry books in a wonderful pottery (so it was named) which stocked not only stunning pottery but all manner of other works by local artists, including books.

A quick glance inside the covers of Christine's books and I was hooked, and bought them on the spot. I've acquired others since, over the years, the latest at a recent poetry reading where I was lucky enough to hear her perform this piece and several others. 

She also writes fiction, and self-publishes her work in paperback. Inside this latest book, we are told:

For enquiries or mail order, contact 
Christine Strelan at 
P.O. Box 536
Nimbin NSW 2480

This modest marketing and the fact that she is a rather private person (who did not wish personal details included in this post) has led, I think, to her being much less celebrated than she deserves. I think she's one of the best poets in Australia but I have the impression she is not widely known, even in poetry circles – 
except locally, where she frequently participates in spoken word events and is justly admired. 

Her work is varied. It can be bitingly satirical, gently humorous, passionately romantic ... or several of these at the same time.

I love the beauty of 'This is the Place' – not least because I live in the same region, though not quite so deep in the bush as the poem suggests she might. The place she is celebrating is clearly very specific, not the Northern Rivers as a whole so much as her particular corner of it.

Still, I have a number of friends here who do live more rurally than me, am well acquainted with those environments, and can relate very much to her love for this part of the world. I frequently ask myself rhetorically, 'Why would anyone ever want to live anywhere else?' 

Here is the text of the poem, for those who like to see things written down:

This is The Place

Is this the place
in the sink of the valley
on the banks of the creek
by the curve of the caldera
where rain pools like ichor
under a shining web of leaves?
This is the place.

Is this the place
where thick spring mist crouches
through the night and does not depart
till dawn finds every green thing
drenched in its residue
and dirt dents like a sponge underfoot?
This is the place.

Is this the place
where palms spread their scissor-hands
beside glistening lilli pilli
and the earth's grass fur hackles
rise and fall as I pass,
bamboo bows like shaggy monks at matins
and the fig is queen of a ravine
the machine never reached?
This is the place.

Is this the place
where hoop pine hide curls like a
gilded manuscript tinted in blood
while I work my way through
the paperbark scriptorium
learning the language of the birds
and persuading acacias to spill their secrets?
This is the place.

Is this the place
where I sieve spirit crossing the creek
seized and pierced by
an iron maiden of ether?
All life takes refuge in a single space.
This is the place.

Copyright © Christine Strelan 2015

Note: As this post goes live, the devastating bushfires in several surrounding regions are coming close enough to be threatening to parts of the beautiful Northern Rivers, and we have had a thick smoke haze on all horizons for days. So far we are luckier than many others.

Christine tells me she herself is well out of danger; not so sure about her place.

Material shared in this post is presented for study and review. Poems, photos, and other writings and images remain the property of the copyright owners, usually the authors.


  1. Thank you Christine and Rosemary. I enjoyed the performance video very much and relived the poem in my own reading. I love the aboriginal names of plants like lilli pilli and hoop pine, and the unfamiliar landscapes described in the poem. I shall look out for more of Christine's poems.

    1. Thanks, Kim. Good to know the poem also works well for those who are unfamiliar with the landscape and vegetation described.

  2. I am very worried about the fires.........Venice is underwater, three continents are burning, and polar bears are struggling as the ice under their feet melts. That aside, this poem resonates with me, needless to say, as I feel the same way about the place in which I find myself, where I belong. Her writing is so beautiful. How wonderful that you get to hear her perform live. There are some poets in my village that I feel the same about, pinching myself that I get to read on the same platforms. I loved this, Rosemary.

    1. There are so many wonderful poems of hers I could have chosen, but in the end it was this one for just those reasons – its beauty, and the love of place, and indeed of the planet.

  3. I really love the last stanza of the poem, especially this line: "All life takes refuge in a single space." Such important implications. The good we would be able to do--and the bad we would be able to avoid--if we remember those words.

  4. I truly love that last frame of "This is the Place" and how the poet builds to it--both in text and location. Oh! Thanks for the text. She has a wise vision. Does she blog somewhere?

    1. Alas, no. She's very much the spoken word poet, and wonderful at it as you've seen. But she tells me she knows nothing of the online poetry world, and although she is on facebook she doesn't use it often, and not for sharing her poems.

  5. Nice find, Rosemary. I can tell that Christine has indeed found her place. I looked it up, she is just a bit south of Brisbane. We've only been as far north as Sydney. I'm sure know those names, but the palm is the only one familiar to me. Her places and adornments have such pretty sounds.
    An aside, but I am on sabbatical until the second week of December or so. I might sneak a write to post or two before and will read. My other active blog on Fridays is running the alphabet and I'd like to post that if I can.
    Thank you again for introducing so nice a writer as Christine.

    1. Well, she and I are both 'a bit south of Brisbane', but she's more inland than me.

      Enjoy your sabbatical, dear Jim!

  6. Beautiful … a stunning piece of poetry … and the reading was wonderful.

    And yes, the global devastation occurring all over the planet is so wrong - and beyond distressing. How much longer can these huge aberrant deviations continue, before we reach the point of no return? I certainly hope that they are able to contain the fires in your part of the world very soon. It must be chilling looking out on that haze of smoke on the horizon.

    1. People where I am have pretty much stopped mentioning it; it's a huge presence, day after day, but there's nothing useful that can be said. The thicker it is, the worse we know thing are for people not too far away. (It's very thick today.)


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