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Hi, I’m Leni Shilton. Today I’m going to read “In Search of Mint”. It’s taken from Fishtails in the Dust – writing from the Centre.
I go in search of mint under the kurrajong tree
between the couch
and the mass of boat shaped pods
filled with tiny silky needles.
I find the mint –
a few stalks remain
struggling at the pot’s edge,
the rest is dead.
It is a time of famine in our backyard
with only the chickens taking delight
in the quarter acre of dust.
For their own good
the basil and capsicum have been fenced
each with its own dripper,
the rest is left to its own resources
and won’t survive this desert dry.
Beyond the yard
I look for words in this wasteland
and remember with longing
the lushness of colour and water,
the curve of a coast
only a memory now.
People visit –
Ah! they say, this is what it’s like!
This landscape littered with dying trees
and a river filled with
I tell them I can’t remember –
there have been too many days of dusty haze,
I only know the world is clearer
seen from here
and when I leave and can’t see the desert anymore
I am afraid.
The only mint to survive
grows on my window sill.
I tend it daily –
water and turn the pot
to stop the pungent leaves
from gazing out the window.
ABOUT LENI SHILTON:
Leni Shilton has worked as a lecturer at Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education in the Northern Territory coordinating the Creative Writing program, as a prison educator and as a remote health educator. She is a prize-winning poet, whose work has been published widely in journals and anthologies. She is currently undertaking a PhD in Creative Writing through Central Queensland University writing a verse novel on Bertha Strehlow. In 2011 she took part in a research project through the Universities of Melbourne and Canberra into the factors that surround the inspiration and generation of poetry writing. She takes occasional classes for the U3A and was on the Fellowship Selection Panel of the Eleanor Dark Foundation for the 2011 Varuna Fellowships.
B. Health Sci (CSU), Grad Dip Ed (NTU), MLitt (CQUniversity)
“I have had the privilege of spending time at Varuna over a number of years now and have enjoyed all the great things that go with that – time for writing and reflection, time to meet and become friends with inspiring writers and mentors, and I’ve also had the opportunity to assist new and emerging writers to be able to spend time at Varuna, so they too can experience its wonders.” Leni Shilton
U’Ren (Shilton), L 1995 ‘A moment in Central Australia’ in Barking Dogs – Stories and Poems for Radio by Central Australian Writers’, The Writers’ for Radio Project, Ed: Sally Jeavons et. el., Alice Springs, broadcast on 8CCC, Alice Springs
Shilton, L 1999 ‘Going Bush: a brief guide for remote area nurses working with Aboriginal health workers in the Aboriginal communities of Central Australia’ (highly commended) in Northern Perspective, Vol. 22, 1999 NT Literary Awards edition, Northern Territory University, Darwin, ISSN 0314-989 X
Shilton, L 2001 ‘For Dominic’ in Belly – Journal for Birthing Women, Ed: Sarah Nicholson, Byron Bay, First edition.
Shilton, L 2001 ‘The kiss’ in the Alice Springs News, August, http://www.alicespringsnews.com.au/0830.html
Shilton, L 2002 ‘Art House Words’ in the Alice Springs News, 6/3/02
Shilton, L 2002 ‘To Mum and Dad from Walungarru’ in Songs of the Unsung Hero – Stories and Verse Celebrating Australian Women and their Work, Ed: Barbara Ker Wilson, Australian Heritage Workers Centre, Brisbane, ISBN 0 9581077 0 X
Shilton, L 2002 ‘Dust’ in Coastlines Cultural Journal, Ed: Nuridayat Poso & Heather Curnow, Vol. II, No. 2, Tegal, Indonesia, August 2002, ISSN 1412-6729
Shilton, L 2002 ‘Choice’ & ‘The Kiss’ in from the Anabranch, Ed. Margaret Bradstock, Poets Union Inc., Sydney, ISBN 0 9578564 1 5
Shilton, L 2003 ‘Dust’ & ‘Readings’ broadcast PoeticA, Radio National, 8/2/03
Shilton, L 2003 ‘Readings’ in Open Boat Barbed Wire Sky – poems for refugees, Ed. Sue Hicks & Danny Gardner, Live Poets Press, Sydney, ISBN 0 646 42122 0
Shilton, L 2003 ‘Budgie Camp’, ‘My brother’, ‘Full moon baby’, ‘Liam’, ‘After the rain’, ‘Travelling home’, in Living Room – poems from the Centre, Ed. Jan Owen, Ptilotus Press & Alice Springs Writers Group, Alice Springs, ISBN 0 9751109 0 X
(Living Room won first prize in the National FAW Community Writers Awards March 2004)
Shilton, L 2004 ‘At the prison’ in TRUE NORTH: contemporary writing from the Northern Territory, Ed. Marion Devett, NT Writers Centre, CDU Press, Darwin, ISBN 978-1-876248-91-8, review: http://www.styluspoetryjournal.com/main/master.asp?id=518
Shilton, L 2004 ‘Budgie Camp’ broadcast on PoeticA, Radio National, 4/9/04
Shilton, L 2004 Alice Rendezvous @ Watch This Space, Alice Springs, Exhibition 5-11/9/04, Collaborative project between artists and writers: ‘All the years I & II’, ‘At the Table ‘and ‘In time’, with Sydney visual artist Pam French; and ‘Waiting’ and ‘The fragile wing’, with visual artist Kieren Sanderson
Shilton, L 2004 ‘Sista’, in the Alice Springs News 9/ 10/04. Third prize Short Story Writing Competition, http://www.alicespringsnews.com.au/1138.htm
Shilton, L 2004 ‘Lost property: discovering a language in prison’, in FINE PRINT- a journal of adult English language and literacy education, Ed. R. Hodge, Victorian Adult Literacy and Basic Education Council, Melbourne, Vol. 27, No. 4, Summer 2004, ISSN 0159-3978 See: www.voced.edu.au/td/tnc_83.375
Shilton, L 2005 ‘Words behind the Wire – Creative Writing on the Inside’, Conference paper for the Australasian Corrections Educators Association Conference, Darwin October 2005. Published on CD http://www.acea.org.au/Content/2005%20papers/Paper%20Shilton.pdf
Shilton 2005 ‘Utopia’ first prize Alice Springs News Writing Competition, Vol. 12, Issue 48, 7/12/2005
Shilton, L 2006 ‘Creative Writing in the Desert – From Prison to Publication’, Conference paper for the Reintegration Puzzle conference, Deakin University, Brisbane, June 2006
Shilton, L 2006 ‘Utopia’, ‘Dust’ and ‘Sista’, in The milk in the Sky – writing from the Centre, Ed. Janet Hutchinson, Ptilotus Press, Alice Springs, November 2006, ISBN 0975110926
Shilton, L 2007 ‘Readings’, in Terra: A Bilingual Anthology for Wordstorm , the NT Writers’ Festival, Ed. Sandra Thibideaux and Sitok Sregenge, translator: Kadek Krishna Adidharma, published by NT Writers’ Centre & Jakarta- based KataKita Press, May 2007, ISBN 978-0-646-47529-5 www.ntwriters.com.au
Shilton, L 2007 ‘From Prison to Publication – A journey to rehabilitation through creative writing’, European Prison Educators’ Association conference, Learning for Liberation, Dublin, Ireland, conference publication, June 2007
Shilton, L 2007 ‘Leaving’, performed for Radioeye, ABC Radio National 2007 http://www.abc.net.au/rn/radioeye/features/2007/train/alicesprings/alicesprings_box.htm
Shilton, L 2008 ‘Water through time’, in What’s this ART thing about anyway? Vol. 5, Poetry in response to artwork, Watch this Space, Alice Springs, 2008 Alice Desert Festival
Shilton, L 2008 ‘Josh’s Story’ Shortlisted Dymocks Arafura Short Story Award, 2008 NT Literary Awards, Published in NT Lit Awards Publication (NT Library Services 2008), ISSN 1449-9886, Government Printing Office
Shilton, L 2009 ‘In search of mint’ and ‘The Snake’ in Fishtails in the Dust – writing from the Centre, Ptilotus Press, Alice Springs, May 2009. Review by Russell Goldflam, ISBN 978 0 9751109 3 5 http://www.alicespringsnews.com.au/1623.html
Shilton, L 2009 ‘In search of Mint’, in the Watch this Space exhibition, Fishtails in the dust – a visual response, Exhibition Opening, Alice Springs, 2 -18 May 2009
Shilton, L 2009 ‘The stars in the ground’, ‘Loved things’ and ‘Prison Life’, in How to look after your poet in the event of a cyclone, Eds. K. Aldenhoven & S. Thibodeaux, NTWC, Darwin, ISBN 978-0-646-51917-3
Shilton, L 2009 ‘Larapinta Trail Notes from a Journal’, Shortlisted for the Essay Award in the NT Literary Awards. Published in NT Literary Awards Publication, NT Library Services, Sept 2009, ISSN 1449-9886
Shilton, L 2010 ‘Thoughts of the desert’, Red Earth Poetry prize, 2010 NT Literary Awards, finalist for ‘Sea Diary’, 2010 NT Literary Awards Publication, NT Library Services, Darwin, ISSN 1449-9886
Shilton, L 2010 Malcolm – a story in Verse, reading 16th May 2010, Wordstorm – the Festival of Australasian Writing, Darwin
Shilton, L 2010 ‘Breaking out – the realities of life, education and writing after prison’ Reintegration Puzzle Conference, Deakin University, Hobart 25th June 2010
Shilton, L 2010 ‘Nyirrpi’ in The Green Fuse, Byron Bay Writers Festival Poetry Prize 2010, ed. C. Williams, Picaro Press, NSW, ISBN 978-1-921691-07-2
Shilton, L 2011 ‘Malcolm – a monologue’ performed 2011 Bite Sized Theatre program, Araluen Arts Centre, March 2011, Alice Springs, performed 15th March 2011, evidence: see attached pdf ‘Bite Sized theatre information’
Shilton, L 2011 ‘Looking for Bertha Strehlow – giving voice to silence’, conference presentation at the Australasian Association of Writing Programs’ 16th Annual Conference, Ethical Imaginings: Writing Worlds, Byron Bay 23-25 November 2011
9 Boucaut St
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