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.
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.
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.
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.
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 personal story, set in Maasailand, Northern Tanzania. Performed at Perth Poetry Club, October 2012; published by Hypallage, 2013.
We met on the edge of a cliff
gazing into our own negative image
folding limbs and lips into caresses that we had always craved
floating on the words of our deepest desires uttered by another’s mouth
bridging worlds with hearts, weaving continents with cups of tea,
melding beads with blessings, black with white, Sabbath with savannah,
mother tongues, and mothers.
pulled by shared aspirations to climb mountains, swim oceans
and create another world.
Unsure just how we landed where we did in this unfolding of history
we rowed into unchartered territory with readiness.
and while the earth gave us laughter and texture; soul and pain
the trail that we had followed was washed away by rain
we met on the edge of a cliff
with one wing each
the ground was far below us
out of reach
warned about strange birds
far flung nests
we had chased the rainbow
blinded by her colourful promise
the cliff’s edge crumbled
our destiny stumbled
we were enveloped by sky
our only hope was to fly
and we held eachother
each wing beating as hard as it could
flagellating with all of the rhythms we knew
but our wings beat out of sync
rivers of tears grew
and why – God only knows. We never really flew
no. we tumbled. we fell
through shivering winters
through hot summer rains
and old buried things
we broke our crowns
our hearts gashed open
our lips cut, dry
our voices hoarse with screams
until, in turn, we stopped.
there is always a branch to catch
if you are determined to get out alive
and now all I can do
is pick myself up
nurse my wounds
and weave my own second wing.
© Keren Gila Raiter
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…
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
all them that are Myrtaceous
(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,
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
(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.
All photographs and text © Keren Gila Raiter except where noted