Interview with a poet: Frances Macaulay Forde

Fremantle Press caught up with poet, Frances Macaulay Forde, one of the contributors to indigo volume 3.

How did you become interested in writing?
Mum wrote all of the time. Although her book wasn’t published, I possess some of her other manuscripts and one day I intend to publish them. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write stories and poems.

I first won an award in primary school and still have a poetry notebook from 1968. It was when I was studying for my Bachelor of Writing at ECU in 1999 that I first took myself seriously as a poet.

You started the Poet’s Corner poetry reading at the State Library Café?
Yes, in July 2005, I’d spent 14 months in Ireland, attending many festivals and, in particular, regular writing workshops at the Munster Literature Centre in Cork. The Irish treasure their writers in a palatable atmosphere of support which inspired me to write every day. So I wanted to recreate something like that when I arrived back in Perth.

I’m a great believer in place and opportunity. My daughter worked in the State Library Bookshop and, during a chat with her boss, Alyson de Souza, discovered regular poetry readings had been held years before in the adjoining café.

Pages Café liked my idea for monthly events, so Poets Corner was born.

We featured a core of invited readers followed by an Open Mic for anyone who wanted to share their words. This was often a first-time opportunity. Guest hosts like Coral Carter, Lily Chan, Andrew Burke, Deanne Leber, or Veronica Lake, would stand in for me, inviting their favourite writers.

I’m very proud to say I was greatly supported by more than 60 poets over the three years I organised and hosted Poets Corner. This event often sparked poetry careers. Many books were launched at the café as well, such as Tracy Ryan’s Scar Revision in January 2008.

How do you set about writing your poems?
People, and what’s happening in the world inspire me and I fill lots of notebooks with these inspirations. The story, script or poem has to be almost whole in my head before I put pen to paper. I have to have the kernel; have to know what the poem is about before I write. Then I write around its essence.

Can you tell us a bit of the story behind your poem ‘My Life as a Sari?’
I think saris are the most elegant, the most beautiful, and the most feminine garment a woman can wear. I grew up in Northern Rhodesia which is now Zambia and we wore school uniforms. Two of my best friends were Indian twin sisters. I would go to their house after school and they would get changed straight away into saris. While I waited, I would breathe in all sorts of delicious Indian food laid out on their huge dining table and if I hung around long enough, I was often invited to stay an eat.

One day their mother, knowing I admired the saris so much, took me upstairs and asked me to pick one of my own. I was overwhelmed, but in the end chose a soft mint green one with beautifully hand-done white embroidery.

Damiante and her sister introduced me to the ritual of donning a sari – how to fold and tie it. For years afterwards I’d recreate the sari ritual whenever I needed to feel beautiful, valued, whole and feminine – my secret dress-ups.

For more information on Poets Corner please see or for more information about Frances see

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