Meg Drummond-Wilson comes from the Land Down Under where the beers flow and men occasionally chunder. That’s Australia, btw. She also has a poem in America Is Not The World.
Who are you? A history and archaeology double major freshly in my twenties.
And where in the world are you? Perth, the capital city of Western Australia.
What is the best thing about your country? It is like nowhere else on earth. It is huge, it is surrounded by three different oceans, it contains the scorching red rock and sand of the Outback and the mosquito-riddled humidity of the northern tropics, the soft dark of the southwest karri forests the cold, windy, flower-studded dunes of the coastland I grew up in. The biodiversity here is incredible. So isolated from the rest of the world, the animal and plant species that have evolved here are in many cases truly unique. The human element: 50 000 years of history, hundreds of language groups, a finely tuned relationship with the land that is both spiritual and pragmatic. In the last 200 years people from all over the world have settled here for better and for worse, and it’s made for an extremely diverse and multifaceted social landscape. Australia is bleak and tough and rich and varied and the big bright spaces will hurt your eyes if you’re not used to them, but it’s beautiful.
And the worst? The very real and very continuous effects of invasion and colonialism. The tangled and touchy relationship we have as a nation with our history. The way this has led towards a tendency to whitewash and masculinise our history to the point where thousands of stories, both of suffering and of joy, are erased. The way people want to simplify Australia and being Australian down to a set of stereotypes that exemplify ‘the Australian character’, when really this country has meant a million different things to a million different people.
How has your country shaped you? I’m a….third? fourth? generation white Australian. This is the only home I have ever known and there is no other nation state I identify myself with. However, I’m very aware that the culture I have grown up in owes its origins to Britain. From the British working class, specifically, a class of people directed by and labouring for British imperial interests. So it’s interesting to think about what has actually shaped me as a person. I guess I could say that I have been moulded by the legacy of transported criminals and immigrant farmers/miners/general luck-seekers, who created the kind of hardy, self-conscious, determinedly underdog culture that is blue-collar Australia. Whether or not I agree with all of the values this culture holds dear, it’s still the soup that I, a mere chunk of potato, float in. The deeper significance of the land itself, Australia and its rocks and bush – I don’t know. It’s shaped me into the kind of person who gets sunburnt and hayfeverish all the time, honestly. But I wouldn’t live anywhere else. I’d miss the eucalyptus trees too much.
Tell us about your favorite place in the world. There is a block of empty land next to my childhood home. The natural rock formations there have been carved out into a quarry by our much more enterprising neighbours, and technically this would be trespassing, but I used to spend a lot of time there as a kid. Dad would take me up there to watch the fireworks going off in town on New Years. There’s a little cave nearby and I used to sit there amongst the kangaroo poo and the unsteady shale and the dark (and probably the detritus of the local teenage population’s drugged up expeditions), and make up stories in my head.
Tell us about your poem in America Is Not the World. Southland’ is about Australia as it does not often appear in tourist leaflets (unless Nick Cave had a hand in the making of those leaflets). Humid and heavy. Suburban squalor bordered by a humming tangle of bush. It draws on my memories of being a child going to school in the unpretty areas of town – these cracked pavements and bored kids and shambling houses, and then underneath that the always simmering awareness of what has happened on this soil, in this bushland. Australia’s past has not been beautiful, and the popular idea of this place as some sort of peaceful beach haven has always bothered me slightly. Even as a child I was preoccupied with the past, the layers of events and ideologies and hatred and love that make up our…cultural consciousness, I guess you could call it. And I wanted to show all this in my poem as if I was showing it to a foreigner, an American or someone who is only familiar with the international stereotypes regarding Australia, because after all the title of this collection is America Is Not the World. Like I’m the world’s most depressing tour guide, and I’ve chosen to guide you to a shitty main street in a little beach town, with a few throwaway references to Dutch shipwrecks and wheatfields just to add scale.
This isn’t all of Australia’s story. I’m not claiming to represent the entirety of this massive, broad, complex country with ‘Southland’. A poem is meant to isolate a feeling and make it something real. That’s what I did with this particular one of the many emotions that Australia as a place triggers in me. But at the same time I wanted to capture some kind of beauty and a sense of grandeur, because Australia is always beautiful and powerful. You can’t ever take that away from it, no matter the history.
Tell us about a writer in your country that we should know about. Jack Davis: Australian Aboriginal poet and playwright, often referred to as the 20th century’s Aboriginal Poet Laureate.
What else is going on? Buy my sister’s book! (When it comes out, I don’t actually know when that is, so just keep it in your head for the future). It’s called The Sound, by Sarah Drummond, and it’s being published by Fremantle Press.
What is next for you? Trying to get my undergrad done, hopefully getting some field work or museum volunteering while I’m at it.
Tell us a secret. I have stolen quite a bit of linen from the residential college I stay at.
Give us a song. Nick Cave and the Bad Seed’s ‘Red Right Hand’. It’s an oppressively, wonderfully creepy Ocker tune AND it was in an episode of The X-Files. (Also Peaky Blinders which is way better than The X-Files — Evangeline-y Note)
Meg Drummond-Wilson is a History and Archaeology double major at the University of Western Australia. She was raised in a fishing village pretending to be a relevant city by bibliophilic parents and a steady diet of Enid Blyton. Meg currently enjoys poetry, research, gossiping about dead people, Arthurian legend, Australian summers and synthpop. Future career ideas include archaeology, archivist, witchcraft, 9th century Anglo-Saxon monk in an isolated and windswept coastal monastery, or full time sheep herder in the mountains.