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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing April 2023
Here, where poets gather, poem by Denise O’Hagan
Here, where poets gather
Observatory Hill Park, Sydney
Who really knows what happens—here, where poets
gather? Where did the words go that afternoon when they
were released from the mouths that birthed them into the
wide cool air, and—do you too wonder?—did they
find their way to their destination intact? If not, did they
survive the indignity of being misconstrued or the bruise
of not being heard at all? Did you see them colliding with
the haze of dust motes, falling into the ruddy halo of leaves
at the base of the giant fig tree? Were they deflected by the
sequined slinkiness of the passing wedding party, perhaps,
or waylaid by the clusters of brown and cream gender-
neutral balloons bobbing about like huge air-borne eggs,
throttled with cord at the balustrade? And what became
of them—did you notice?—when the groups crumbled
apart, dispersing like debris in the fading light? How can
we ever hear the reverberations of what—if anything—
occurs here, where poets gather?
Note: Observatory Hill is the highest point in Sydney
(40 m above sea level). Site of the first windmill built during
European settlement, it is now dedicated to community use,
the Federation-style rotunda popular for weddings and other gatherings.
© Denise O’Hagan
Denise O’Hagan (MA) is a Sydney-based editor and poet. She has a background in commercial book publishing with Routledge, Collins and Heinemann (London) and Horwitz, Cambridge University Press and the State Library of NSW (Sydney). In 2015 she set up her own imprint, Black Quill Press, to publish her late mother’s historical novel Jerome & His Women (2015), shortlisted for the inaugural Institute of Professional Editors’ Rosanne Fitzgibbon Editorial Award (the ‘Rosie’).
Her other publications include A Roman Death (2017), Chinese Whispers: In Search of Ivy (2018), Mini Style Guide (2018) and Messages from the Embers (2020). Her poetry is published widely both in Australia and overseas. Recipient of the Dalkey Poetry Prize (Ireland), her work has also been awarded in Australia and New Zealand, the UK, France, Hong Kong and the States.
She was Poetry Editor for Australia/New Zealand for Irish literary journal The Blue Nib until 2020. Her poetry collections include The Beating Heart (Ginninderra Press 2020), shortlisted for the Society of Women Writers NSW 2022 and Anamnesis (Recent Work Press 2022). https://denise-ohagan.com