Ania Walwicz was the first writing teacher I ever had. About thirty-five years ago she was teaching in a Community Centre in Clifton Hill, even though she was a graduate of The Victorian College of the Arts. She had come to Australia from Poland as a child and always retained a strong accent. A tiny woman, she was known for her public performances, often wearing a large black beard. She was a true original, a Bohemian rebel, always unafraid to challenge conventional ideas.
One of her better-known poems Australia takes a swipe at Australia, in the voice of a migrant woman. How many people experienced this Australia of the 1980’s?
You big ugly. You too empty. You desert with your nothing nothing nothing. You scorched suntanned. Old too quickly. Acres of suburbs watching the telly. You bore me. Freckle silly children. You nothing much. With your big sea. Beach beach beach. I’ve seen enough already. You dumb dirty city with bar stools. You’re ugly. You silly shopping town. You copy. You too far everywhere. You laugh at me. When I came this woman gave me a box of biscuits. You try to be friendly but you’re not very friendly. You never ask me to your house. You insult me. You don’t know how to be with me. Road road tree tree. I came from crowded and many. I came from rich. You….
and so on.
Ania was about voice and sound, she was never about rules and as a teacher she challenged one to break rules, to find one’s own way. I was sad to hear she had died recently. I always felt she deserved to be better known, but her years of teaching in the Graduate Writers’ Program at RMIT will ensure her influence lives on.
To hear her take on Red Riding Hood listen below