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Snow

Just a short quote from Jalal-ud-Din Rumi (Translated by Andrew Harvey) on this warm spring day:

I was snow, I melted in your rays
The earth drank me: mist, now, and pure spirit,
I climb back to the Sun.

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Photograph © Keren Gila Raiter, taken in the Great Western Woodlands.

Hu lu si

A couple of years ago I had the honour of being invited to work in an exciting collaboration with the Chung Wah Chinese Classical Orchestra, as part of the Act Belong Commit Canning Music Series.

The Chung Wah Orchestra is part of the oldest ethnic association in Western Australia, founded in 1909. As cultural ambassadors for the Chinese community, they teach and perform classical Chinese music at various community events and special occasions to promote and preserve Chinese culture. The Chung Wah Orchestra is a ‘family’ of three generations playing together; the youngest member is 9 years old and the oldest is about 70 years old.

The event, organised by the City of Canning and proudly supported by Act-Belong-Commit, also featued the South Side Symphony orchestra in collaboration with Martin De Sousa Mealy, Nova Ensemble in collaboration with Kevin Gillam, and the Vocal Evolution in collaboration with Kate Wilson.

This poem is one I wrote over many weeks of attending rehearsals with the Chung Wah Orchestra, and learning about the instruments they use, the music they play, and the rich and story-full culture that is carried in their music and songs. This poem is about the Hulusi, a type of traditional flute made out of a gourd and played by the Dai people, an ethnic group living in the Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture in south-west China. The Dai people are closely related to the Lao and Thai people.

I fell in love with the Hulusi; I’ve always been amazed by gourds and the uniqueness of this instrument combined with it’s sweet sound really touched me, especially once I learnt of the cultural and spiritual significance of the gourd and the instument that is made from it. Listen to the poem for more 🙂

A big thank you to the Chung Wah Orchestra, and especially Xiaowen, for your beautiful music. It was incredibly special working with you!

It’s us who decide

This is one of my more recent poems, about the incredible experiences I had conducting extensive ecological research in Australia’s Great Western Woodlands, and the conundrums that we face when some precious parts of the landscape are threatened by mining. This video was performed on the Riverside Club stage at Denmark’s Festival of Voice, June 2017.

Denmark Festival of Voice 2017

The splendiferous Denmark Festival of Voice is almost upon us again! With the start of the southern hemisphere’s winter comes a beautiful to gather around with people who share an appreciation of song, spoken word, music, storytelling and other performance arts, get cosy in one of the many festival vanues, and be touched by the human voice in its diverse beauty, power and ability to convey meaning. The Artistic Director’s Welcome is an excellent place to start if you would like to know more.

I’m excited to once again be part of the lineup. I’ll have two performances:
• Sunday 4th June, 2pm at the Riverside Club, and
• Sunday 4th June, 4:30-6:30 at Teahouse Books, as part of a set called ‘Poetry, Wine and Cheese’. I’ll be performing alongside Tineke Van Der Eken, Kate Wilson, and Saana Peden, all excellent Western Australian poets.

Also look out for stunning performances by Jaya Penelope and many others! I’m thrilled that Lior will be playing! There will be 80+ acts (including many interstate and international artists) spread across 12 venues, plus workshops, kids shows and more.

Jaya Penelope, Kate Wilson and I will be hosting a small, informal house concert in Fremantle in the lead-up to the Denmark Festival, on Thursday evening 24th May. Contact me for details if you’re interested in attending.

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The Great Western Woodlands: a biological wonderland; a poem; a movement

I’m very pleased to share with you the Wilderness Society’s Great Western Woodlands campaign video. It was a real honour for me to to have a poem that I wrote about the area adopted as the voiceover for it. The poem is based on what I learned about the Great Western Woodlands during my time researching the cumulative and enigmatic impacts of mining and associated infrastructure (especially roads) on the ecological values of this area; the largest remaining temperate woodland on earth, which I researched for my PhD.

Great cudos to Amy Matheson for excellent editing, and to the amazong team at the Wilderness Society for their great work on the campaign.

If you’re inspired to experience the Great Western Woodlands, consider joining the inaugural Jungka Jungka Woodlands Festival to be held in Norseman in April.

Spoken word soup: poetry from the promised land and its people

I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be performing poetry as part of Limmud Festival, the ‘Festival of Jewish Ideas’ that will take place on 25-27th November, on the NSW Central Coast. Limmud Fest is a weekend retreat for the whole family, celebrating Jewish diversity, learning and creativity. The festival is supported by Shalom, and set in beautiful natural surrounds, combining dynamic and diverse learning sessions with a festival atmosphere and unique Shabbat experience.

My performance, to take place at 1pm on Sunday 27th at the Bissli space, will consist of a melting pot of poetry written by both classical and contemporary Jewish and Israeli poets, and will include some of my own Jewish or Israel-themed poems. I’ll be performing in English and Hebrew.

The program has now been released, and I’m very excited to see the lineup. The sessions look extremely varied and fascinating… from pickle-making and ‘a tragedy of sarcasm’ to the Shia-Sunni divide, Jewish yoga, the Halacha of Magic, Women and Power in the parashah, ‘a Jewification of modern philosophy’, song circles, silent disco, the Israeli Peace Movement, ethical investing, and app development.

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Video

‘Days’ by Keren Gila Raiter

How does the world turn from peaceful to prickly in the flutter of an eyelash? The story of a human, a PhD researcher, a cyclist, a modern woman with ancient longings, an ecologist and a lover, is the story of the lenses through which she looks just as much as it is the story of the sparks and flames that glimmer through them.

This poem received the judge’s commendation in the 2012 Glen Phillips Poetry Prize, and was filmed in performance at the Denmark Festival of Voice, 2012.

Performances at Denmark Festival of Voice

I’m very excited to be performing at the Denmark Festival of Voice on 3-5 June 2016… even more excited now that the program has been published and I can see what an amazing lineup I’ll be part of.

I highly recommend anyone to attend this delightful festival in Western Australia’s lush south-west. The Festival’s a gathering of awesome people with a love of song, word, story…. It’s a feast for the ears, the heart, the soul. There’s a whole heap of amazing singers, poets and story-tellers – check the website for details of who’s coming and also for the program!

I’ll be in four performances in the festival: Two in which I perform my own poetry accompanied by the splendiferous instrumentation of Sunset Blundell-Wignall (a blurb for this show is beneath the image below), and two as part of the Tealeaf Troubadours – a four-piece ensemble of storytellers, musicians and poets who create enthralling performances which interweave the different performance arts. The Tealef Troubadours comprise Alex Hey, Jesse the Wind Wanderer, Jaya Penelope, and myself. Details of the shows I’m in follow:

  • Saturday 4th June 10 am @ Storytelling Yurt: Tealeaf Troubadours kids show: ‘Treasure
  • Saturday 4th June 3:30 pm @ Storytelling Yurt: Keren Gila Raiter accompanied by Sunset Wignall: ‘Beneath our feet: poems of earth and body’.
  • Sunday 5th June 1pm @ RSL Hall: Keren Gila Raiter accompanied by Sunset Wignall.
  • Sunday 5th June 2:30pm @ Storytelling Yurt: Tealeaf Troubadours adults show entitled ‘Driftwood Stories’.

Other shows/performers that I’m excited to see include Candy Royale, Jaya Penelope, Donna Jacobs Sife, The Red Sea Pedestrians, the Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir, Lucy Ridsdale, Ajak Kwai, Craig Sinclair, the vocal chant with Pranava Music, and many more.

Solstice FERN a

Step on to Keren Gila Raiter’s flying carpet of woven words and animated theatrics as she takes you on wild poetic adventures over oceans and underground, where atoms explode, organisms evolve, and the everyday is extraordinary. Meet a botanical villain who moves by stealth through roots and veins, a spiralling lover who’s wings must heal and rebalance, and two friends that discover the magic of nature in a war-torn land.

Accompanied by the splendiferous sounds of Sunset Blundell-Wignall whose eclectic instrumentation blows the winds upon which this magic carpet sails. This is playful and powerful performance poetry not to be missed!

 

 

A world of contrast

Back in 2006 I was living in Israel and in the summer I travelled in the north, which is mountainous and full of mystical places for Jews, Muslims, Christians, and others… In the summertime, it’s also full of festivals and music. I went with a friend to a Kleizmer festival up in the town of Tsfat, the birthplace of Jewish mysticism, and afterwards we spent a couple of days hiking down from the mountain, along a river, and to the Sea of Galilee, also called the Lake Kinneret. The day that we hiked along the river valley turned out to be a day I will never forget. That was the day that war broke out between Israel and the Hezbollah in Lebanon…

This poem was published by Hypallage, the Magazine of the Multicultural Writers Association of Australia. This video was filmed at the 2012 Denmark Festival of Voice.

Tealeaf Troubadours at Denmark Festival of Voice

The delightful Denmark Festival of Voice will be on again from Friday 3 June until Sunday 5 June in the lush south-west town of Denmark. This will be the festival’s 12th year of celebrating the human voice, with an inspiring lineup of local, national and international artists in a cappella and accompanied ensemble, group and individual performances. Every year hundreds of people come together to watch, listen, learn, laugh, share their stories and sing their hearts out with choral, comedy, cabaret, poetry, spoken word, storytelling, with sacred, indigenous, world, folk, jazz, gospel, hip hop, and blues music.

We’re excited to announce that after a year’s hiatus, the Tealeaf Troubadours are back in action with not one, but two shows lined up for the festival. The Tealeaf Troubadours are a four-piece ensemble of storytellers, musicians and poets (including me) who create enthralling performances which combine music, storytelling and poetry. Our adults show is called Driftwood Stories and will be performed at the Mongolian Storytelling Yurt on Sunday 5th June at 2:30 pm. We will also be performing a kids’ show, called Treasure, also in the Yurt, at 10am on Saturday 4th June.

Meet us at the forest ocean interface, a liminal space where wizened boughs whisper tales of memory and longing to the sea air, but beware your step as this ancient landscape may conceal harder truths.

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Keren Gila Raiter at Perth Poetry Club, 28th May

I’ve been invited to give a feature guest performance of poetry at Perth Poetry Club later this month. The feature will be part of Perth Poetry Club’s regular stint of poetry which happens at The Moon Café (323 William Street, Northbridge, not far from Perth’s Central Train Station) every Saturday afternoon from 2-4 pm. The afternoon will include MCing by Perth Poetry Club’s Underlords and open mike performances from Perth’s happening poetry community, as well as another feature performance by Bill Dickie.

You can find out more about what’s happening at Perth Poetry Club here: http://www.perthpoetryclub.com/whats-on. My blurb for the performance follows.

Keren Gila Raiter is awed by the natural world and the power of our words to give us meaning in an otherwise very mysterious existence. An ecologist and eco-philosopher, she has recently completed a PhD on conserving the Great Western Woodlands of south-western Australia. Keren weaves words and animated performances into poetry that spans landscapes, languages, and lifetimes. In this feature for Perth Poetry Club, Keren will perform a series of pieces about her research, and also some works written in collaboration with the Chinese Classical Orchestra as part of a poetry-and-music creative fusion.

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Autobiography of a plant killer

A few years ago I conducted some research about the threat of an exotic plant disease called ‘dieback’ (Phytophthora cinnamomi) to plants of significance to Noongar people on the south coast of Western Australia. Noongar (also spelled Nyungah) is the name for the Indigenous people and traditional custodians of southwestern Western Australia. I had the honour of going out into the bush with some of these people, and learning about their bush tucker and bush medicine. I also had the sadness of learning about the destruction caused by this introduced plant disease: beautiful under the microscope, ugly in consequence.

This clip was recorded in June 2012 at the Denmark Festival of Voice, Western Australia. The words follow:

Autobiography of a Plant Killer

 

They first found me rotting away in a cinnamon tree,

And I am a malaise of modern, mobile, society.

Virile, though sexless,

I am newcomer to these age old rocks.

And I am a detail by which technology killed the world.

 

I am small, almost microscopic, my translucent whiskers are shapely, charming, miniature versions of the coral reefs that lie stretched out beneath the oceans.

And like the reefs, I am huge too, my coralline whiskers have slithered, swum, and hitched from Sumatra all around the world, to the ancient woods of Tasmania, the famous proteas of southern Africa…

I slither

Imperceptib-ly,

Subterranean-ly,

Relentless-ly,

In the mud on the tyres of your four-wheel-drive-ly.

I stowed away in soil on ships and I now ravage the tall hardwoods of the Americas, and the great wildlands of southern Australia, where every peak in the landscape is a story from creation; and now the bush foods of the local ones are becoming less, and less, and less.

 

The old Noongar, she talks about the bush tucker.

She tells of the honey from the banksias, a good healing tonic.

Dead banksias now.

 

She calls me Drastic

They call me Insidious. Tragic. Deadly.

They call me Phytopathogenic Pseudofungus.

They call me Biological Bulldozer.

they call me Phytophthora cinnamomi.

They call me Worse Than Salinity.

 

I ignore signs. I ignore boundaries.

I ignore laws that say ‘no taking of native flora’; ‘no destruction in a national park’. I destroy the hillsides, I destroy the valleys. And those plants; I take half.

I take half and leave their skeletons, grey and dead.

They call me dieback. But I am a front. And I am in front.

And somehow it comes to be that my unconscious, mouldy evolution has outsmarted all the power and knowledge and gadgets of the human race, and all they can do is watch me do my work, try to grapple with my epidemiology, and hope to live longer than my victims and tell their story.

“Gotta speak good story”, they say.

I ain’t no good story.

I love the rotting of the living.

I scour the roots with which the windswept trees grip the ancient soil, as they turn red with silent, underground rage at their doom.

 

You see, I believe in simplifying the world. Just what clarity is there in a biodiversity that stretches from here to the moon? Why worry with those

Proteaceae

Epacridaceae

all them that are Myrtaceous

Fabeaceous

Papilionaceous

Xanthhoreaceaous

(words that your common physicist couldn’t even spell)

when you can so easily manage

sedge, after sedge, after sedge.

 

I creep underbark, through vessels built for water and food and all things good. I creep leaving lesions scarring up tall, strong trees that withstand wind and rain and the turning of centuries, but cannot resist my deathwish.

Parched, thirsty roots dying silently.

Cells without integrity once I’ve been through.

 

and so, even before full-scale industrialisation,

commercialisation,

post-modernisation,

I took advantage of exponentialization.

While young male patriots ran up and down the wild magnificent mountains, learning how not to fall over,

And pioneer farmers with high hopes cleared land for their woolly herds,

And roads were built,

And gravel was spilt,

I, without guilt,

flagged a ride on their shoes.

 

© Keren Gila Raiter 2012

No-one’s slave

An old friend, Benna, once taught a group of us this song while we sat around a fire, on a hiking trip across a stunning wild part of the Pilbara, in north-western Australia. We were walking the land on an ecophilosophical journey of learning and (self) discovery, led by an amazing teacher called Patsy. Years later, I hunted down the original lyrics, adapted them to suit my story, and made of them a spoken word piece. It was a shame to remove the music, but I hope that you enjoy it nonetheless.

This clip was recorded at the Denmark Festival of Voice, Western Australia.

Words adapted from the original lyrics from the song of the same name.

‘Beneath our Feet’ performed at Denmark Festival of Voice

Here is a piece about what I do in my day job – that is, one of my day jobs at the moment. I am an environmental scientist, and I work with climate change, forested streams and forest management practices. I investigate what happens to our streams when we log, thin, mine, and rehabilitate the forests (and combinations of the above) against the striking backdrop of our drying and variable climate, and what we can do about it. This poem is written specifically about the Jarrah forests and streams in the Darling Ranges to the east and south-east of Perth, although similar things are happening in many parts of the southwest of Australia.

An eclectic afternoon of music and poetry

Keren Gila Raiter will be performing in an exciting collaboration with the Chung Wah Chinese Classical Orchestra in May, as part of the Act Belong Commit Canning Music Series.

The Chung Wah Orchestra is part of the oldest ethnic association in Western Australia,founded in 1909. As cultural ambassadors for the Chinese community, they teach and perform classical Chinese music at various community events and special occasions to promote and preserve Chinese culture. The Chung Wah Orchestra is a ‘family’ of three generations playing together; the youngest member is 9 years old and the oldest is about 70 years old.

The event, organised by the City of Canning and proudly supported by Act-Belong-Commit, also featues the South Side Symphony orchestra in collaboration with Martin De Sousa Mealy, Nova Ensemble in collaboration with Kevin Gillam, and the Vocal Evolution in collaboration with Kate Wilson.

What: Concert featuring four orchestras performing with original poetry written and performed by four of Perth’s finest poets

Where: Canning Town Hall, 1317 Albany Highway (corner George Street West), Cannington, Western Australia

When: Sunday 24th May 2015 2-5 pm

This is a free City of Canning Event.

2015 Canning Music Series

Art and inspiration, Bungalbin

(Originally posted on Sustaining Ecology)
I was recently invited to contribute to the Wilderness Society’s exhibition of art inspired by the Great Western Woodlands, as part of an event held to celebrate the incredible but threatened Helena-Aurora Range, and gather support for its protection. To learn more about the event, the need for protection of Helena-Aurora Range, and ways of supporting its protection, click here.

The images and text that I exhibited and performed follow.

many-limbed

Many-limbed. Photograph © Keren Gila Raiter

Sunrise over Helena-Aurora. Photograph by Fiona Westcott (reproduced with permission)

Sunrise over Helena-Aurora. Photograph © Fiona Westcott (reproduced with permission)

Dianella revoluta – blueberry lilly. Photograph © Keren Gila Raiter

Moonrise almost as old as the moon fresh as the last burn

Moonrise

almost as old as the moon
fresh as the last burn

2. Verticordia chrysantha

Verticordia chrysantha

This is not the middle of nowhere
it’s the centre of everywhere
the sweet space between wet forests and dry deserts
where there’s more eucalypts than there’s elements in the periodic table;
more flowering plants than in the UK
where banded iron never goes out of fashion
with water in rocky cracks and rare views over subtle topography
what’s more, it’s my home

3. Bungalbin

Bungalbin

by the time we reached Bungalbin
we had forgotten what a hill looks like
and a range seemed impossible in this flat expansiveness
but the earth reaching skyward was unmistakable

We camped in Helena and Aurora’s wide embrace
long ironstone arms stretched out around us
striped with geology

4. Night creature

Night lacewing (Myrmeleontidae family)

the creatures of the night
remind me of the mystery
of life
of ecosystems
of the things that are hidden from our view
but that are nevertheless
essential parts of our existence

Abandoned mine

Abandoned mine

after the minerals have been traded
profits spent
workers retrenched, or retired
that water will still be a strange shade of green

6. red legged- arachnid

Red-legged

I walked a thousand kilometres
till my legs were red and hairy
I lost and found myself
in between these leaves and branches
and I won’t forget

It's us who decide 1 Slide2 Slide3 Slide4

All photographs and text © Keren Gila Raiter except where noted

Tealeaf Troubadours perform at Busselton Fringe Festival

Back by popular demand!

The Tealeaf Troubadours (Keren Gila Raiter, Alex Hey, Jesse the Wind Wanderer, and Jaya Penelope), previously known at Minstrel Gallery, are back at the Busselton Fringe Festival with two performances of Skywoman’s Basket (abridged version) featuring traditional folktales, original performance poetry and striking live cello. The shows will be perfromed on the New Courtroom stage in the Old Courthouse in the Art-Geo Complex, Queen Street, Busselton.

Show times are 8:15 pm on Friday 13th March, and 9 pm on Saturday 14th March.

Tickets $15, available at the Box Office. This is a show for adults, children under 13 will not be admitted.

Busselton Fringe

Video

Presenting the Tealeaf Troubadours – now on Youtube

For more, see the Tealeaf Troubadours’ website, at http://www.tealeaftroubadours.com.au

Skywoman’s Basket: two shows courtesy of Fremantle Festival

Following two sold-out performances at the Wild Twig Studios in Fremantle, the Tealeaf Troubadours (a four-piece group of storytellers, a cellist, and a performance poet – me!) will be performing Skywoman’s Basket as part of the 2014 Fremantle Festival.
You are invited!
small flier
Show details are:
What: Skywoman’s Basket, a performance of folk tales accompanied by live cello and poetry, exploring themes of love, wildness and longing. Storytelling at once visceral and lyrical.
When: Thursday 23rd and Sunday 26th October
Where: Black Box Theatre (upstairs in Spare Parts Puppet Theatre), 1 Short Street, Fremantle, Western Australia (opposite train station)
Duration: approx 2 hrs, including an intermission
Tickets: $15, available from https://events.ticketbooth.com.au/event/3881292 or at the door if not sold out.
This is storytelling for adults, unfortunately we don’t recommend it for kids.
Keren Gila Raiter,
on behalf of the Tealeaf Troubadours
Image

Skywoman’s Basket

 

A woman descends from the sky on a silvery rope, a key weeps blood and a princess wears out three pairs of iron shoes. The Tealeaf Troubadours weave the vibrant threads of story, poetry and cello into traditional tales to explore themes of intimacy, secrets, wildness and longing.

Storytelling at once visceral and lyrical.

The Tealeaf Troubadours’ next show, Skywoman’s Basket will be performed at the Wild Twig studios, 10 Captains Lane, in Fremantle, Western Australia.

Show times are as follows:

Friday 1st August @ 7:30 pm

Sunday 3rd August @ 6 pm

The show runs for approximately 2 hours with a short intermission.