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Special N.04 – The Herbarium Tales

An Illumines-cant Transmogrification of Being: Encountering the Ghost Gum

by Samuel Wagan Watson

It unfolded on a dark and stormy evening…Lost in the sheer-fright of night-fire…Echoes of thunder-clap ebbing, the lightning smashed against the virginal and slender lure of its
smooth body…

Myrtaceae Eudicots shining in the wilderness of empty screams, the composites of such
alluring skin a mystery, in an Albert Namatjira water-colour affinity to glow forever,
caught…The leaves in mortal hands rub caustic eucalyptus cologne…How the old-ones
collected trail of its blood to render resins so strong…The unique smell of bush-fire would
be so lost without its burning demise…

Possessed by incarnate passion the solace of the bush screams with mute insanity…

This Corymbia aparrerinja specimen was collected by Albert Namatjira in 1939 from a juvenile, fruiting tree in Tnorala on Arrernte lands. 

Herbarium specimen images were provided by The National Herbarium of New South Wales.

The poetry film ‘An Illumines-cant Transmogrification of Being: Encountering the Ghost Gum’ was first shown at the Edinburgh Festival’s House of Oz, which showcased the diversity and vibrancy of Australian arts and creativity from 5-29 August, 2022.

‘An Illumines-cant Transmogrification of Being: Encountering the Ghost Gum’ was filmed on Jagera and Turrbal lands.

Interview with Samuel

This film project was generously supported by AIATSIS and produced by Steph Vajda, Dan Baebler and Sam Watson from Article One.

Published: November 2022
Samuel Wagan Watson

lives and writes in his hometown of Brisbane, descending from Munanjali and Germanic heritage. He has authored over a dozen collections of poetry, primarily inspired by the oral traditions of spiritual lore passed down from his elders. Notable accolades include the 1999 David Unaipon Award for Emerging Indigenous Literature, The Kenneth Slessor Poetry Prize, the 2004 New South Wales Premier’s Book of the Year and the 2018 Patrick White Literary Prize. In 2023, a new venture in fiction/short story writing is anticipated; NEW + USED GHOSTS. He is proudly a University of Queensland Press author.

An Australian and international
journal of ecopoetry and ecopoetics.

Plumwood Mountain Journal is created on the unceded lands of the Gadigal and Wangal people of the Eora Nation. We pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to elders past, present and future. We also acknowledge all traditional custodians of the lands this journal reaches.