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.