REVIEW of The Dinner Party: A poetic response by Denise O’Hagan

The Dinner Party:  A poetic response by Colleen Keating (Ginninderra Press 2023)  reviewed by Denise O’Hagan

. . . we revive your memory

and honour you  . . .

You chose to be empowered

before women were visible.   (p.46)

These lines, addressed to Marcella of Rome, epitomise the spirit behind Keating’s latest collection, The Dinner party. A poetic response, released by Adelaide-based publisher, Ginninderra Press. During the course of its 144 pages –  substantial by poetry book standards – Keating fleshes out some of history’s most gifted and courageous women, rescuing them from the obscurity and oppression to which ‘patriarchy’s wilful effort’ has traditionally consigned them, and restoring them to centre stage.

The book is a poetic response to the iconic art  installation by American feminist artist, Judy Chicago (created 1974-1979), of a large triangular dinner table set for, and dramatically commemorating, thirty-nine influential women drawn from history and mythology.

The poet’s attentiveness to the installation is clear: she structures her book into three ‘wings’, representing three eras from the ancient world through to the beginnings of the women’s revolution, each of which is devoted to thirteen women from areas as diverse as the arts and activism to medicine and music.

The women are vividly evoked in all their multilayered complexity. We meet the ancient Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar, known for her jealous nature as much as for her embodiment of love and fertility, whose

‘honeyed mouth
turns venomous at a whim’,

revolutionary artist Artemisia Gentileschi, 
‘a Baroque prescience of women’s advocacy’

who was lost  to history for 400 years’ and women rights activist Mary Wollstonecraft, whose voice

‘was a luminous candle
in a darkness of patriarchy.’

These imaginative recreations are complemented by notes on the background of each woman, and a detailed bibliography.

This is a powerful yet sensitive breathing of lyrical life into significant historical women, and an eloquent contribution to feminist literature. As its author points out

’The challenge is ongoing. There are still many injustices enacted against women. Domestic violence is at an all time high.’

The table is set, the dinner party poised to happen – and the book places us on the cusp of what promises to be a spirited dinner party!

I would urge you, the reader, to take up Keating’s invitation to immerse yourself in this remarkable collection and in so doing, honour the women ‘on whose shoulders we stand’.

To purchase The Dinner Party

or please order from your favourite online seller: print or ebook.

About Denise O’Hagan  Editor and writer

Born and raised in Italy, Denise lived in the UK before emigrating to Sydney, Australia.

After completing a Masters in Bibliography and Textual Criticism at Leeds University, she worked as an editor with various publishing houses including Collins, Heinemann and Routledge in London, and Horwitz Educational and Cambridge University Press in Sydney, where she was also consulting editor with the State Library of NSW.

She set up her own imprint Black Quill Press in 2015 to publish her late mother’s books: Jerome & His Women (2015), shortlisted for the Institute of Professional Editors’ Rosanne Fitzgibbon Editorial Award (the ‘Rosie’), and a second revised edition of A Roman Death (2017), originally published by Macmillan. Her poetry is published widely in Australia and internationally. Recipient of the Dalkey Poetry Prize, she has also been shortlisted in various awards including the Australian Catholic University Poetry Prize, the Robert Graves Poetry Prize (UK), the Plough Writing Prize (UK) and the Proverse International Poetry Prize (Hong Kong). She was Poetry Editor for Australia/New Zealand for Irish literary journal The Blue Nib until 2020. Her poetry collections include The Beating Heart (Ginninderra Press 2020), shortlisted for the Society of Women Writers NSW Book Awards 2022, and Anamnesis (Recent Work Press 2022), finalist in the Eric Hoffer Book Award (Poetry) 2023 and shortlisted in the International Rubery Book Award (Poetry) 2023.


It was the prevailing attitude in the 1960s that women had no history. There were no women’s studies, nothing.’ Judy Chicago, creator of the iconic art installation The Dinner Party.

The Dinner Party by the talented poet Colleen Keating brings to light, through beautiful lyrical poetry, what for centuries has been ignored: the power and strength of women. Very little has been made known about the lives of influential women of the past, as women’s lived experience has been suppressed, even erased from history. In this collection, the poet resuscitates the experience of women from prehistory to women’s twentieth-century revolution. Her poetry traces the lives of women who demonstrated their influence, in every field including philosophy, medicine, writing, art, astronomy, suffragists and justice warriors who fought for recognition. Women who gave their lives, suffered, broke barriers, knocked down walls, smashed glass ceilings, pried open doors, who defied patriarchy in some way for all of us. Still today as women are written into history, the struggle for our reckoning towards equality and respect continues. A must-read book that honours women; women who would not be silent.’ – Dr Beatriz Copello
‘With impeccable research and deep empathy, Colleen Keating continues her powerful poetic contribution to feminist literature with the celebration of thirty-nine of the more than a thousand women forgotten, marginalised or written out of Western history. A remarkable and beautifully imagined work.’ – Pip Griffin
978 1 76109 530 6, 144pp




Opus, a life with music by Pip Griffin A Review by Colleen Kearing


A REVIEW by Colleen Keating publ. in Womens Ink Journal Summer 2023

What more powerful way to reflect on your journey of life than entwined with the memory of music. Exquisitely wrought, Pip Griffin’s Opus: a life with music, gives us snapshots, sometimes softened, sometimes shocking but always honed and beautifully crafted, revealing the deep perception and intimacy we have come to know in her poetry. Using music to unearth memories of her life, these poems are infused with frankness and authenticity. With themes of love, betrayal, loss, nostalgia and resilience we experience the connection between music and the human spirit, as in the poem, Mahler 1:

His genius still draws bows

across my body as I sit with seagulls

in winter sunlight

and in a moment of serendipity in a later poem, Philip Glass in Florence:

Glass begins to play

his layered, hypnotic compositions

his fingers entrancing us 

into a fourth dimension

and we are reminded of the universal solace that music can offer in fraught, fragmented times of conflict:

you took the vinyl record from its sleeve

compelling us to sit and listen  

to the gentle swelling harmonies

letting Vaughan Williams sing us back 

until our souls returned 

This collection of poetry is divided into seven sections. In the section called Air on a G String, Pip writes of the funeral after the tragic death of  her sister:

Though her funeral service is a blur

the music lives forever in my body

soundtrack to her sudden violent death

In the poem Keeper we hear the connection between mother and music: 

At thirteen I’ve become her keeper –

my best friend whom I adore

who chivvies me to practice scales 

 . . .

whose own ambitions dribbled away 

like the gin I watch 

drain slowly down the kitchen sink.

and later in Resurrection:

Singing the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’

at one with the voices of a hundred 

she’s alive , the last of her bonds broken. 

The trumpet sounds for her –

Opus is imbued with music, including that of the ocean and sometimes birds. Pip’s selection of music is eclectic and ecumenical: from Bach to Brahms, Britten to Brubeck, Chopin to choirs and the cello, Elgar and Elvis, Handel to Haley, Mahler to Leonard Cohen to name but a few. Published by Ginninderra Press, Opus is an engaging collection and highly recommended. 

Colleen Keating


Barrington Range: Road Trip No.1 for 2024


Road Trip No 1 for 2024

Our trip encompasses the Worimami and Biripi/Birpai people and country of the Eastern side of the Barrington Range and into the Wonaruah and Gaewegal people of the Western Country. For tens of thousands of years  they cared for country as a living holistic cultural landscape .  Spiritual beliefs and traditional practice encompassing the elements of Land, Law  and Language  to mother earth  and father sky and the ancestral beings.

Coming home after Christmas /New Year  break we decided to catch up with a friend in Scone for lunch. This can mean we have three options

 1. Going north over the Gwydir Highway into Glen Innes and down the New England Highway to Scone, which is a journey we enjoy as we both lived and worked in Glen Ines and Armidale in our courting days and we love to revisit and remember special places and special times. We have a favourite motel called Abbey Motel near everything especially dinner outlets for staying over night.

  2. Crossing via the Waterfall Way which is a journey we enjoy with a stop at a vortex place for its – Ebor Falls .  This is tricky in finding a place to stay and timing is out a bit for lunch , well lunch is not possible– the best we can do is 2pm and that was pushing it making it about the destination rather than the journey too rushed.

3. However for a first adventurous road trip of 2024 we decided to make the journey from Gloucester  over the  Barrington Tops through the Barrington National Park and down the western side through farm land into Gundy and Moonan Flat and into Scone . For this we needed to stay in Scone( nothing reasonable available so took the extra kilometres to Aberdeen  for the evening and perfect timing for early  leisurely lunch with our friend in Scone and wild chatter that picks up where we we left on last visit.  and time to get back to Sydney. 

Road Trip 

We set off from Coffs Harbour at 8am in the cool of the morning, travelled south for about three hours and tuned off the Pacific Freeway to Gloucester. 

A wonderful second-hand book shop along the way  on the outskirts of Gloucester  near the turn off for the mountain. This was a rest period and stop and we bought a few poetry books and a pictorial book for Michael on the Lakes area.  

Then we left civilisation and it was dirt, dirt and more dirt. The clouds were textures white light and promising of good weather. We would not like to be doing this in boggy conditions.  We love the the bubbling brooks we pass as we got higher into the hills. 

Higher we came to the Eucalypt Forest. We had a break at Thunderbolt Lookout  and very fascinating stop at  The Firs. The main sounds were like reevng of bikes which actually is the prolific cacophony of Lyre Birds  calling . One came out and danced for is in the stream of light striking a clearing and as we left another  lyre bird ran across the road . We stopped to watch it but it had quickly blended in with the vegetation.

Another stop at Cobark Lookout . and across the famous Dingo Fence and we wound down the steep western mountain side with glorious vistas of farm land and more mountains and crossed  many bridges over the Hunter, Isis, Stewart Brook . and through Gundy, not surprised at the number of groups camped  along the river.   Stopped at Moonan Flats which has been done up but was closed to our surprise. and to  finally into Aberdeen  to the motel. This meant a relaxed morning and to have lunch with our friend .


Ömie Barkcloth exhibition at the Chau Chak Wing Museum

Lost Innocence

Untouched by a crowded, commercial, corrupt-tempting world
unblemished by greed and fear of need and fame
protected by impenetrable jungle wilderness
and thick mountain mist, an unknown world, hidden from t

enticles of progress enigmatic, endangered as a planet humans
want to conquer. Discovered by the clambering, climbing, curious
determined to find the last small pocket of skythe Ömie people are
found living their beauty of being alive, honouring their creative

human spirit with art, story, song in forever land.
Their world, their inspiration.twig, tusk and teeth,
leaf and twine to weave and plait, vine, feather, bone,
and web, wood and bark, mystery of the eye and their

mountain that nourishes them. They write their story
and adorntheir bodies in design, decoration, pattern
with minute details of leaf, snake backbone, hip joint
of mountain frogs, of beetle jaw and spider.

In cyclic beat of time, coloured,in plant yellow, black
and brick reds. We stand back and learn of a world
we have lost. Of innocence, simplicity and beauty
and now found, it is lost once again.

Colleen Keating


Ömie barkcloth:

Pathways of nioge is currently on display on the fourth floor of the University of Sydney’s Chau Chak Wing Museum. Upon entering the gallery space, one is met with a black title wall, and illuminating the text design, is a creative and understated use of exhibition lighting. It is employed throughout the entirety of the exhibition, giving one the immersive feeling of almost being situated within the shadows, and silhouettes of the rainforest highlands of Northern (Oro) Province, Papua New Guinea.

The Ömie people are a distinct cultural group with their own language; a population of around two thousand lives in a series of seven main villages and many more hamlets. Their region in the Mount Lamington Huvaemo, and Mount Obo foothills – close to Kokoda – is sacred to them as the site of their creation stories. Their art is prolific and diverse.

Ömie tapa or nioge in Ömie language is beaten bark cloth, made from the inner bark, or bast, of certain rainforest fig trees including banyan to give a brown finish, and the paper mulberry tree – mori arobe, for the whitish tapa. The bark is cut, then the outer bark is cleaned off to make the inner bark or bast ready for beating. Drops of water are continually sprinkled over the bark as it is beaten to soften it. Paint dyes come from various roots, bark, leaves, fruit, seeds, and nuts. These include combinations of natural plant materials, ash, and water.

The works that comprise the exhibition form the basis of the largest public collection of Ömie nioge, donated to the Chau Chak Wing Museum over the last five years by oceanic art collector and dealer Todd Barlin, who acquired much of the work from fellow collector, and dealer David Baker.

This exhibition is full of vibrant and arresting works, striking for their diversity of size, shape, colour, and symbolism. Many of the works are displayed on large, dark, floating walls, allowing you to walk around and view them while moving in and out of the light. The large white walls of the gallery space are subdued by the creative lighting design. This gives the exhibition more depth overall, and furthers the geometric pathways of nioge design that are the focus.

An added bonus for us on our visit to the Chau Chak Wing Museum was that one of the of curators Rebecca Conwdaughter of Jan took us on a conducted tour of the exhibition and in the afternoon we enjoyed a question and answer panel discussion with Drusilla Mojeska who has been one of the first to trek into the mountain (Mt. Lamington) and befriend the ömie women amd her biographer Bernadette Brenton . Then lunch in the cafe indoor/outdoor at the Museum.




Women’s Ink; The Society of Women Writers NSW. In memory of a black summer by Colleen Keating

Very honoured to have my poem  Memory of a Black Summer chosen to be published in Women’s Ink Summer 2023., the quarterly Journal of the NSW Society of Women Writers.

The theme was ‘Climate – the heat of the moment’and my summer poem fitted right in.

Thank you to the editor Jo Shevchenko and to the President Maria McDougall for a very affirming year .


In memory of a black summer   

 We had the experience but we missed the meaning.  

    TS Eliot

the cicadas ring earlier 
morning birds call earlier too
and then become silent

the summer ritual of each day –
carrying buckets of water 
to top up the bird baths

is quickly appreciated
there seems an orderly queue 
no boisterous bickering today

as if there is bird protocol
we all need to preserve our energy
for these days are solemn

so much loss   so much to mourn  
so many birds   so many mammals  
insects and living worlds lost

the smoke-laden air 
can hardly be breathed   
the  ashened sun masked

our summer of people fleeing 
livelihoods burn 
metal buckles

people rescued from beaches 
refugees in their own country
we fear 

we dread 
we are in pain

for ourselves and our traumatised earth
even the south pole 
ash-blanketed     melts

our carefree boxing day 
of cricket    tennis   yacht races 
is carefree no more 

I continue my summer ritual
of topping up the bird baths early
the birds fly in 

then sipping at the edge
keep nodding  thank you  thank you
as if they know I’m watching


Colleen Keating



Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality

Cover image of Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality

Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality

The John Hopkins University Press

December 2023

Very honoured and excitied to declare I have a poem chosen for the latest Spiritus Journal .  It maskes me Internationally published , not a new thing as my Hildegard poetry is published in Germany and USA but it is a highlight for 2023.  The poem  is From the Dust of Stars , shortlisted in the SWW  National Poetry  Competition  and now to be published. 

Interim Editor :

Mozzie ed Ron heard, poetry journal



Volume 31 Issue 03, October 2023

The Mozzie is a small press poetry magazine published in Queensland that publishes the work of established and emerging poets.   Ron Heard is the very dedicated editor. Volume 31 ssue includes 2 poems of mine.  I submitted to the magazine during the year and love it when a poem of mine gets chosen to be published.

MozzieOctober 2023, published two of my poems,

counting summers

morning litany after the referendum

It was very rewarding to be in the journal with a writer friend and supporter Pip Griffin.

Pip’s latest book Opus: A life in poetry is promoted and a poem from her new book is published.

Congratulations Pip Griffin.

Thank you to Ron Heard for his dedication to poets and our poetry. 

morning litany  after the referendum

air tastes brittle         hits hard                    
there has been no rain for weeks 

leaves   dusty and bluish 
curl in foetal positions 

in a Philip Glass time warp 

the antiphon of morning birds 
is devoured by a leaf mulcher

roaring hungrily nearby
the tree out the back sacrificed

 because someone said it was dead    
lies weeping    cut up in small offerings

birds that nested in its knotted hollows
have fled 

and I have  to turn away from
being a witness 

away from tv images 
Gaza Ukraine Mali Israel

garish glint of metal and concrete mock
new home units towering out of place

the riff of rivulets in Coups Creek muted
in welled-up rock crevices   

later   leaning into the warm dimpled trunk
of a doyenne of the bush  I watch a flock

of spotted pardalotes   their tiny pieces of sun
wild and cheerful  skittle the day


The Crow edited by Brenda Eldridge publ. Ginninderra Press


Excited to have my poem Exodus chosen tor The Crow. Thank you Brenda and Ginninderra Press .

The Crow is a Pocket Poets collection of poetry edited by Brenda Eldridge at Ginninderra Press.  It might be small but it pulls a punch in a very reflective way.

A quarterly poetry journal published in March, June, September and December each year it has become a coveted journal to be chosen as an entry.

In the introduction From the Editor,  Brenda Eldridge  writes, 

“The results of the recent referendum have been a sobering  wake-up call for Australians. It prompts the question Who are Australians?”

And I like to think that our poetry might struggle with the way through all this  into the answer and find a way into the future and maybe sometime one day we  as a nation will find the oneness many of us wish for and we will find the air beneath our wings . 

My poem  exodus is set in with  many well known poets and next to a well known Canberrian poet Hazel Hall. 

So once again I say thankyou to Brenda and Ginninderra for giving us another place to publish  our work. Thnks Brenda for  your affirmation and support of poets.








The American poet Jane Hirchfield  says the secret title of every poem is tenderness and a poem that hasn’t found it through the anger or despair or bewilderment  is probably mot there yet . She said in an interview I heard, that one stitch in a fabric of rant  such as the bowing to beauty, grief, compassion or kinship allows one to get up the next morning and open their eyes.  And we must find a way to that. 

When we become disillusioned with our world view, the framework  we see through, that for so long has ‘supported,’ ‘comforted’  ‘controlled’ us with its surety  be it an institution of religion, marriage, belief etc. it can be hard to change. We actually can become stuck and we can let ourselves die inside . There is a saying found on a tombstone 

Here lies . . . .
died at 45
buried at 75.

Yet if we jump from the edge we can  find we fly . The hard part is one cannot fly until they jump  and one cannot jump till they are either pushed or better, feel trustful or supported by love  to do it. 


so she left her boats behind
took courage to leave familiar shores
broke the yoke of fear 
untethered the bridle
and broke the bondage of institutional rule
that held her safe for decades

stepped into the ocean deep
and found herself battered  bruised 
buffeted    till finally buoyed by joy 
of trees and flowers light and moon and seas
like a fledgling bird leaving its nest 
she found the air beneath her wings 

fourW thirty-five Anthology from Booranga Writers Centre, Charles Stuart University by Colleen Keating



We spent a very rewarding afternoon  being part of a group of writers for the launch  of the latest Booranga Writers Anthology – fourW thirty-four New Writing.  Thank you to the editor David Gilbey for his passion and hard work to bring this creation to fruition. David acknowledges a team of dedicated helpers and the large gathering at the  Sydney launch was testament to gratitude of Australian writers. I like how David Gilbey describes our writings –  “diverse, multi-layered &polyvocal writings . . .celebrated pieces are just a few of the gem in our ‘treasury of literature'” The launch was held in the auditorium of the AIT at Ultimo.  The new anthology,  fourW thirty-four  includes new work from 76 writers from all over Australai and from overseas,  more than 20 stories and fifty poems. It was special to be standing side by side with writer friends published, Pip Griffin, Antonia Reiseger and a few other familiar faces and to be published with some of our top poets Judith Beveridge, Andy Kissane, Mark McCleod, Damien O’Brien.  


 Dr. John Stephenson  a novelist who has written many thoroughly researched novels including The Optimist which is an early look at the poet Christopher Brennan. He gave a wonderful address . The words I remember ‘where are you my beloved country’ and how standing lost one evening in a dead end on the way to Wagga Wagga he got out of his car to see the sign and found once again his beloved country there surrounding him and he knew everthting would be alright. It was very uplifting .

Everyone who was present got to read their work and it was powerful to hear the voices of so many of our poets and short stories writers from all around the country.

I felt very honoured to read my published poem Intrusion. It is an unusual set out for me but it wrote itself one day when I couldnt take the violence intruding into my lounge room any more and then the low prioity  the subjects in the last stanza were given and the conclusion to make light of everything with the cat news . 

How can we change this low brow news that is our daily and nightly story?

Unable to get the spacing to work on this blog I photographed the poem above, Thanks to editor, David Gilbey


the following contains scenes
that may disturb some viewers
discretion is advised

Ah says the screen gotcha

i rummage for the remote
under a pile of papers or behind the cushions
and flick to another channel
i don’t need these unnecessary images

flip back in time to hear the newsreader gloat
if this has distressed . . .

tipped you over the tipping point
overwhelmed your lonely hard cruel overwhelmed life
sunk you even deeper into the pit

you can contact LIFELINE
or 1800RESPECT

back to the news
no longer raising the shock flag

another woman is murdered today
indigenous incarceration ratio increased
2000 feared drowned in Pakistani flood
and a new cat show
where cats learn to walk tight ropes



Under the magnolia tree: Women Writers Network Christmas Party. by Colleen Keating

Under the Magnolia Tree 2023

It was very special to catch up with the WWN (Women Writers Network ) for our annual Christmas Party  under the Magnolia Tree. So much friendship, scumpious  food, (including  the festive  rocky road and coconut ice and home made Christmas cake)  champayne toast to our writing and to 2024,  poetry reading and sharing of achievements,   fun and lots and lots of laughter.  I read a poem  about peace as I thought that was appropriate at this time with the Gaza War on and Christmas with us, . It was lovely to meet the new women who have joined the group writing novels, poetry, memoir, short stories, play  and all commented how supported they felt the group was towards their writing and a help to their commitment . I remembered when I joined about 20 years ago how important the writing group was and still is to this day as:

  1. an incentive to produce the next piece of writing
  2.  a safe place to read it aloud and hear what others thought of it
  3. valuable for the good suggestions and chat about writing itself
  4. the friendship of other like-minded women on a similar quest to write and write their best.
  5. life-giving  as i love the dead line of each week and it becomes a highlight and focus of the week

Can you see us writers huddled under the magnolia tree?

The magnolia reached its arms out around us listening to our stories and laughter.
Just a  few blossoms were open exuding its marvellous perfume. The Flame tree lit up the garden
and jacarandas still held in  after all the wind for the occasion . Their blossoms sshowered along the path
as if a purple carpet for all writers who come this way




Taking Sides

Today I am taking sides.
I am taking the side of Peace.
Peace, which I will not abandon
even when its voice is drowned out
by hurt and hatred,
bitterness of loss,
cries of right and wrong.

I am taking the side of Peace
whose name has barely been spoken
in this winnerless war.
I will hold Peace in my arms,
and share my body’s breath,
lest Peace be added
to the body count.                                                                        

I will call for de-escalation
even when I want nothing more
than to get even.
I will do it
in the service of Peace.
I will make a clearing
in the overgrown

thicket of cause and effect
so Peace can breathe
for a minute
and reach for the sky.
I will do what I must
to save the life of Peace.
I will breathe through tears.

I will swallow pride.
I will bite my tongue.
I will offer love
without testing for deservingness.

So don’t ask me to wave a flag today
unless it is the flag of Peace.
Don’t ask me to sing an anthem

unless it is a song of Peace.
Don’t ask me to take sides
unless it is the side of Peace.

by Irwin Keller