Esther Ottaway – Illanelle

Profile Ottaway LEP&W ANZ May 2021

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing May 2021
Special edition featuring poets from Australia & New Zealand.

Esther Ottaway is an award-winning Australian poet, shortlisted for the Montreal International and Bridport Poetry Prizes in 2020. Her work has been published for over twenty years in literary journals, newspapers and anthologies, notably the anthology Thirty Australian Poets. Works from her book Blood Universe: poems on pregnancy, anthologised in national and international collections on parenthood, are recognised as an important exploration of women’s experience and listed as further reading in 60 Classic Australian Poems, and her newly released book is Intimate, Low-voiced, Delicate Things. She is writing a new collection on the experiences of women and girls with autism and its related physical conditions. She doesn’t look autistic. Facebook: estherottawaypoet


The tree grew tall, but failed to bloom.
I hide it from you, cope on my own.
My civil war will defeat me soon.

The lifelong illness is auto-immune,
bodily war in the first seed sown.
The tree grew tall, but failed to bloom.

My friends are looking at Europe’s moon;
it hurts to walk from my car to my home.
This private war will defeat me soon.

Nobody knows I sleep past noon,
my Western shame: the bludger’s clone.
The tree looks tall, but cannot bloom.

Termites chatter in every room.
Too weak to go out, too tired for the phone,
my daily war will exile me soon.

I enjoy what I can, though futures loom –
I’m a warming earth, a riven stone.
The tree grew tall, but would not bloom.
My civil war will release me soon.

© Esther Ottaway