Meet the 2024 POEM FOREST Editorial Interns


We are delighted to introduce you to Alisha Brown, Eartha Davis and Grace Roodenrys, who will be helping to publish thousands of poems as editorial interns for POEM FOREST this year. Read more about them in the interview below.

Tell us a bit more about yourself and your poetic practice.

Grace: I’m a writer and reader currently living on unceded Gadigal land. I grew up on Dharawal land in south-west Sydney. I’m interested in writing, reading and thinking about work that bridges the personal and political, or that uses the intimacy of the first-person lyric as a way into exploring much larger, more collective themes.

Alisha: I’m a poet, traveller, and indie folk musician. I was born on Kamilaroi Country in north-west NSW and currently live on unceded Gadigal land. I’m always fascinated by what we can discover simply by paying attention, and I love learning directly from the earth, the body, animals, insects, and the seasons. My work is all about finding paths to magic, and leading others there through words or song.

Eartha: I am a woman of Ngāpuhi heritage currently living on Wurundjeri land. My heart lies in Aotearoa and Alba, tucked softly beside the mountains and rivers. Poetry is the pulse of my creative practice. I firmly believe that everything is a poem; all the feathers, all the trees. As such, all creative work I do flows gently back into poetry. I write about reanimation, a return to the self and body, a rekindling of joy, wildness, and singing. I write about the way Earth can hold our hands, salve our wounds, and lead us tenderly back to ourselves.

Can you tell us a bit about what makes you excited to be involved with Red Room Poetry and POEM FOREST?

Alisha: I really admire the way that Red Room advocates for poetry in a society that doesn’t necessarily place a high importance on the arts. I think it’s quite unique to have a national non-profit organisation, independent of government or institution, devoted to elevating poetic voices (particularly those from marginalised communities) and encouraging poetry as a rich and relevant mode of expression. The POEM FOREST project also spoke to me because it’s so beautiful that children can make a tangible, positive impact on the earth simply by being creative.

Eartha: When I first heard about the POEM FOREST project, my heart danced with joy. Inciting climate action through poetry, honouring the deep wisdom of children, championing kindness and healing – what magic! I have long been in awe of all that Red Room fosters in the world, but this project especially spoke to me. It so beautifully illuminates how poetry can breathe spirit back into our planet, our crying world, and remind us that we must live with the Earth, not against her. For me, this project holds all that we must work towards: a deeper connection with nature, our young people, and our own hearts (which are one and the same).

Grace: Poetry can be a really elitist form, and I think Red Room does a wonderful job of countering this. I love that POEM FOREST is letting young people know that we – adults, the world, whoever – want to read their nature poems. I’ve also taught English to primary and high school students for a few years and the thing is, I do want to read their nature poems. Kids have a habit of using language in a way that is so bizarre and surprising. I’ve been a bit obsessed with the strange music of The koala rescue by Alice R, Year 6, for this reason.

What is it you look for when reading – and judging – a poem?

Eartha: When reading and judging a poem, I am searching for aliveness, a burst of music, a voice that pulses with passion and presence. A good nature poem, in my eyes, is one that sings, that honours the Earth and asks us to do the same. It is one that reminds us of our humanity. I often think of the words of poet Zbigniew Herbet – poetry wakes us up. And, with equal passion, those of Alistair Nuar: poetry must “return [us], open-eyed, to wakefulness.” I am looking for poems that recover our seeing; poems that remind us to live loud, to live tenderly, and to cast our eyes up to the sky, where magic swirls in the shape of birds.

Grace: Speaking of Alice R’s poem, I would say it’s strangeness I’m looking for. I think a lot about what John Kinsella and Forrest Gander call “our increasingly standardised, utilitarian language practices” – standardised language leads to standardised or habitual perception, and that’s when we fail to see the world clearly, and empathy or encounter are blocked. Poetry should startle us out of this by making the language strange again. At the same time, a good line tends to arrive with a sense of familiarity, even inevitability, as if it’s articulating something you’ve always expected to hear. I think this has to do with the unconscious, and also the body – with how much of our experience is felt but never put into language.

Alisha: I look for a poem that is visceral: tingles, texture, a rush of blood or energy. For me, good poetry elicits a strong felt experience. Of course, I look for well-crafted poems with unique and precise language use, and poems that exercise creativity and discernment, but ultimately, I desire a somatic experience. I love poetry as a gateway to the wordless – poetry that invites us into a new shade of empathy.

Where can we read your work, and what are you working on right now?

Alisha: I’ve been published in various Australian and international literary journals, including Westerly, Griffith Review, Cordite, the Australian Poetry Anthology, Fine Print Magazine, Glassworks, Humana Obscura, and Blue Bottle Journal. One of my poems was recently voiced by Margaret Throsby and made into a podcast episode. You can also listen to a poem of mine that was recorded for the South Coast Poets Out Loud audio project. I’m currently working on a final round of edits for my debut poetry manuscript (which is spread all over the floor and covered in indecipherable scribbles) while also slowly piecing together an EP of original music.

Eartha: You can find my work scattered across various journals, including Wildness, Rabbit, Minarets, takahē, Frozen Sea, Revolute, South Florida Poetry Journal, JMWW, LEON Literary Review, Discretionary Love, Where the Meadows Reside, the Spellbinder Magazine, Modron, Arboreal Magazine, the Basilisk Tree, the Stirling Review, the engine-idling, ELJ Editions and Baby Teeth Journal. I am currently finalising a chapbook called beinn, màthair (Scots-Gaelic for mountain, mother), in which a woman unveils her grief to a mountain. I am also editing a full-length collection titled Nwyfre (Welsh for ‘earth joy’), inspired by Celtic philosophy and an ancient forest alphabet, and trying to write a play set in the deep, bark-furred womb of a tree.

Grace: Sadly I’m thinking mostly about my masters dissertation at the moment, along with a PhD proposal I’m hoping to submit at the end of the year! Otherwise, I’m trying to publish a paper or two and revisit some unfinished poems. I’ve also been thinking about representations of the home in recent Australian poetry – I’m reading Kate Fagan's Song in the Grass quite closely for this, as well as Tracy Ryan’s Rose Interior. You can find my poems or reviews in (or forthcoming in) Plumwood Mountain, EcoTheo, Riverstone and the anthology Ghost Cities, where I feature alongside some brilliant emerging writers out of western Sydney.

Alisha Brown is a poet and musician born on Kamilaroi land. She won the 2022 Joyce Parkes Women’s Writing Prize, placed second in the 2021 Woorilla Poetry Prize, and was Highly Commended for the 2024 South Coast Writers Centre Poetry Award. You can find her work in Westerly, Griffith Review, Cordite, the Australian Poetry Anthology, Glassworks, Humana Obscura, and Blue Bottle Journal, among others.

Eartha is a woman of Ngāpuhi and Scottish heritage living on Wurundjeri land. She placed second in the 2022 Woorilla Poetry Prize Youth Section, was nominated for The Best of the Net Award in 2023, and was shortlisted for the 2024 Creative Writing New Zealand’s Short Story Prize. Her work is published or forthcoming in Wildness, Rabbit, takahē, Frozen Sea, Minarets, Modron, Baby Teeth Journal, Revolute, South Florida Poetry Journal, JMWW, LEON Literary Review, ELJ Editions, and Arboreal Magazine, among others. She is a poetry editor at three journals and dreams of mountains.

Grace is a writer and researcher living and working on Gadigal land. She has a Bachelor of Arts with honours in English from the University of Sydney and is an incoming Masters student at the University of Oxford. In 2021 she was a member of Western Sydney University's The Writing Zone program, and her poems or reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in Plumwood Mountain, EcoTheo, Riverstone and the anthology, Ghost Cities: New Writing from Western Sydney. She is currently a director at Foster the Future, a not-for-profit working with primary and high school students in out-of-home care.