Spotlight on Romaine Moreton

1. Of all the art forms why literature?
My first interest was actually drawing/art, and up until and after the years following high school I was known by my community as a visual artist. It was during primary school and high school that I was encouraged by my teachers to be a writer. Despite the fact that my family were seasonal labourers, my elders always made sure we had books to read when I was growing up with a strong emphasis on education. When I moved to Sydney, I read as much African American literature as I could, having been inspired by The Colour Purple (I didn’t yet know about Indigenous literature). Literature suited me and continues to speak to my personality because of its power to introduce other worlds, especially at a time when I perceived my world as limited.  Good literature can operate as a form of time travel, and is a journey one can take privately with community outcomes. I of course no longer think of my life as limited but rather limitless, and literature has definitely played a role in this.

2. You’re probably most well known for your poetry. Why that genre?
Initially I tried writing in a journalistic style, but I found that this particular style dated and unless one found immediate publication for such pieces, they were diminished in their affect. Poetry however has the power to defy history. What I enjoy about poetry is the inherent timelessness, and if one is skilled in this genre, then one can write it in a way that transcends generation, place, culture, sexuality, gender and politics to reach wider audiences. Now I view poetry as being an incredible asset when writing other genres, and having committed a lot of time to developing my skills as a poet I appreciate how these skills inform me as a screenwriter, academic and performer.

3. What is your major goal as a poet?
Most of my goals in relation to poetry have to do with music and spirituality. One of my goals as a poet is to exploit the rhythmic possibility of poetry through performance, and to find a way of expressing poetry musically that provides an alternative vocal expression to the mainstream concept of song, music and singing.  If I were to be more concise about my goal as a poet, it would be to express ultimate simplicity through the word – rhythmically, visually (how words appear on the page), emotionally and spiritually. Words are powerful, and I would love to see more of a fusion between the hip hop genre and spoken word poetry in the way that the story in both genres be given more significance and treated with more reverence.

4. What or whom would you say influences your writing most?
Over time many people have influenced my work, whether my community, fellow writers, artists or a people whose conversation I overhear on a bus. However these days quite unequivocally it is spirituality that influences my work and the strong ambition to increase the role of spirituality in my life, and the desire to reconnect with my ancestral country is currently being done through writing and story.

5. What role does Indigenous poetry / literature play in Australian society today?
Not as large a role as it should unfortunately. Indigenous literature/poetry still occupies the margins of Australian consciousness, when in fact if it were to be better contextualised through the marketing process, mainstream Australia could appreciate the Indigenous literary voice as a place that expresses an appreciation and connectedness to place in a way non-Indigenous writers could never achieve. If the Australian market shifted its own racism and valued the Indigenous literary voice, it has the potential to increase both local and international understanding of the human in ecology and place – specifically this place (meaning Australia). Indigenous writers through inherited legacy possess a voice that no other writers in this country can imitate, and it is this voice that will play a large part in returning a sense of understanding and belonging to Indigenous peoples.

6. If you could recommend only one book, what would it be?
Carpentaria by Alexis Wright.

Do you have any web links you’d like us to include?
IAD Press: http://www.iad.edu.au/press/iadpresshome.htm
ABC - NAIDOC Sending a Message Concert 2002: http://www.abc.net.au/message/blackarts/music/s683328.htm

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