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Books & Poetry

Poem: Learn to Speak the Language

Books & Poetry

In this week’s Poet’s Corner, Mike Ladd shares a second poem from his eclectic new collection of writing called ‘Invisible Mending’.

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Learn to Speak the Language

I was on the bus to town.
On the seat in front of me
two women were chatting in Punjabi,
and the guy sitting next to me says:
“If you come to this country
you should learn to speak the language.”

“Yeah. You’re right” I said,
“So how’s your Kaurna?
And how good are ya
at Pitjantjatjara?
Fancy a chat in Ngarkat?

And you know, it’s a pity we don’t hear
more Peramangk at the bank,
more Tiwi on the TV,
more Wik at the picnic
and more Arrente on the verandah.

And, if you expect to live here,
you really oughta
know some Yorta-Yorta,
get your tongue
around Bundjalung,
grasp the meaning in Mirning
and know the score in Eora.

Kamilaroi and Wiradjuri,
Luritja and Walpiri,
understand their poetry.

You’re right, if you come to this country,
You should learn to speak the language.”

Mike Ladd poetryMike Ladd began reading his poems at Friendly Street and seeing them appear in local and national publications at the age of 17. His first collection, The Crack in the Crib, was published in 1984, and was followed by eight more collections of poetry and prose. He was the editor of ABC Radio National’s Poetica series for 18 years, and currently works for Radio National’s features and documentary unit. He is a poetry mentor, judge and reviewer, and along with his partner, artist Cathy Brooks, has run projects putting poems on street signs as public art.

His new book, Invisible Mending (Wakefield Press 2016), includes essays, memoirs, short stories and poetry, ranging from family intimacies, to connection and disconnection in the Australian community, and environmental damage and repair. Parts of Invisible Mending were written at an artist’s residency in Malaysia, and while travelling in South America. Selections from it have appeared in literary publications and newspapers in Australia, the UK and US. More aboutInvisible Mending can be found here.

Readers’ original and unpublished poems of up to 40 lines can be emailed, with postal address, to A poetry book will be awarded to each contributor.
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