Reneé Pettitt-Schipp lived in the Indian Ocean Territories for three years, inspiring her first collection of poetry, ‘The Sky Runs Right Through Us’.  This manuscript was shortlisted for the inaugural Dorothy Hewett manuscript prize in 2015, and is due for release with UWA Publishing in February 2018.  Reneé is currently writing a creative non-fiction thesis about her island experiences as part of her doctoral studies at Curtin University.

The Politics and Poetics of Paying Attention in un-Australia

In 2011 I began the job of working with ‘un-Australians’ in ‘un-Australia.’ Teaching asylum seekers on Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands over the next three years became a border crossing of my own. As I heard story after story of suffering and overcoming, I began to hear a larger narrative that spoke to what it meant to be human, a story in which I found myself implicated. At the same time, large tides on Cocos meant other binaries like land and sea were blurred daily by the ocean’s dynamic movements. In all that flux I lost my father to cancer, and it was at this juncture I turned to poetry. In this paper I will explore how tidalectics and critiques of insularity informed a body of poetry that became a process of counter-imagining, helping me find my way back to ‘others’ and a world I thought I knew.