Recording with the ten poets for Rhyming the Dead has been a pleasure and privilege for me. Hearing the new poems has been wonderful, but even better for me has been listening to the personal stories of how these poets-now-passed have influenced each writer.
The breadth of different voices and styles of writing is something that really drew me to this project, with poets from all over the country reflecting on people as diverse as Judith Wright, Rimbaud and Tupac.
Having finished recording in Melbourne, wrapping up with Judith Rodriguez, Bella Li, Melody Paloma and Abe Nouk, I sat in a Fitzroy café and contemplated my own encounters with poetry and death. Curiously, both my grandmothers recently passed away within about a year of each other. They were separated by oceans, but still wrote each other carefully composed hand-written letters over many years – and both wrote poetry.
One grandmother wrote about life as a war bride, the experiences of discovering a new country and culture, and family life in suburban Melbourne and Sydney. The other mused over raising three tempestuous boys in Montreal, the lives of her beloved stars of the silver screen, desire and ageing.
Now my grandmothers are gone, but their words remain with me. I read them and I can see their faces, hear their voices. It is in this way that the words of the dead can reach us and imprint themselves upon our consciousness. Their visions and ideas can remain vital decades and centuries after the physical body expires, and they can remind us how to really live.
As Abe Nouk’s chosen poet Maya Angelou said, “Life is life and death is death, so I must be telling the truth when I speak.”
Maisie Cohen is the producer of the Rhyming The Dead Radio Series.
She is a filmmaker, radio producer and occasional writer from Sydney. Her five years working at ABC Radio Current Affairs have piqued an interest in journalism and documentary-making, and during her time there she’s produced a few shorter stories for broadcast, as well as a long form radio documentary for the Sounds of Summer Series on Radio National and ABC local radio.