The second Dorothy Hewett Award for an unpublished manuscript will be announced at the 2017 Perth Writers Festival on Saturday 25 February, 11:30am-12:30pm, in the Tropical Grove. To celebrate the talented writers that made the shortlist, we will be sharing extracts on our blog and social media in the weeks leading up to the ceremony.
Odette Kelada is a lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Melbourne. She has a PhD in literature after completing her thesis researching the lives of Australian women writers. Her writing focuses on marginalised voices and has appeared in numerous publications including the Australian Cultural History Journal, Outskirts, Postcolonial Studies and the Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature.
From 'Drawing Sybylla'
Sybil was bred in a light cave. A light cave is one with a hole in the roof. Pronouncements from the gods descended through this celestial skylight, littering the floor with divine detritus. She scrawled holy words on leaves and bark. But they were never hers. They always came from beyond or below. For this cave marked the entrance to the underworld. All that was past and buried would lick the undersides of the leaves as they fell from her hand. In ancient Greece, ‘The Sybils’ were mad mouthpieces babbling unintelligible insights, writing illegible poetry.
The woman on stage is named Sybil. Sybil Jones. Her skin does not have the pallor of a cavern dweller, though something in her stature bears the breeding of an oracle. But her biographic notes say she was born in Albury Wodonga, far from the cave at Cumae, a world away from Hecate’s lake. I stare at her through the glass of water in front of me. Behind her head, the audience swims in rows of liquid faces. If humans are seventy percent water, is a crowd an ocean? Is that what is meant by a sea of people?
I pick up my pen and dribble ink onto the page. Flowers grow either side of the red margin. Monstrous petals with goblin face leer from the middle of them. At the lectern Sybil is speaking. I see the back of her hair from my position on stage. She looks like the stalk of one of my flowers, long body dripping into high, quirky heels, quirky as they are forties style pumps, jarrah brown. With her chocolate stockings and long red skirt she is a warm wood fire. I can see her burning away in front of me, alight with passion for something. She catches me for a moment. Rare as it is at these events, I find myself listening.