Poetry Turnstile: Australian poet, Holly Zwalf


Holly Zwalf, by Mike Narciso


“Until recently I was being haunted by a bone. A clavicle, to be precise, both fragile and firm, supporting that sweet stretch of skin bridging shoulder and neck, glowing like the woman who wore it. This poem is about her, about the distance between us, and about the delirium of a dehydrated heart.”
~ H.


Holly Zwalf is a queer Australian poet and practice-led PhD scholar at the University of New South Wales. She is also a formidable feminist and long time activist – involved in Anti-Capitalist mobilisations, Environmental and Indigenous Rights movements, as well as advocacy and activism associated with Queer Rights and Same-Sex marriage.

This particular poem, ‘strange heat of a heartland’ was recently featured in the South Townsville Micro Poetry Journal.

As a reader and lover of Australian landscape poetry, Zwalf’s work is the only I have come across to draw it so near to human intimacy without stumbling, abstraction or force. Indeed, this is the only poem I have come across to evoke ‘that certain something’ so particular to human intimacy outside, in rural and remote Australia. If Fred Williams had channeled a non-misogynist Brett Whiteley – this would have reminded me of what he may have (visually) produced.



strange heat of a heartland


you arrive like a flurry
of freefalling snow, wet
against a red iron backdrop
a landscape so old
it has rusted in place
fused against the saltwater sky


like a ghost-gum, you haunt me


you are sweet
all bare, gleaming flesh
a freshwater fish
in my mouth


you flicker in a desert
of dry grass and lust
the shimmer of heatwaves
and heartlands
between us



H. Zwalf also happens to be a dear, beloved old friend who has – as one might imagine – been a long time source of encouragement and inspiration. I’m sure my saying so will embarrass you terribly Holly but as Ned Kelly is alleged to have said – such is life!

I am so very proud to be able to call you love’ed friend, fellow feminist and comrade. Much warmth and respect xx



1 Comment

Filed under Poetry turnstile

One response to “Poetry Turnstile: Australian poet, Holly Zwalf

  1. Pingback: Sydney poet Holly Zwalf joins Happy for a reading

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