from the editor's desk


#authorsforfireys: ‘Ash Forest’ by Magdalena Ball

This summer was the worst fire season Australia has ever seen: 18 million hectares burned, 34 people killed, thousands displaced, and a billion animals estimated killed. Whether directly or indirectly affected, this has been a time of trauma for many. Now we face the aftermath, and the long, slow recovery.

Please scroll down to read a note from our editor.

Ash Forest

Magdalena Ball

I won’t fall into this wild landscape
as a leaf, its path altered
won’t cry again, face swollen
like wilderness
unaccustomed to hunger.

I’ve given years to learned
helplessness, lay down my body
a cushion, a bridge
those angry waters now receded.

I am surrounded by ash, not just
tall trees, swamp gum, stringy gum
their bark blackened, alkaline
charcoal on my lips.

Seeds lay on the ground
I pick up a handful, remember
buildings, cities
a post-modern world
take the baton, the hit
move, don’t move
try to find belief
because what else
could I do now
how else could I help.

It has been a long time coming
there’s still a little time left
I too, am a mother.

Magdalena Ball is a novelist, poet, reviewer and interviewer, and Managing Editor of Compulsive Reader. She has been widely published in journals and anthologies and is the author of several published books of poetry and fiction, most recently High Wire Step (Flying Island), and Unreliable Narratives (Girls on Key). Find out more at http://www.magdalenaball.com

A Note on the Series

In the wake of this year’s unprecedented bushfire season, incredible solidarity and compassion emerged across communities in response to the tragedy. In the writing and publishing sector, we saw the #authorsforfireys campaign, a massive online auction led by industry professionals all across Australia, raising funds to support bushfire charities. Westerly contributed our own auction items to this, and raised $981. Coming out of that moment, and the #authorsforfireys campaign as a whole, we wanted to make a space in our publication to acknowledge the experience of the fires and engage with some of the discussions which have circled around them. Westerly put out a call for submissions, with a pledge to both pay authors for their contributions and donate the equivalent amount to government-approved charities still working on the recovery. 

Westerly is proud to present here one collection of writing from this campaign. A second feature of work related to the fires will appear in our next print issue. This series brings together bushfire writing of all kinds—from witness accounts to heartfelt immediate responses to considered critical thinking on the fires, including questions of climate change and the environmental future we face. They are works of fear, sadness and anger, but also of contemplation and hope.

We pay our respect to all the victims of the fires, and offer our condolences to their families.

Catherine Noske, editor

Image: David Brewster, 2009, under Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0 license.

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  1. […] It seems like a long time ago that we were battling bushfires in our backyard.  Though we evacuated twice, we were lucky, and well-protected by our incredible local fire brigade – mostly volunteers. As part of the #authorsforfireys fundraising effort (which raised nearly $500k!), the wonderful people at Westerly have put together a bushfire themed issue in which they both paid authors and donated generously to a registered charity of the author’s choice. I asked for a donation to the lovely Little Oak Sanctuary because small sanctuaries were doing it tough, and continuing to do the critical work of caring for a growing number of injured and orphaned animals. This is a special issue indeed, and my poem can be read here: https://westerlymag.com.au/ash-forest/ […]

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