“Singing Iris” loosely interprets the concept of Dreaming to examine how ancestry, places, losses, and rebirths echo within a person’s life. “Dreaming” refers to an indigenous Australian tribe’s or individual’s unique creation stories, which relate how ancestral Spirit Beings created everything from Australia’s landscape (generally called “Dreamtime” or “The Dreaming”) to each individual and his/her specific relationship to the Spirit Beings, the land, and his/her tribe. With their representations of how each living thing influences every other and the perpetual natures of time and of creating, Dreaming stories are the foundation of all aspects of an indigenous Australian’s life and are passed from generation to generation in tribal rites, dances, stories, songlines, and art.
In keeping with how indigenous Australians understand, own, and respect their Dreamings, I based this collection on my maternal ancestry and my own life. I combined fact with fiction to create emotional truths about how heritage, home, and physical, emotional, and spiritual losses and rebirths reverberate in one’s life. In addition, I utilized the free verse and traditional poetic forms in various accentual-syllabic and syllabic meters used by the American and British poets who form my literary heritage. I did not retell any indigenous Australian Dreamings, tribal or individual; these stories are not mine to tell. The spirituality inherent to Dreamings, however, offered me a way to cross generational lines and reconsider family stories from broader perspectives to better understand my grandmother and thus myself. “Singing Iris,” then, is the beginning of my Dreaming, my first uncertain steps toward appreciating the various influences that resound throughout my life and poetry.
The collection’s opening epigraphs, as well as several poems, acknowledge a few of the many poets who have influenced my poetic development and this work.
Section I, “My Grandmother’s Last Letter,” relates the places and the physical, emotional, and spiritual losses and rebirths that shaped and echoed within my grandmother’s life, starting with her homeland and birth and concluding with how her death prompted my Dreaming.
Section II, “On Seeing the Hunt at Dusk,” relates the places, losses, and rebirths that have shaped and continue to reverberate in my life, starting with my childhood and concluding with one of the lessons my grandmother taught me.
Section III, “Terpsichore,” depicts various literary characters or themes that demonstrate how home, loss, and rebirth shape every living thing’s life, starting with an echo of one of my own life’s losses and concluding with the echo of my grandmother’s spirit, reborn and still singing.
Throughout the collection, I employed various points of view to manipulate tension and utilized those poetic forms that I felt most naturally reflected an individual poem’s era, emphasized its theme, or suited a speaker’s voice. The chronological arcs of sections I and II and the thematic arc of section III reveal parallels that resound within each story.
Finally, the collection’s title acknowledges how my grandmother and her “songline” helped shape the woman and poet I am.