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Canberra captured in new UC book

Kristyn Comino

22 July 2015: From its bus stops, suburban shops and tree-lined streets to its famous landmarks like Parliament House and Telstra Tower, a new book of photographs and poetry by two University of Canberra academics captures the everyday and unique aspects of Canberra.

Watching the World: Impressions of Canberra is a collection of poems by director of the University's International Poetry Studies Institute, Paul Hetherington, and photos by director of the University's Centre for Creative and Cultural Practice, Jen Webb.

The book, which was launched last night, presents a variety of different images and complementing poetry, including a photo of Mount Ainslie with poetry comparing it to Mount Fuji, a Lake Burley Griffin image supported by a poem on what it's like to be on the water, and even an ode to bus stops.

According to Professor Hetherington, the collection he and Professor Webb have put together showcases how Canberra is more than just the nation's capital; it's also a place that more than 350,000 people call home.

"Watching the World presents a variety of engaging and stimulating photographic views and complementary poetry of the everyday and unexpected aspects of Canberra, while also including new perspectives on some of Canberra's most recognisable vistas and landmarks," Professor Hetherington said.

"Canberra is simultaneously the nation's capital and our home town, so we wanted to take the perspective of residents of the city for this book, rather than critics of its design. The images and poetry record ordinary parts of town – the places where people live, work and shop – avoiding reproducing the Canberra that features in news bulletins or tourist brochures but showing Canberra as the place we call home."

The book was originally produced as a visual art piece for the 2013 Canberra Centenary exhibition Imagine Canberra. It has been published by independent publishing company Blemish Books, run by University communications graduates Greg and Lesley Gould.

Excerpts from Watching the World: Impressions of Canberra

Like algebra, these straight-drawn streets,
curves, crescents and rounding circles
accumulate and multiply
like a set of mixed equations,
producing answers much like chaos
held in imprecise confinement.

As evening blues long lines of houses
street by street they seem to waltz—
stammering into blazing statements
like an algebraic magic
written on the pastured earth
in irreducible expressions.

A Canberra suburb taken from an elevated view featuring Autumn-coloured trees

The tower becomes
an insouciant gesture,

a robotic scout
for a future city,

or the letter 'I'
in wild silence.

Canberra's iconic Black Mountain or Telstra Tower

A boat sketched a way
on that flat, brilliant lake
near shadows of poplars.
He had rowed clumsily
as a woman
leaned close
with a damp, sweet scent.

She lunged at water
making a comb of light,
stretching her body
into the letter 'y'.
Afternoon lagged
and lay
like a sodden towel.

Canberra's Lake Burley Griffin glimpsed through trees