Two Poems

Natalie Harkin

A Basket to Haunt

from fish-traps and cradles to coffins, a basket can hold many things:
food / babies / love / trinkets /water/ sustenance/ bones/ burdens
/ secrets; a basket can carry shared histories forward in new ways
with old and new materials, like the carefully crafted hand-written
letters from our grandmothers in state archives; a basket can be
woven to carry the load a bit lightly — a basket can haunt.

I Weave Back to You

I tear out their words                            their words                    from these records
this shredding of words                      I tear out                                                   for you.

I weave your words                               your words                      from these records
this basket of words                             I weave back                                              to you.



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Natalie Harkin is a Narungga woman and activist-poet from South Australia. She is currently a Senior Research Fellow at Flinders University with an interest in decolonising state archives, engaging archival-poetic methods to research and document Aboriginal women’s domestic service and labour histories. Her words have been installed and projected in exhibitions comprising text-object-video projection, and published widely, including with literary journals Overland, Westerly, Southerly, The Lifted Brow, Wasafiri International Contemporary Writing, TEXT and CorditeHer poetry manuscripts include Dirty Words with Cordite Books in 2015, and Archival-Poetics with Vagabond Press in 2019.

Sydney, Australia

Archival-Poetics is an embodied reckoning with the State’s colonial archive and those traumatic, contested and buried episodes of history that inevitably return to haunt; a way of knowing and being in the world that carries us lovingly back and forward and back again toward something else restorative/ transformed/ honouring/ just. Family records at the heart of this work highlight policy measures targeting Aboriginal girls for removal into indentured domestic labour, and trigger questions on surveillance, representation and agency. This is a shared story; a decolonising project through poetic refusal, resistance and memory-making. It is our memory in the blood, and it does not always flow easily.

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