New Shoots Victoria 2017

New Shoots: A Garden of Poems

Tamryn Bennett, Red Room Poetry

Red Room Poetry first began New Shoots at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, for 2016, soon branching to Bundanon Trust, Byron Bay and the Blue Mountains before finding fertile soil at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria in partnership with Australian Poetry and Melbourne Writers Festival 2017. In this latest and largest iteration, 10 poets were commissioned to create a new suite of poems each, inspired by plants and histories they encountered in the Garden and beyond. From fungi to studded ceiba and remnant river gum, the poems span plundered pasts, migratory paths and imagined leafy afterlives that map the fragility of past, present and future ecologies.

Each poet offers a different lens into the colonised life of the Garden and lungs of the city. For Ryan Prehn, reluctance gives way to the memory of ‘biel and ballee smoke’, while Bruce Pascoe shares the cautionary wisdom of Kuller Kullup. Carissa Lee Godwin draws on the Monterey Cyprus as metaphor for diaspora, with Maria Takolander, Elena Gomez and Chris Wallace-Crabbe circling nomadic succulents now most at home in Australian heat. Cameron Lowe, Duncan Hose and Autumn Royal compost language, dramaticising mythic biophonies of the golden bogey, fig and camellia. Further afield, Bonny Cassidy germinates a serial poem in response to fungi found in the bush and Melbourne University Herbarium. Together, these poems create a botanical compendium of the thorned and petalled histories of the Garden.  

Origins of the word ‘inspire’ mean to breathe and with each green encounter that’s what these poems encourage. The poems are now available also as audio recordings with interviews, produced by Prithvi Varatharajan, and excerpts of the New Shoots poems are also ‘planted’ in the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria to create poetic pathways through the Gardens.


New Shoots unearths the poetic inspiration of plants and place. In partnership with Red Room Poetry, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria and Melbourne Writers Festival we took a poetic walking tour with ten of Australia’s most spirited poets the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Featuring poets Bruce Pascoe, Maria Takolander, Bonny Cassidy, Autumn Royal, Ryan Prehn, Elena Gomez, Duncan Hose, Chris Wallace-Crabbe AM, Carissa Lee and Cameron Lowe.

If you would like to read the poems, stories and reflections that stemmed from this project, go here; to Red Room Poetry.

To see full gallery, click on the photo above.

Photographs courtesy of Red Room Poetry.

Go here to view more.

we grew a little slower sometimes
we needed to protect ourselves
we self-seeded on the cliff face
we splashed out real nice

~ from ‘Enter the Yellow Tower’ by Elena Gomez

Go to Australian Poetry’s Soundcloud to hear audio of the New Shoots poems.

Audio by Prithvi Varatharajan, writer and freelance producer of audio books and cultural radio programs. He recently completed a PhD at the University of Queensland on authorial presence and national identity in ABC RN’s Poetica (1997-2014), focusing on episodes on John Forbes, Vicki Viidikas, Ouyang Yu, and Ali Cobby Eckermann. His poems, reviews, interviews, and scholarly articles have appeared in various Australian and overseas publications.