a lyrebird messenger

Riverton Press will publish a book next year by Italian author Vittoria Pasquini, a text that has been translated into English by Gino Moliterni. We have discussed the merits and demerits of bilingual publications as we prepare The Legend of Busby.

A friend and colleague of Vittoria has translated the children’s book Leonard the Lyrebird, written by Jodie McLeod and illustrated by Eloise Short, and a bilingual edition exists of Leonard, l’ucello lira. The translator, Mirella Alessio, told me I could contact that author – she lives in the Blue Mountains.

Riverton Press was there recently wandering the paths near the Three Sisters and saw a sculpture of a lyrebird perched on a railing. Not 20 metres distant was a real lyrebird sitting on the same railing watching the morning and cleaning her feathers. Then she changed her balance, spread the wings of her magnificent tail and took off.

This reminded me of the book and I decided to find Leonard the Lyrebird. I went to the bookshop near the food co-op in Katoomba and asked man behind counter, who immediately took me to Leonard and her companion Lilah the Lyrebird. He didn’t know about the Italian version. Suddenly a voice from man behind door, the one I hadn’t seen. He knows Jodie, he’ll text her. And he did, right then and there. The other man took my phone number and would be in touch. I resisted buying any book as I had a bush walk ahead.

I was sitting on a wooden bench in wonder at the flowering wild waratahs at Govetts Leap and checked my phone, there was a message, not from the bookshop, but from the author herself. She gave me her address and said she’d be going out but would leave Leonard on the verandah and I could leave money under mat.

The waratahs had pleased and amazed me, this message only compounded my joy, restoring a little of my damaged faith in human kindness and trust.

The one person I know in Katoomba gave me a lift to Jodie’s place in another act of generosity. Next morning, at a different bookshop (sorry, LITTLE LOST BOOKSHOP, but we were in another town!), this driver purchased three books, the lyrebirds Leonard and Lilah, and the one I’d resisted the day before, the latest from Jodie McLeod and Eloise Short, The Black Cockatoo With One Feather Blue. I bought this last one too, for Eileen.

One thing more: on my second early morning walk around Echo Point I saw the lyrebird again. I remembered my father‘s simple response when I made a comment one day about a willy wagtail flitting from tree to fence. He lives here, he said.

And now, back to the original question, bilingual books, do they work? They certainly do for students of language and of translation, and is wonderful in the case of Leonard, l’ucello lira with its rich onomatopoeic vocabulary, as the book has a QR code link to the audio version in Italian.

Pix from around Govetts Leap and Echo Point. As you can see, the lyrebird is not balanced on a railing! This sculpture is closer to Blackheath.


trying to understand Mexico

We relaunched our books in Newtown last week with Penny O’Donnell as launcher-in-chief, Ruth Adler, co-editor of the Journeys anthology, as the one who remembered to give thanks to all those who helped make Journeys happen, and Jacqueline as MC.

Jeanie Lewis told us about her friend Hector Caicedo, co-star of her contribution to Journeys, and sang us a Woody Guthrie song: the Deportees. Jenny Pollak also told us the back story of her poetry in the book and read some of her magnificent work.

Penny made the point that, for the Australian women who contributed to Journeys, living in Mexico made our lives bigger, and that’s true, Mexico amplified our experience and our understanding. That latter, the understanding, may have come after months or years of not understanding how Mexico works, but the opportunity for that search was invaluable. I am reminded of Mariko, my Japanese neighbour for a time in Tepoztlán, Morelos, who used to say: “It’s not a matter of trying to understand Mexico, you just have to get it.”

Penny quoted Nelson Mandela – There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

She acknowledged Journeys co-editor Jenny Cooper, still in Mexico, for her work establishing the Mexico National University’s gender and economics program, under the motto: Por una economía feminista que apuesta por la sostenibilidad de la vida – For a feminist economy that is committed to the sustainability of life.

Can I read another poem, asks Jenny Pollak, is there enough time? We poets have so few opportunities to speak…

I was MC, I had no idea if the clock gave us more or less time, but all the audience knew that yes, we had time for Jenny’s next poem, the one she’d written that morning.

It turned out we didn’t have much time and Lily of the bookshop sold some books and said we had to leave. That was a pity because the room was full of people who knew each other from different parts of our lives, which made for a great atmosphere. I was the last to leave, except for Lily of Better Read than Dead, who was left alone with the books, the wine glasses, the accounts, closing the shop. King street on Friday night was buzzing, the busiest place I’ve been since I walked the streets of Madrid the year before Covid.

Thanks to Elspeth and Conrad for taking the photos. Thanks to Ruth and the bookshop for helping organise the event, to our speakers Ruth, Penny, Jenny and Jeanie, to Raewyn Connell and Manon Saur, who contributed to the Journeys anthology and were there that night. Thanks to all the contributors who gave us their insights into their time in Mexico, and to you, our readers!