how to make a basket | Jazz Money #AWWpoetry

Jazz Money is a poet and artist of Wiradjuri heritage, currently based on sovereign Gadigal land. Her debut collection of poetry, how to make a basket, was described by the judges of the David Unaipon Award as ‘luminous and beautifully sculpted, [a] seamless collection of poems that reflect on place and passion…[and] builds on the growing canon of work by contemporary Indigenous women poets, yet offers a new, fresh perspective on remembering and forgetting.’

I’ve been reading a bit of First Nations poetry in recent years (Ellen van Neerven, Alison Whittaker, Evelyn Araluen, Kirli Saunders to name a few, plus several anthologies). I enjoy the challenge inherent in every word and every thought towards the colonial perspective. I find myself responding strongly to the anger, the respect and the healing that each poet works through with their poems. I am excited by the increasing usage of First Nations language. I am shaken to the bone by the personal stories that share the grief, the damage, and the loss that has been suffered and continues to be suffered. And I draw hope for all of us from the resurgence of connection to Country, the reclaiming of language and the pride in culture that is blossoming on so many fronts, or as Money described it in her afterword, ‘the walk back to culture.’

'if i write a poem'

and if i write a poem 
it's for our language
stolen from the mouths
of babes in cribs

and if i write a poem
it's so that our children
will read some truth
of their family
I write a poem
because I was raised off Country
and I yearn and yearn for a place I don't hold
that holds me

and if I don't write
it's because this language
these letters
are not worthy

Jazz Money’s collection of poems was five years in the making.

She describes her early poems as personal reflections that show her working through what it means to be both Indigenous and queer. Her later poems become more aware of an audience and speak with a political, public voice – in protest and to bear witness.

how to make a basket is organized into four sections:

  • gulgandara (before)
  • guray-dyu-ngi-nya (longing)
  • guwiiny-ngali-gin-diy (away from here)
  • ngulumunggu (endings)

Money has worked as a digital curator in a contemporary art space which allowed her to see her work as art, or installations of words. Using no capitals and punctuation is, therefore, a deliberate choice that allows her to play with space and add a three dimensional experience to her work. Her free verse moves and weaves and stretches across the page, creating shapes and images.

'time travel’

memory swings back                / round
time is time travel to places
where I can re
the way it was done

I am reminded that one of the ways that British colonialists controlled the story was by denying other languages and making everyone speak English. Part of the push back by First Nation peoples is to now reject that language and its conventions. By flouting the rules and creating another way of using English, power and agency are being reclaimed. Another story is being told, demanding to be heard.

The collection is about how places and bodies hold memories, and the ways our ancestors walk with us, speak through us and wait for us.

Jazz Money interview 22 Sept 2021
'how to make a basket'

everything worth holding in two hands
has a perfect basket to respond

                                                     what you care for will care for you
when you are reading
you will understand
how to make a basket


  • Winner David Unaipon Award 2020
  • Awarded the Aunty Kerry Reed-Gilbert Poetry Prize
  • Winner of the University of Canberra Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Poetry Prize
Title: how to make a basket
Poet: Jazz Money
ISBN: 9780702263385
Imprint: UQP
Published: 2021
Format: paperback
Pages: 123
Dates Read: 7 August 2022 - 16 August 2022
This post was written on the traditional land of the Wangal clan, one of the 29 clans of the Eora Nation within the Sydney basin. This Reading Life acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are our first storytellers.

7 thoughts on “how to make a basket | Jazz Money #AWWpoetry

  1. I enjoyed this Brona … I bought the book last weekend, and read a few of the poems randomly, but hope to go back and read it in order later. A bit more straightforward, perhaps, than Araluen’s but similarly powerful in both personal and political senses.


    1. Straightforward is the word I was looking for yesterday to finish this post! Thanks Sue. Yes, Money’s collection was more like Kirli Saunders work than say Whittaker’s or Araluen. And, therefore, perhaps more accessible to the first time poetry reader than the others.


  2. I enjoy your poetry reviews, and I enjoy Indigenous poetry for the reasons you spell out here. We (settlers) must recognise the cultural genocide which follows on from our insistence, right up to today, that Indigenous children learn in English and not in Language.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: 2022 | The Books

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