Charmaine Bundanon 6.png


Nyinda Barndi,

Firstly, like to pay my respects to my ancestors who hold me from the Yamaji Nation and secondly I would like to acknowledge and pay my respects to the Wodi Wodi and Yuin ancestors and traditional owners of the land I visited for the fellowship residency.

This text offers my short Red Room Poetry fellowship reflection “Jugarnu Wangga Migamanmanha” literature journey, including a 2-week Bundanon writers residency, school student poetry workshop and resulting suite of fellowship poems. I was totally exhausted by life when I had arrived at Bundanon writers cottage in the company of younger Yamaji poet my cousin sister Yungaji (Debbie). I will just drop in here that Bundanon is 4,211kms one way journey (2 planes, 3 airports and a road trip) from our home in Geraldton Western Australia, so that was quite a hike. The Red Room Poetry Fellowship provided valuable respite from the daily grind of Western Australian rural life. A space we Yamaji women have to navigate everyday through the stressful fog of living in the cultural interface where our existence is challenged at every corner. We are strong Yamaji women, but we are exhausted and wanting to write poems and our truths is challenging. So being gently pushed back into the writing world surrounded by forests, fields of wombats and kangaroos in daily bush life conversations came at exactly the right time.

Can you tell us about your experience writing in residence at Bundanon?

Decolonising this fellowship literature experience “Jugarnu Wangga Migamanmanha” encompassed a Yamaji holistic approach of understanding that ‘everything is connected’ and reminding outsiders that ‘everything is connected’. My fellowship focus could not just be on the crafting of a suite of fellowship new poems, all aspects of this literature journey was examined. A lot of thought was given to the Fellowship and the Bundanon writers residency from a Yamaji cultural and spiritual position, taking into consideration (a) An older Yamaji woman heading onto someone else’s traditional country alone to write; (b) A welcome to country ceremony was needed; (d) who was going to tell me where it was culturally safe /unsafe on the property and lastly (c) what would decolonising this literature experience look like?

Decolonising aspects included privileging Yamaji cultural knowledge (beliefs and values), taking a writing family member on the residency, requesting a “Welcome To Country” upon arrival at the residency, applying the cento poetry method using my own poems and Yamaji ways, weaving my Yamaji languages Wajarri and Badimaya into the new poems.

Bundanon reminded me of the movies (maybe I should stop watching Netflix) where writers go deep into the woods to beautiful, secluded locations to unwind, focus and write. I definitely would not have been comfortable on my own in this beautiful, isolated off country space but with my sister cousin we settled into the writers cottage eating nice healthy soups , writing wombat poems and yarning with the locals hearing the stories about the property . The weather was perfect, and I delved into my 37 years of published poems searching for lines to weave together, which was an exciting process reading and rereading older poems. I will write about this process more in the future to share my thoughts in depth.

I was very surprised to learn that “Welcome to Country” ceremony was not offered to others in resident at Bundanon. In fact, the three artists in resident became upset when we told them of our beautiful cultural experience on the first night with a traditional owner. They suggested the ceremony should be made available to everyone visiting Bundanon. I am not sure why this important ceremony isn’t offered; the ceremony was important for us two Yamaji women to feel safe and welcomed off-country. We were very grateful to Nicole from Red Room Poetry for organising the ceremony and creating a culturally secure safe space and from the very first day.

Who are you inspired by?

I am inspired by many of our First Nation writers and poets of all age groups across Australia. The younger writers have amazing energy and access to more literature opportunities than my generation to continue telling First Nation narratives and truth telling. This Fellowship was inspired by an Australian poet who introduced me to the cento poetry form, I was kind of shocked that writers took lines from other writers poems to create a new poem. What was this? Being creatively lazy? stealing lines? As a Yamaji writer I felt somewhat shame about even considering using this poetry method although the idea of weaving lines into a new poem was very appealing. The idea of decolonising this western poetry method was appealing and an integral part of my fellowship project. Additionally, I am forever inspired by the collective literature energy of the First Nation Aboriginal Writers Network, Yirra Yaakin Writers Initiative, and all the other similar collective programs around this big country of many traditional countries.

What is something you are curious about in your practice at the moment?

There is something that I am curious about in my practice at the moment and that is the process of typesetting for poetry, especially for spacing and weaving words into a poem. The importance of what a poem looks like in published form is just as important as writing the poem and offering it to the world. In Bundanon I spent many hours on my laptop exploring how to weave Yamaji words (Wajarri and Badimaya) into cento poems. I didn’t win with my basic computer skills to weave Yamaji and English words in the way that I wanted. I will continue to explore how to weave the Yamaji words like patchwork through my poetry, or perhaps hand that headache to the experienced typesetters.

Do you have any special writing rituals?

I don’t have any special writing rituals except I do like to be alone when writing in safe and comfortable spaces. This could be alone at home in the quiet with just birdsongs in the background or alone in a busy café drinking coffee or enjoying a cuppa with words, dreams and poems.

Can you share any advice for emerging poets?

The only advice I have for emerging poets is to write consistently, believe in your narrative and truth telling , and don’t give up.

Can you share a writing prompt?

What is a poem if it does not extend our spiritual, cultural, emotional and physical connection and energy to the hearts, eyes, ears, minds and spirit of those within reach.

The rivers and sand dunes write across country everyday. What will be your offering to country? A poem, a line, a mark, a feeling on country, in country, for country!

Urdama ! See You Later

Below are a suite of poems from Charmaine's project Jugarnu Wangga Migamanmanha (Older woman making talk), which she worked on while in residence at Bundanon, on Wodi Wodi and Yuin Country.