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Read this and be smarter

Thu, Nov 21, 2019

Read this and be… smarter

Read this and be… unsettled

Read this and be… inspired

Read this and be… challenged

Read this and be… moved 

Magabala’s books challenge, educate, disrupt, inspire, celebrate and transform. In this series, presented in conjunction with the State Library of Western Australia’s ‘Read this and be… smarterproject, we profile an excerpt of writing from our new release and backlist titles to spark and promote all forms of reading.

We are privileged to kick off this series with a poem from Gomeroi poet, essayist, legal academic and multi-tasking virtuoso Alison Whittaker. The poem ‘a love like Dorothea’s’ is published in her award-winning collection BLAKWORK: 

a love like Dorothea’s 

I loved a sunburnt country, dislodged in a memory
I never lived in time to love a love like Dorothea’s.
We’re cannibals of other kinds; the white woman has eat the sky
and where does that leave ones like I? – lost creatures chewing o’er the night

of our missing sunburnt country, on which our prone feet land.
And onto which Mackellar’s gaze turns rivers into sand.

It burns my eyes to turn to hers, my wide brown land out of like hands
But traced in fetish verse
‘I love a sunburnt country’                 I loved a sunburnt country.

                                                                                      I love white nativity
that digs its roots and ticks to suck the floodplains and the sea –
the love that swept those sweeping plains from Nan, from Mum, from me. 

Cored in my heart, my country – beauty, terror, balm and bite
Building, taking flesh, building furnace, taking flight. 

Lavish and demanding; driving lapping cattle off – while emu
and kang’roo alike on highway going soft.

I could have loved the twisting grass-fans,
grabbing motes with bubby hands,
like I loved this dutied vastness; that I am less and less than land.

I loved a sunburnt country – won’t it
please come back to me? Won’t it
show me why my spirit wanders

but is never free?
I will soothe its burns with lotion, I will peel off its dead skin.
If it can tell me
why I’m  
ever further from my kin.
I loved a sunburnt country, won’t it
Gingerly limp back?
I can’t get past the concrete and my black tongue’s gone all slack. 

I’m sorry, sweet Mackellar, that it famished all your cows,
paddock’s yellow-thirsty-sudden-green; no telling how.
That the gold-hush-rainy-drum was hard to violence and the plow.

I love a sunburnt country.                 I love a sunburnt country.
That is mine but not for me. 

(p. 5) Alison Whittaker, BLAKWORK, Magabala Books, 2018


The State Library of Western Australia promotes literacy for all ages. To this end the ‘Read this and be smarter project’ has been developed and profiles a short piece of writing from Australian publications every Monday to Friday to read on your commute or lunch break.