Witches, Women & Words by Beatriz Copello

pastedGraphic.png

 

I am proud to have a part in the affirmation of this wonderful newly realeased book by  Dr. Beatriz  Copello and published by Ginninderra Press. It was successfully launched last Friday evening and let’s hope the word spreads this is a collection of poetry not to be missed. 

“Beatriz Copello’s words take us on a profound journey through the perilous life we all find ourselves leading, where hope is hidden and ancestral anguish drives us to seek meaning and hope”

Anne Summers, journalist

These extraordinary poems in Witches Women and Words have our hearts beating with rage. This powerfully evocative collection speaks frankly of the twists and turns, pains, despair and hopes of the woman, the human, the poet, the abused earth, her trees and seas and biodiversity. 

In a world where “soldiers march blindfolded and mute” and of “wounds that never heal” It takes us on a journey: a witch’s broom, protection of a coven, and a cauldron of life’s struggles, to become free to allow the poem of woman to be created: “the poem born the poet a god”

She will have a voice, choose her destiny. You will be spellbound as you navigate these sensuous and imaginative poems where, “the persistent Southerly is a foreigner on this piece of soil” and “senses are like a tree in winter.”

This is not meant to be a peaceful read. This powerful collection of poetry by Beatriz Copello disturbs like her muse Neruda, with “words of fire, steel and hope. ” even as she writes “hope is hidden like a miser hides his riches.”

Colleen Keating, poet

Can we conjure a better world with the magic of words?  Can women, in particular, escape the cruel prison of history?  Beatriz Copello believes so.  Though she is “scared she learns to walk again” and “lets her blood run wild” in her new book, Witches Women and Words.  Even as the horrors of history reassert themselves, even when she is blindsided by the familiarity of death and haunted by lingering wounds in an atmosphere heavy with unspoken guilt, she “chooses life”.  With wit, passion and grace, and above all infinite empathy for the pains we all share, she chooses it for all of us.

Richard James Allen, poet.

Compulsive Reader: Review of Olive Muriel Pink

Review of Olive Muriel Pink:

Her radical & idealistic life

A poetic journy

Colleen Keating

Ginninderra Press 

3rd September 2021 ISBN: 9781761091599, 320 pages, paperback, $40

by Beatriz Copello

I do not think there is a better way to honour a woman of the calibre of Olive Muriel Pink than to write a book of poetry about her life.  Colleen Keating has done just that, she has written a poetic journey about this unsung Australian heroine. 

With a sharp eye and lyric touch, the world of Olive Pink becomes alive, it is a passionate story told with knowledge. It is evident that the poet has invested years researching the life of Olive Pink. The poet says: “I have been researching, writing and thinking about Olive Pink for over a decade now.  The discoveries that come along the way – the portraits unveiled – are very stirring.”  

This collection covers many years in the life of Pink, it starts in 1884 and finishes in 1975. The book also has a foreword, a prologue and a chronology as well as notes and bibliography. The labour of love that went into writing this book would grant the author a doctorate.

The author in Notes explains that she aimed to write a book that fell between an accurate scholarly presentation of Olive Pink’s life and her own personal interpretation of it.

Olive Pink was a fighter for justice who advocated for the rights of First Nations People, she was also an anthropologist, artist and gardener. Keating from the first poem in the book alerts the readers about what they will encounter throughout the pages, in this excerpt from “Olive the pioneer” she writes:

Who is Olive?
She defied the silence
caused discomfort
annoyed the authorities.
Her letters shouted from the edge.
She heard budgerigar dreaming
and drummed to a different tune.
She pushed against the colonial tide.
If the answer is ‘eccentric’
in her death she will be twice dismissed. 

Who is Olive? History asks.
She broke the silence
her voice for the voiceless 
remembered the forgetting.
She visioned justice in the courts.
Her feet knew country.
She carried red dust
under the fingernails of her heart.
She listened to elders, learnt language
wrote down stories, sketched arid plants
medicinal, nutritional, ritual.
If the answer is ‘anthropologist’
in her death she will be twice honoured. 

If Keating wrote music, I would say she does not miss a beat, when she raises issues about Olive’s past, she does it with conviction and poignant comments, like in the following excerpt from “A new lodestone”:

The grim spectre of injustice
towards Aboriginal tribe
taunts Olive out of her grief
jolts her from self pity.
Like a silk petticoat pulled over her hair
the air is static in its darkness.
It bleeds through a colander of whitewash words

  • progress jobs, growth.

Its handprint blood-red.

The poet also utilizes very vivid imagery, the readers become Olive, we can see, smell, hear what she experiences.  Keating appeals to the senses, the following poem “Restless” illustrates this: 

In her dingy office Olive yearns
for the vast open country, large skies,
hazy horizons, a slung kettle hissing
and spitting its leak over the fire.
Burnt flesh and sizzle
of goanna still fill her nostrils.
Olive walks country in her sleep –
the pungent smell of camels
sweaty bodies, blazoned glare, flies
dust-blown storms.
That red dust under
the colour of her heart
and patter of Pitjantjatjara children
still running giggling beside her
lingers like the balm of an Indian summer.  

The poet has the skill to write about Olive’s powerful emotions without sentimentality or corniness, through these strong emotions readers can form a picture in their mind of Olive’s personality. The following excerpt from the poem titled “Heady days” is a good example of the Keating’s ability:

Olive is energised by academia.
The scissor-cut horizon
of her desert experience
challenges like a mirage.
She seizes every chance to argue,
‘The root cause is not malnutrition or disease –
They camouflage facts, treat the wrong symptoms.’
Heated discussion rises.
Angrily she fights for breath.
‘Even the most ignorant know the problems –
White man’s aggression, sexual abuse
fear, venereal disease, land dispossession.
We like to deride these facts.’
She flushes, her neck prickles as she continuous,
‘Full-bloods need their own protected country
not mission reserves.’
Her tone is strident.
‘Daily handouts from stations
Keep them tied to white man power.’

Olive Pink struggled all her life to be able to do what men were able to do, in the following poem “High Hopes” Keating captures this desire but also very cleverly imagines her mood in such a difficult situation.

Over dinner her enthusiasm bubbles.
‘After my thesis I plan
a full year of research among the Arrernte’
she confidently tells the Professor
and others grouped around the table.
‘I would like to be included
in your next museum expedition.
It will reduce my research expenses 
and my anthropology will enhance the group.’
Silence.
Unease around the room
as lightening awaits a clap of thunder.
Awkward shifts and exchanged glances
the embarrassed clearing of throats.
From her left in a deep tone,
‘That would not be possible …
‘But you took Ted Strehlow on your trip last year!’
‘… for a woman,’ mumbles the professor.
Exposed, Olive’s heart races.
She hopes they don’t notice the burn
of her cheeks.
She avoids eye contact
gazes out as one with miles to go
restless to be on her way.
She needs desert air.
‘Why does gender cause such heart break?’
she broods into the night.
‘Why wasn’t I born a man.”

I would like to congratulate Colleen Keating not only for writing this incredible book but also for honouring a woman from the past which like many other Australian heroines are often forgotten or not given credit for their achievements. Reading about Olive Muriel Pink will inspire you and give you strength to struggle to achieve your aims.

About the Reviewer: Dr Beatriz Copello is a former member of NSW Writers Centre Management Committee, she writes poetry, reviews, fiction and plays. The author’s poetry books are: Women Souls and Shadows, Meditations At the Edge of a Dream, Flowering Roots, Under the Gums Long Shade, and Lo Irrevocable del Halcon (In Spanish).  Beatriz’s poetry has been published in literary journals such as Southerly and Australian Women’s Book Review and in many feminist publications.  She has read her poetry at events organised by the Sydney Writers Festival, the NSW Writers Centre, the Multicultural Arts Alliance, Refugee Week Committee, Humboldt University (USA), Ubud (Bali) Writers Festival.

 

 

Book Review: Hildegard of Bingen: A poetic journey by Colleen Keating

Hildegard of Bingen by Colleen Keating is, as the author subtitled A Poetic Journey based on the life of the saint Hildegard von Bingen (1098 – 1179).

 

BOOK REVIEW      Women’s Ink Magazine  www.womenwritersnsw.org

Hildegard of Bingen – A Poetic Journey

COLLEEN KEATING

Ginninderra Press

ISBN 978 1 76041 766 6

Reviewed by BEATRIZ COPELLO

For those who do not know about this saint’s life, let me tell you she was an incredible and fascinating woman who lived in the Middle Ages in Germany. She lived an intense life dedicated not only to religion but also to science, art, music, politics and philosophy. Hildegard founded two monasteries and maintained active correspondence with kings, emperors and popes. During all her life this mystic had visions which she attributed to divine inspiration. 

In the forward of Hildegard of Bingen, Keating says she fell in love with Hildegard when she read a book lent to her by a friend. That love is evident in each page, in each poem, in each line. Through Keating’s poetry we get to know Hildegard, her life unrolls like a magic carpet. Poem by poem the reader finds out about her dreams, hopes, aspirations as well as her frustrations. 

Keatings’s poems come alive with sensory experience, her words are confident in range and depth and they are utterly clear and articulate. The poet could have been a witness in Hildegard’s life, she knows her, she breathes her, she has a familial intimacy with the philosopher. The author undertook a journey into the mediaeval world, the poems are factual and the events meticulously researched. They contain very vivid descriptions, we can see in our mind’s eye what Hildegard saw, like in

 

‘Arrival’

Disibodenberg, high in the forest
sprawls in the clouds.
The last mile steeply uphill
Secluded. 

A white butterfly dips and lifts.
Hildegard’s gaze follows it up
catches the glint of the sun
on the first stone wall.

Stoic buildings unfold
cloistered around a cobbled garth.
Their Benedictine monastery.

A monk in cinctured black robe
walks from signposted infirmary.
From beneath his blinkered cowl
he extends a welcome.
They dismount
Jutta falls on her knees in gratitude.

In Hildegard’s life the days pass coloured by monotony and sainthood and as the days pass so is her strong and determined personality developed. Poem by  poem the reader becomes wrapped in a mantle of words, words that tell us of revelations, mysticism, determination and sainthood. Keating puts herself in Hildegard’s shoes and cleverly she is able to recreate the angst, the bravery and the defiance of this incredible woman. We enter her abode, her orchard, we get to know the sisters and her godly visions. We hear two strong voices Hildegard’s and Keating’s the poet. Writing is a labour of love, the writer not only poured her love for Hildegard in the poems but also her skills and knowledge.

Intuition, growth, earthiness, inner strength, passion, justice, wisdom, art are all words that describe what emerges from Keating’s poetry. What a great way to learn through reading poetry! The poet has not spared any detail about the life of Hildegard neither has she left out information about her sources. This fascinating book contains an Epilogue, a Chronology, a Glossary, Notes and a Bibliography. In the final notes Keating says: ‘A Poetic Journey seeks a middle ground between an accurate scholarly presentation of Hildegard and a personal interpretation of her story.’

I believe the writer has achieved her purpose offering us  the opportunity to get to know a mediaeval feminist of extraordinary creativity. Colleen Keating has created a masterpiece. 

Women’s Ink! Magazine   www.womenwritersnsw.org    March 2020 p19