Vale – Ania Walwicz

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

15 thoughts on “Vale – Ania Walwicz

  1. That was a late development for her, but she was very funny and didn’t mind shocking. She used her voice so well; from a tiny little squeak to a hoarse bellow, and lots of repetition as you can see. She and Allegra Wong will be the two teachers I remember (and Barbara Turner-Vesselago.)

    1. You got me thinking about who my first writing (creative, as distinct from people who edited law review articles) teacher might have been, and I couldn’t think of any before the writers.com classes — and Allegra Wong is the only one of those who stands out to me (I just went back and looked for her, as I do once or twice a year; she has done a remarkable job of staying off the Internet).

      1. I do the same! All I could find is she is somehow involved with cats. I think even Writers.com has changed hands. Last I heard of Mark Dahlby he was living in Hawai.

        1. You are ahead of me — I didn’t even find the cats; only books and jobs from a few years ago.

          Yes, writers.com has also moved on; no more writing classes of much interest. I will be taking a six-week food-writing/memoir class with an Alaskan food writer friend, Kirsten Dixon, who is internationally known (runs some a couple of wilderness lodges that are high end and worth going to; has several cookbooks out). Tomorrow starts a new round of submission openings, so I’ll be working on sending in haiku and haibun . . .

          Hope your springtime is lovely.

  2. Springtime is divine. We are still in the country until the Ring of Steel around Melbourne is released. The roses are blooming and the birds going crazy. A short break between Covid and the bushfire season?

    1. I hope so. I thought that I read today that Melbourne was going to open up? Soon? But springtime in the countryside sounds lovely. Hope the bushfire season turns out to be wet and cooler than the last couple of years.

  3. So sorry to hear this Gert, you must feel her loss quite personally. She sounds like an inspirational teacher, a true ‘original’ in the best sense of the word…

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