This is a reflective short offering on my collaborative poetry journey over the past four months with Erromangan writer Anna Taupa from Vanuatu in the Southwest Pacific Ocean .

We agreed quite early on in our yarning that we would weave our words through the poetry method of ‘call and response’ . I am very familiar with this method and it is very much aligned with our acceptable form of communication ‘yarning’. I came into this collaboration with a level of excitement and some apprehension . My excitement was around this unique opportunity to word weave with a female sister from Vanuatu. Some apprehension crept in with thoughts such as “ what if Anna doesn’t like the call and response method?” , “will we connect and word weave ?”, this disappeared very quickly once we started yarning and word weaving.

To start our word weaving a poetic call was made to Anna “… the grass has softly been placed on the mother earth close to our large sitting ready to weave our words” . Anna accepted this invitation in her first response by bringing us together into the same space “ Charmaine, we share the same sky , the same constellations, the Southern Cross speaking us home “.

We were able to build a sense of female Indigenous solidarity by yarning through emails , Zoom and WhatsApp sharing cultural knowledge and revealing our cultural selves . During NAIDOC Week 2023 I shared with Anna images of emu eggs and kangaroo tails Yamaji cultural practices. Anna in turn shared cultural practice of harvesting yompon ( whitebait) and the kangaroo tail pictures evoked a response with a picture of neiyempen (sandalwood) with some history “ sandalwood is in our blood , a long tragic and traumatic past with a violent depopulation , but my brother is a major sandalwood producer and trader” . My father was a sandalwood contractor north of Mullewa in Western Australia and had to get a contract to harvest from country that once belonged to Yamaji people .These conversations took us both to the topic of the Australian Voice Referendum :

“Charmaine , I listen to your country’s debate about the Voice /and I reflect on the journey we all share/to respectfully reconcile the past with the present/I wish strength and courage for all your people/and for people everywhere to show solidarity “

Of which I responded :

“A voice that the land of the White Australia Policy cannot/ fully come to grips with and are confused about…”

Lastly, I am a poet holding quite good experience with the ‘call and response’ method and this particular collaboration strengthened my respect and love for this method of weaving words and allowing separate words , thoughts, sentences sing together to create a narrative for ourselves and others . Anna and I were about to create conversations and explore our thoughts and perspective whilst 5,550 kilometres apart . This is our colour of connection of Yamaji and Erromangan.