Anita Patel

My poetry comes from lived experience and ordinary moments – from connections with nature, with people, with objects, with places.

My favourite quote about poetry is by Carl Sandburg: ‘Poetry is the achievement of the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits.’ The exquisite and the prosaic are all part of the poetic experience.

One of the things that I love about writing poetry is that a poem often turns up when you least expect it. Pablo Neruda describes it best when he says:

‘… poetry arrived
in search of me … I don’t know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don’t know how or when.’

This is the irresistible mystery of poetry for me. That first line arrives and we don’t know where it will take us or even if it will survive in the final work.

The other thing that I love about poetry is that it allows me to break all the rules of literal language. Poetry makes no sense but it makes all the sense. This is because the language of metaphor is a wondrous thing. It allows us to express the ‘unsayable’. I am always excited by an image in which two things collide and collude simultaneously allowing us to see something familiar in a new, refreshing and startling way.

I also simply love words – and poetry is all about making words sing perfectly together.  Honing a poem is a joyful task. There is no place for even a slightly wrong syllable in poetry. Every single word matters.

Most of all, I love the way that a poem works itself into your heart and stays there forever. I am always astonished at what a poem finds in me. And I thank the scores of poets who have shared the gift of their words with me.


Anita Patel is a Canberra writer who has had work published in various journals including Conversations (Pandanus Press, ANU), Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Demos Journal and Mascara Literary Review. Her poem ‘Women’s Talk’ won the ACT Writers Centre Poetry Prize in 2004 and her poetry has recently been selected for Australian Book Review’s States of Poetry ACT. She has performed her work at many events, including at the Canberra Multicultural Festival, the Poetry on the Move Festival, Noted Festival and Floriade Fringe Festival. She was the feature poet for the Mother Tongue Showcase at Belconnen Arts Centre in 2016.

Anita performed in the collaborative multilingual poem ‘Homespun’ and other poetry at Word in Hand in Glebe in November 2017. Her review, Found in Translation, on the performances of four Japanese women poets and their translators at Poetry on the Move Festival, 2017 was published by Not Very Quiet in October 2017.

A selection of poems by Anita Patel

Zen Geese
Makan Angin  (Eating the Air)