A New Review of Fire on Water in Tamba: A selection of poetry and prose


                           Book Review                

                                               Fire on Water by Colleen Keating

                                               Published by Ginninderra Press, 2017

   Winner of silver award for Poetry 2017 Nautilus Book Awards

Highly commended, Society of Women Writers Society Poetry Award 2018



Keating Cover

The poems of Colleen Keating are divided into seven sections, yet when I read Fire on Water the 84 poems came together, as if each  held a link to the other.

Darginyung, a short poem at the beginning drew me into anticipation of a follow up on the indigenous story and the understanding of that story by the poet, as evident with: 

the didgeridoo    its spirit/ circles the hollowed wood’.  In  forgotten warriors, in the section titled ‘Lie of the Land’  Colleen asks: is it a dark forgetting’ and the important question  ‘dare we disturb our complacency’.   Other poems on the subject make it clear that the poet is not complacent.

A meditation – in search of Hildegard of Bingen takes Colleen deep within herself to discover the presence felts so strongly amongst the ruins.  Not a cared-for monument but a place for a true pilgrim, rough, so personal to the writer, ending with joy, as: ‘her muddy hand-made sandals make me laugh’.   I didn’t read the back cover or the acknowledgements, to stay fresh for the poems, so that I would not be influenced in my responses, but it didn’t surprise me to find that in search of Hildegard of Bingen was a finalist in the Dame Mary Gilmore Award, for the 90th Anniversary of the Society of Women Writers, NSW 2016:  Hildegard is here/ I do not flinch I expect her’ 

I went to the internet to search. I found Hildegard and knew that the poem had already told me her story.

farewell beautiful home is written about a time of life- style change, where down-sizing is the next step.  Nostalgia, questioning, thoughts of the sounds of the surrounding bush and the: ‘conversation’ of each room in their family home of forty years .

As with many of the poems the last line is positive : ‘now space for a new story’.

The process of decluttering , the brutal choices of what to throw away, is shadowed by a sudden strange idea that the writer would ask nothing more of her poesy.    It wasn’t the first time.   In out of a black sea looking through her window into the darkness, Colleen: ‘questions the point of writing anymore’.    The sun then slowly rises and reaches out to her ‘with tiny blissful pieces of inspiration’ .   Doubts may creep in, but i can see and hope that there will always be new poems waiting to be revealed to Colleen Keating , that she can share with us all.

Reviewed by Helene Castles – Shepparton East Vic.

Summer 2018    Goulburn Valley Writers Group Inc.


Thank you Tamba and thank you Helen Castles for a very affirming Review. Your dedication to poetry and writers is very much appreciated.


VARUNA WRITERS’ HOUSE – Poetry Residential Masterclass

Poetry Residential Masterclass  VARUNA  WRITERS’ HOUSE



As I roll my car into the Varuna Writers Centre, a sense of tranquillity settles. 

Leaving a hot, busy, noisy city and winding my way up into the Blue Mountains is in itself for me, a meditative journey, even inhaling the mountain air is a reminder of what breathing is all about.  

My excitement hardly contained to have a one week writers residency. 

IMG_0212 IMG_0136

The poet Vanessa Kirkpatrick is our convenor for the week, with four other committed poets we look forward to an enriching, rewarding time of learning, writing and sharing. Vanessa shares three stimulating WORKSHOPS,  that make us think both of the structure and content of our poetry.  Having two sessions of ‘one on one’ with Vanessa crafting our words helps us step up to a new level.  Vanessa is so generous with her time and sharing her expertise.


For those who are not familiar with Varuna,  this Writers’ House was the home of Eleanor and Eric Dark,  who bought the land in 1923 and built their home over the next years with the piece de resistance  The Studio set in the garden built for Eleanor as her writing studio.

IMG_0040 2studio IMG_0003 IMG_0007my desk in studio for a week

Varuna is surrounded  by a mature rambling garden of a few acres in Cascade St near the beginning of the Katoomba Falls.

IMG_0028 2 IMG_0065 IMG_0035 2 IMG_0029 IMG_0157 IMG_0033


A bush walk takes you to a lookout to enjoy the falls and a vistas of The Three Sisters and the majesty and solitude of the Jamison Valley. The Scenic Skyway glides silently between cliff tops.


IMG_0203 IMG_0021

Eleanor was a  prolific writer and Eric was a medical doctor .



Eleanor is best known for her trilogy  The Timeless Land  which was on the School Curriculum for some years and which was made into an  ABC series   Her books:

The Timeless Land (1941) 

Storm of Time (1948) 

No Barrier (1953)    these 3  make up the trilogy

Slow Dawning  (1932) 

Prelude to Christopher  (1934)  

Return to Coolami   (1936)

Sun Across the Sky (1937) 

Waterway (1938) 

The Little Company (1945)

Lantana Lane (1959)



After their death, Mick Dark ( their son) established the house  as a Writers’  Centre in order to protect the land from possible sub division and to allow the literary spirit of the space to  continue. Writing residencies began in 1989 making next year 2019 the Centre’s 30th anniversary.   It is a  space of solitude, silence called for rom 6am to 6 pm and then writers gather to share their day and writing  over a beautifully prepared meal by  the wonderful chef Sheila. ( Her Varuna recipe book is coming out in the next six months ) 


img_4596 IMG_0096

I believe all places are filled for next year. How vibrant and healthy is our writing world .



Our writing world, our poetry world might be grass roots but that’s where the real growth begins and spreads.  Thank you Eleanor Dark Foundation for your contribution to this.