How to Make a Basket by Jazz Money
Jazz Money won the 2020 David Unaipon Award for her collection How to Make a Basket, and it’s easy to see why: this is an absolutely stunning collection of poetry.
The collection opens with a poem about the Djab Wurrung sacred birthing trees – ‘this is where life begins’ – one of which was felled under the Andrews state government to make way for the Western Highway. This poem honours all that these trees mean, while bubbling with anger at the ‘white hands white hats white clipboards’ that come to destroy. From here, Money considers what it is to live in a contemporary colonial state, and the collection emerges as both protest against settler violence and a celebration of First Nations and queer love. It is beautiful and lyrical – I couldn’t put this down. Money has a strong sense of form as she finds connection with her ancestors and her Country, feeling the trees, smoke, water, sky and heat all around her.
Money incorporates Wiradjuri as well as English in her poems, and I found this a moving experience to witness the effort to preserve the language in print, while also de-centering the White reader as the default audience. This asks White readers, like myself, to listen to and hold Money’s personal and cultural history – but it is not written to appease. I was particularly struck by this in one line: ‘and if I write / it’s for our language / stolen from the mouths / of babies in cribs.’ Throughout the collection, I was reminded of Oodgeroo Noonuccal’s poetry – both in its voice of protest and in its sense of leadership and community. Readers who have enjoyed Evelyn Araluen and Alison Whittaker’s work will be similarly impressed with this collection. Jazz Money is a poet to return to again and again.