At work at the Wheeler Centre

At work at the Wheeler Centre
Rhonda Dredge

It takes a great deal of patience to publish an anthology of contemporary poetry involving 102 contributors.

A book that is restricted to poems done in a 12-month period adds another set of complications.

Jacinta Le Plastrier is often alone in her office in the Wheeler Centre working through them.

First, she nurtured the book to fruition, making sure galley proofs got out to all those included. Now she has finally taken delivery and is planning media.

“I’ve held back,” she said. This is the first media interview she’s done and she’s proud of Best of Australian Poems 2021.

“It’s a slightly larger format than usual,” she said of the elegant trade-sized book. “If you look at some of the poems … they’re visual poems.”

Since this 2021 poetic snapshot is the first in a series published by Australian Poetry, of which Jacinta is CEO, she can’t compare the content with previous years.

But the anthology nods towards a discontinued annual series by Black Inc and takes it forward into post-lockdown Melbourne.

Jacinta is keen to acknowledge the large contribution by First Nations poets, particularly the work of editor Ellen Van Nerven. “I want genuine First Nations respect,” she said.

A love of writing has dominated the 50-something life of Jacinta, mother of three. She wrote her first poem at the age of 19 and was doing police rounds for The Age at the same time.

“You’re trained as a journalist to write to a strict timeline,” she said. “It’s such a discipline. You’re writing for a specific space.”

She says that journalism and poetry have this in common but now she “loves adjectives”, parts of speech that are generally banned in news reporting.

She uses the word “passionate” to describe her approach to poetry. “When I first got the job, I was like an AFL coach,” she said. Now after six years of working six days a week, the word “practical” is more fitting.

Jacinta is the one who got poetry sessions happening in all of the major lit festivals and is arranging readings from the anthology around the country.

She stopped writing for 12 years for personal reasons, but she has rehabilitated her writing self and is working on a book of essays called not too much to ask.

She lived by the river, opposite Crown Casino, on the 35th floor in a hotel-sized apartment until recently and this helped her view.

She quotes Apollinaire as saying the Eiffel Tower is the shepherdess of the bridges across the Seine and the Arts Centre tower plays a similar role for the Yarra.

“I’m a writer, not an administrator,” she said. “I’ve supported other people’s writing and published thousands of poems.”

A desk set up against the glass on Flinders St launched her back into her craft •

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