New Shoots: A Garden of Poems at MWF17

Tuesday 24 October 2017

By Magan Magan

‘New Shoots: A Garden of Poems’ was a wonderful event held at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria. It featured ten brilliantly diverse poets – Bonny Cassidy, Elena Gomez, Duncan Hose, Carissa Lee Godwin, Cameron Lowe, Bruce Pascoe, Ryan Prehn, Autumn Royal, Maria Takolander and Chris Wallace-Crabbe. Each poet had written a poem relating to nature, which engaged with an element of the Botanic Gardens. The poets were stationed at different locations around the garden. The audience was divided into groups and guided to each poet who waited to read as they stood beside the plant or tree they wrote about. ‘A Garden of Poems’ grew out of the desire to deepen our creative, cultural and emotional connections with plants through poetry.

Nature can create a deeper understanding of oneself. It connects individuals with their souls and awakens something within us, fostering an understanding that there is something bigger than ourselves. Poetry is used to create the same impact and feelings. In a way, our ego lowers and gives way to our authentic self – a self that is in line with a bigger purpose.

In Cameron Lowe’s poem ‘Cotinus’ he ends with:

‘don’t hack
at it –
the blackbirds
nest there’.

This beautiful excerpt takes me to poet Mary Oliver’s poem ‘I Go Down to the Shore’:

‘I say, oh, I am miserable,
what shall –
what should I do? And the sea says
in its lovely voice:
Excuse me, I have work to do’.

In the same way Mary Oliver’s poem is teaching us the world continues regardless of our sadness or happiness, so too, is ‘Cotinus’ directing us to an order we should not ignore.

The New Shoots poems shared were ‘planted’ in the Gardens. I highly recommend a visit to Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria to spend time navigating the garden, connecting with yourself through poetry and nature. The work shared by the poets is also published here.

Prolific poet Warsan Shire always sobers me up as I navigate this terrifying world. When she tells us ‘The only darkness we should allow into our lives is the night, and even then, we have the moon’, I was able to draw a link in choosing to allow the night as the only darkness in my life and the choice to step into the garden to listen to the poems.

Poet Elena Gomez eloquently teaches us that ‘The poet must reveal themselves to the poem’, and in that revealing I believe we begin to have the conversations we do not want to have, to step into a new existence.

‘New Shoots: A Garden of Poems’ at MWF17 was supported by Australian Poetry, Red Room Poetry and Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria.


Magan is participating in the Digital Storytellers program as part of the partnership between MWF and Victoria University to provide opportunities for students to have hands-on industry experience during their studies. You can find him on Twitter, Instagram and his website.

Image credit: Scrappy Annie via Flickr Creative Commons


Digital Storytellers, Events


digital storytellers, mwf17, poetry

24 August –
2 September 2018