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Tamar Valley Storytellers: Joy Elizabeth

Updated: Feb 22

A poet and novelist, Joy Elizabeth has been part of the poetry community in Tasmania for over 36 years. She was guest poet at the inaugural Tasmanian Poetry Festival in 1985, and again this year. In 2004, Joy won the Scarlet Stiletto Awards, Dorothy Porter Award for the Best Crime Story in Verse, for her story The Mystery of the Missing Paycheques, which she says, she wrote in the hope of impressing Dorothy Porter! Joy’s poetry has appeared in a number of collections and journals, including The Loom of Time (1985), Vashti’s Voice, Famous Reporter and Westerly. Her latest collection of poetry, Fragile Friday, was published early this year. Her first novel, Rebekah & Sarah, based on the life of her Jewish grandmother who escaped the Nazis during WWII, has just embarked on its search for a publisher. Passionate about mentoring young poets and promoting poetry and performance, Joy is, with Yvonne Gluyas, co-organiser of the Tasmanian Heats and Final of the Australian Poetry Slam. Together they organise and run poets’ breakfasts and workshops at folk festivals in Tasmania.

1. What are you working on?

A collection of poems about my mother, iconic Victorian feminist, Eileen Capocchi’s life, and a spoof crime novel set in Tasmania.

2. How does the Tamar Valley influence your writing?

In so many ways; I’ve lived here for most of my life and love this part of the world. The valley’s very varied environment, its moods, the people, towns and rich cultural history, going back so many thousands of years, all directly or indirectly affect the way I approach my work.

3. What themes are you exploring?

  1. The courage, determination and commitment of women to overcome painful pasts, betrayals and violence. The power and groundswell of the women’s movement, the environmental movement, and those for indigenous rights; how far we’ve come in some ways and at the same time the bitter realisation that in other ways so very little has been won.

  2. The complexity of relationships in a small place like Tasmania.

  3. And that ever constant theme; greed.

4. Describe for us where you write.

Mostly in the dedicated corner of my living area, in my round house in Newnham, surrounded by a ridiculous amount of clutter, but sometimes in coffee shops or wherever an idea comes to me. More recently I’ve spent time writing in my gorgeous motorhome, Matilda, wherever we happen to be.

5. Finish this sentence, "The thing I love the most about being a storyteller is…"

...that when I least expect it, I find I have spoken to people I don’t know, about what matters to them.”

6. What's your favourite read so far this year?

That’s a hard one. I’m relishing Jane Williams’ Points of Recognition and Esther Ottaway’s Intimate, Low-voiced, Delicate Things, both exquisite collections of poetry. But my very recent discovery is the extraordinary novel by American writer Kim Michele Richardson, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek.


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