By Claire Ottaviano
WITH more than 125 years of history, the empty rooms and halls of historic Woodbridge house sometimes feel alive say two poets who have taken up a 15-day residency in the home to creatively immerse themselves in its surroundings.
Nandi Chinna and Lisa Collyer are recipients of the INSPIRE Writer in Residence initiative, a partnership between the WA National Trust and the State Government.
INSPIRE offers five emerging or established Western Australian writers $5000 each and a residency for up to 15 days in a National Trust heritage place.
Woodbridge house was built in 1885 as a family home but later became a school (which went on to become Guildford Grammar) and a women’s asylum during World War II before being vested in the National Trust in 1968.
Chinna’s interest in Woodbridge is in its significant role in the early development of the Swan River colony.
She is also interested in the pre-colonial history of the site and how it was lived in, used, and understood by the traditional custodians, the Whadjuk Noongar people.
“It’s really rare in life you get this opportunity to just write,” she said.
“Sometimes, it’s a bit creepy when it’s dark in the evenings and the floorboards creak.
“In one of my pieces I say, ‘I don’t believe in ghosts, so who is this person brushing past me’.
“You feel like you’re not alone.”
Chinna’s aim is to create an original suite of 10 to 12 poems inspired by her immersion in the site, its history, and surrounding river and wetlands.
An emerging poet and educator, Collyer writes poetry with a focus on women’s bodies and how their experiences shape their everyday lives.
Collyer draws on Woodbridge’s history as an Old Women’s Home to give a voice to those who are voiceless through her finished works.
“I draw inspiration from the environment and the collection here,” she said.
“Outside there is a chained bench which I use as a metaphor for aged care.
“It’s about exploring these issues but also to give a voice and a humanity back to those who have been deprived of touch and individualism.”
She seeks to articulate women on their own terms, not just in relation to their families as a mother or wife.
Both said the residency was an opportunity to bring National Trust properties into the public eye.
For more information about the Writer in Residence Initiative visit www.nationaltrust.org.au