riversalt is currently available from the publisher:
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]mail.com
Thanks for your support!
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:
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!
She is there
near as a mirage is near
present, as a ghost is present
lilts and sways, laces
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
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.
Sports on deck
quoits and rounders,
to prepare you for English life,
holidays at Brighton
on pebbled beaches
next to you
smoking his pipe,
his boater shading the
to your new home.
Columbus sailed this sea,
thinking he was in Japan,
thinking he was in Cathay,
thinking he was anywhere
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 dark room from light
ripple from tar to sky
illusion of narrowness
on this road of hookah cafes,
gaudy bridal shops,
and gilded Italian bedheads