genii loci

The Poetry and Writing of Lou Smith


I’m extremely excited to have my first collection of poetry riversalt forthcoming through Flying Islands Books, an imprint of ASM (Macao) and Cerberus Press (Markwell, NSW), in their Pocket Poets Series edited by Christopher (Kit) Kelen.

Weaving stories of migration, colonisation, and diaspora, riversalt follows my own family’s patterns of migrations from North Wales, England, and Jamaica, to Newcastle, Australia, where I grew up. Inspired by all manner of things including literature, science, personal stories, folklore, and artworks, in the poems we journey through these locations on foot, by car, boat and by plane. The poems in riversalt are both personal and historical, contemplating notions of memory, ‘home’, and belonging, in a meditation on the meaning of ‘place’.

Thanks so much to Tim Ungaro for creating the awesome cover collage from maps of my hometown of Newcastle, NSW, and Rahima Hayes for taking the author photograph so early in the morning!



Older Poems (#4)

She is there
near as a mirage is near
present, as a ghost is present
her voice
lilts and sways, laces
between words,
between the phrase and
Jack and Jill went up the hill
to fetch a pail of …
the flutter of moth wings
between light and shadow
nectar and sky
her voice
resounding there
between words
by her Grandchild
English nursery rhymes


Published in SWAMP. Issue #01. 2008.


On Walking to See the Exhibition London, Sugar & Slavery

Cobbles blue and bruising, laneways carry history on their backs. Following the tourist walk through twisting East End streets, the imprint of feet in roads sloped and sunken. The guidebook doesn’t describe the discordance, the bitterness at the back of the throat. Rats squeaking, flesh and bone and blood seeped in.

At Docklands, across from business people sipping Pino Gris, I watch cranes lifting and balancing, filling spaces, girls lying on grass in their bikinis under golden summer sun.

From West India Docks ships came and went, came and went, came and went. Cargo of rum’s sticky syrup, hulls glued with blood


Published in EnterText. “Special Issue on Caribbean Literature and Culture: ‘Opening Out the Way(s) to the Future,’” Sandra Courtman and Wendy Knepper, Eds. 10 (2013): 92.


IMG_2395 IMG_2397



Older Poems (#3)

Setting Sail

Sports on deck
quoits and rounders,
to prepare you for English life,
holidays at Brighton
on pebbled beaches

and there
next to you
smoking his pipe,
his boater shading the
familiar sun,
stood Grandad
leading you
to your new home.

Columbus sailed this sea,
thinking he was in Japan,
thinking he was in Cathay,
thinking he was anywhere
but here.

And in the sea
you saw the sky,
intense, endless blue
ripples of cloud
skimming the water’s surface,
the sea, where in 1494, mermaids sang
and led sailors astray.

Staff Sergeant Butcher
posted back to London
left Jamaica with you that day,
the year 1930,
the year you married
at the Scots Church in Kingston,
the year before my mother was born
in London, England
and your mother was already in her grave.


Published in Mascara Literary Review. Issue 3, March 2008


Brunswick. January. 35 Degrees

Behind each eyelid,
a mirage,
having entered
a dark room from light
ripple from tar to sky
illusion of narrowness
up ahead
on this road of hookah cafes,
gaudy bridal shops,
and gilded Italian bedheads



Older Poems (#2)


The Great Maps of the World as Trodden by Foot

I wonder how many centuries of feeling are held in the grooves of the foot?
There once was a man who hadn’t worn shoes for seven years.
He trekked over mountains, and treaded desert powder
with the familiarity of an old friend,
the walking paths etched in his hardened skin.

I too must circumnavigate the earth.
I’ll unbuckle my shoes and walk barefoot
down the narrow city laneways
past the stencils of political tricksters,
navigating the labyrinths
where the concrete bumps and buckles
from the escaped roots of trees.
The hard, cool bluestone under my soles,
the Weeping Lovegrass tickling my toes.

Talus: the uppermost foot bone forming the ankle joint
with the tibia and fibula.

Calcaneus: the largest foot bone, forming the heel.
Formally known as the calcaneum or os calcis.

Navicular, sesamoid and cuboid bones: the first a little ship
navigating the footpaths of the world,
The second a small seed stuck between toes,
the third a cube: origin unknown.

Phalanges: the bones of the toes, two for the great toe
and three for the others.

They help connect the foot to the ground and the leg to the foot.
I must tread the earth carefully.
Walk barefoot.

Published in Invisible City.
Issue 5 Mapping. 9-10.
and with Tom Civil and Sherry Mclean
in Neopoetry: Poetry/Audio/Video AV Compilation,
curated by Rebecca Canon, 2004. 



Near-Spring in Brunswick

P1060016 P1060014