Melbourne poems 1: Sailed from Naarm

During my online residency for Melbourne UNESCO City of Literature I am exploring the fantastic digital archive of materials available through the State Library of Victoria. I’ve had some useful conversations with Library staff about artefacts in the collections, photographic images, ownership and the wealth of stories that the catalogue is gradually revealing to me.

I’ve composed a series of Found Works, new poems that are solely written in language of the texts selected from the archive. Over the next month I will be sharing these. The first poem included here is Sailed from Naarm 1838 – 1846. In writing this piece I have drawn on advertisements for sailings published in the oldest newspapers published in Melbourne: The Melbourne Advertiser, The Melbourne Argus and Melbourne Daily News. The Melbourne Advertiser was first published on Jan 1st 1838. Its first issue was handwritten by John P. Fawkner.

In creating Sailed from Naarm I wanted to experiment with shape and form. I loved the names of the ships and the often sparse information that was provided about them in the newspaper adverts. I investigated the different types of ships that sailed from Port Phillip and the shapes of their sails. At some level I also had the influences of Ian Hamilton Finlay, Stanley Cook and Robert Froman in my head.

If you watched Ash Barty’s tremendous win in Australian Open women’s singles tennis tournament last month you will may have seen her being congratulated by fellow indigneous sporting heroes Evonne Goolagong-Cawley and Cathy Freeman under a banner saying ‘Wominjeka Naarm‘. Naarm or Naarm is the traditional Aboriginal name of Melbourne, the traditional lands of the Kulin Nation. The Kulin Nation is a collective of five Aboriginal nations: Wurundjeri, Boonwurrung, Wathaurrung, Daungwurrung and Dja DjaWrung. Their collective territory extends around Port Phillip and Western Port, up into the Great Dividing Range and the Loddon and Goulburn River valleys. The Kulin nation has inhabited the area for an estimated 40,000 years and prior to colonisation was a nation or more than 20,000 people. (Source:

I am also currently planning an online writing workshop for young people some remarkable objects in the collection. This will take place on Saturday 5 March 10am – 11am on Zoom (UK time: Friday 4 March, 11pm – 12am). An accompanying digital writing resource for young people, parents and teachers will be published in Spring 2022. More info will be available about both of these shortly.

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