genii loci

The Poetry and Writing of Lou Smith

Poems in ‘Interviewing the Caribbean’

Part 1 of the latest issue of Interviewing the Caribbean, ‘A History of Violence: The Making of Caribbean Society’ is now available. Four of my poems appear in this issue. It is an honour to be in the company of such magnificent Caribbean writers and artists as Kendal Hippolyte, Merle Collins, Devorah Major, Opal Palmer Adisa, Gillian Mapp, Lelawattee Manoo-Rahming, Robin Clare, Teju Adisa-Farrar and many, many more. Thank you to editor Opal Palmer Adisa for putting together such a rich and thought-provoking issue.

As the title of the journal suggests, I have also been interviewed by editor Opal Palmer Adisa. The journal is available to purchase on MagCloud:



Slow Journey

It is the small things
translucent snail
fits perfectly between
forefinger and thumb
slow-journeying across
the brickwork
torrents of rain sliding
off its shell
(memory of gerbera
stems soft as fur)
snails were my guardians
then, shell-swags
full-to-brim with teapots,
books and leathermans.
In my deep bones
I know they protect me
stalked eyes roaming,
household deities


Newcastle Launch of ‘riversalt’

A huge thank you to everyone who came to the Newcastle launch of my book riversalt at The Press Book House. It was a really special night. I’d especially like to thank the amazing Anwen Crawford for launching the book on the night and Murrie and Ivy at the wonderful Press Book House.



You can read about the event in this article by Melinda McMillan in the Newcastle Star

Today’s Small Poem

The laptop
bane of a cat’s

The Listening Room Presents: Hearts on Fire

I’m excited to be reading poetry at this awesome night of performance: Wednesday May 25th 2016, 7pm-10pm at The Wetlands Studios, 623 Sydney Rd, Brunswick, Victoria. Hope to see you there!


The Listening Room Presents: Hearts on Fire

Third time lucky! You saw it here first! A gig to remember and not to be missed! In a community of incredible artists extraordinary beauty is inevitable!


Abbey Howlett
So Phia
Flaux Pas
Shanna Watson
Essie Thomas
Lou Smith
Cara Fox

Artwork by Sha Gaze

Yes it is the monthly soul fire exploration hours. Second and last Wednesdays of every month. This one falls on the twenty fifth day of May. Auspicious as.

Come down.




Road Trippin


Where to Buy ‘riversalt’

riversalt is currently available from the publisher:
Flying Islands Pocket Books of Poetry

As well as these fine bookshops:
Brunswick Bound, 361 Sydney Rd Brunswick, Melbourne;
Brunswick Street Bookstore, 305 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne;
Collected Works Bookshop, 1/37 Swanston St, Melbourne VIC 3000;
The Press Book House, 462 Hunter St, Newcastle;
online through MacLean’s Booksellers Newcastle:
and Gleebooks, 49 Glebe Point Rd, Glebe, Sydney.

Keep an eye on this blog for further shops to be announced…

Or email me if you would like to buy a copy directly (AUD$10.00 plus postage): lou-smith[at]

Thanks for your support!


Anwen Crawford on ‘riversalt’

Lou Smith’s riversalt is a thoughtfully intense, and an intensely thoughtful, collection of work. Thoughtfulness and intensity both inhere in the very form of these poems: short lines, which feel the length of a short breath, bring a reader to the gradual awareness of “wounds carved/deep/and bloody” (‘The Sadness’.) These “wounds” are the wounds of history; of slavery, colonialism, industrial revolution, migration — intersecting, crosshatched, scored across bodies and earth. riversalt is truly a work of postcolonial literature, in its attention to the forces which have scattered (and continue to scatter) history’s human actors across the earth.

The poems in this collection take place in Newcastle, Australia; in the valleys of Wales; in the forests and shanty towns of Jamaica. These locations, Smith tells us, are the sites of her own family history. Family figures occur and recur: parents, uncles, grandparents, great-grandparents and beyond, the generations recessing into shadow. Like shadows — like Smith’s own shadow, which, as she describes it ‘The Follower’, is “a dark mass,/an eyelash smudging my vision” — the boundaries of these ancestors are indeterminate. Histories and sites overlap.

Grandma Smith’s father was from the Vale of Clwyd, in Wales (‘The Mines’). Later generations of Smiths worked in and around the steelworks of New South Wales, where towns and collieries were named after their Welsh antecedents. Though colonial settlers possessed the power to (re)name this land, there was nothing “new” about it. Awabakal people had already named part of the land around the Coquon (Hunter) river “Tirrikiba-place of fire” (‘In Sea Fog’). Later, these lands would become the site of the Newcastle Steelworks. So the wounds of colonialism and industrialisation are repeated upon the lands, from Wales to New South Wales, and are repeated upon the people who inhabit the lands.

Bodies of water also recur in Smith’s poems, the collection’s title, riversalt, giving a reader their first clue as to the importance of water imagery in Smith’s poetics. Over and again, the speaker of these poems speak to us from the water, or speaks to the water. Though a location is sometimes identifiable — a Newcastle beach, for instance, or a Jamaican harbour — this is not always so. Water is a border (“I’m weaving knowledge/of your migration” writes Smith of an ancestor who crossed oceans in ‘Migration’), but it also dissolves borders, makes nonsense of them, for who can lay claim to the sea? Perhaps only the plants and animals can, like the “little terns” of ‘Sea Horizon’, which “formed their V/under clouds the shape of fishbone”. The speaker of ‘Sea Horizon’ can only draw a line (another border, another boundary, “it was in my head”), but the birds can confound the line.

By the time that riversalt winds to its concluding poem, ‘In Sea Fog’, we have voyaged with Smith through many places, and we are voyaging still; “the river flowed on strong,” she writes, “to the sacred songs of tel-moon”, a native woodpecker. riversalt, too, is a flowing and song-like book, and one which I do not  hesitate to recommend.


For more of Anwen’s words: