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’s collection of poetry, A Common Garment (Recent Work Press), was published in 2019. She has had work published in The Canberra Times, in Conversations (Pandanus Press, ANU), in Block 9, Burley, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Demos, Mascara Literary Review, Not Very Quiet, Cordite Poetry Review, Backstory, Other Terrain, Pink Cover Zine, FemAsia Magazine, Plumwood Mountain, Eucalypt: a tanka journal, The Blue Nib Literary Magazine and Australian Poetry Anthology Vol. 8.

Her poem ‘Women’s Talk’ won the ACT Writers Centre Poetry Prize in 2004 and her poetry was selected for and published in Australian Book Review’s States of Poetry ACT, 2018.
She has performed her work at the Canberra Multicultural Festival, Poetry on the Move Festival, Noted Festival, Floriade Fringe Festival, In Other Words Festival, Queensland Poetry Festival, at Smith’s Alternative and at Word in Hand, Glebe.

Her reviews, ‘Found in Translation’ on the performances of four Japanese women poets and their translators and ‘No More Silent Waiting’, on the anthology Autonomy edited by Kathy D’Arcy (2018) have been published by Not Very Quiet journal. She was the guest editor for Issue 2 of Not Very Quiet.

A selection of poems by Anita Patel

Zen Geese
Makan Angin  (Eating the Air)