Confident Enquiring Engagement: Sarah St Vincent Welch launches ‘Thinking Process’ by Anna Couani

Thinking Process by Anna Couani, Owl Publications, 2017 was launched in Canberra by Sarah St Vincent Welch  at Smith’s Alternative on 8 April 2019

Anna Couani

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I am honoured to welcome Anna Couani to Canberra and her husband Hilik Miranka, both artists and huge supporters of other artists. So to her wonderful seventh book thinking process. thinking … process. What a title! It intrigues with its possibilities, is both clear and concrete and tantalising at the same time.

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I will share the first poem..

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the idea of worlds

waking from a dream
maybe a nightmare kind of thing

immersed in the world of work
in my case, school teacher

the poignancy that no one
can understand
how it feels

the sense of restriction

but vivid and narrative
every comment loaded

step from there
into another world

the virtual world already there
in the peripheral vision

a shimmering white border
enclosing a blue and green world

Anna Coauni’s thinking process gives us worlds, and worlds we normally do not have access to though we recognise them, explicitly the thinking process of another, in this case a printmaker, a teacher, a gallery owner, a maker of images with line and colour and process and decisions, and a maker of images with words.

I was interested to see her publisher Helen Nickas mention the dual vision of the writers of Owl publishing, the Greek Australian writers. Anna had a Greek father and Polish mother, and describes herself as non-Anglo, and her work is often categorised within discussions of multicultural writing, which can tend to marginalise. It shouldn’t. As we encounter here, in my opinion, the best. Not the edge. Not something over there, but right here. I honed in on the word vision in Helen Nikas’s description, and Anna shares with us in thinking process ways of seeing developed over a lifetime of making art and writing, of working with layers, and apprehending exquisite detail in the everyday that is discovered and rediscovered through making art and writing, from who she is. Anna tells me she was encouraged to develop a way of seeing during her training as an architect. The practice of making three dimensions into two dimensions. Of noticing details. I am coming to understand these factors (and more) are part of what makes her writing shine, its clarity, its confident enquiring engagement with what is here and what it might mean, but more, what … is.

The poetry in thinking process is poignant. Here are a couple of stanzas from ‘failed moonshots’.

I regret not seeing all those sunsets
stuck indoors doing the cooking
for dinner time
or marking essays

but I did see lots of sunrises
especially through the lense
got fixated by photographing sunrises
up early for work anyway

Anna’s poetry in thinking process is also quietly humorous. Watch out for the last lines.

How Anna renders colour is superb. I often think about how I would describe the experience of colour to a person who is very colour blind or vision impaired. Now I have part of an answer. I would read them thinking process. From ‘about white’:

Blanched almonds
Poured milk

I can taste, hear and feel the white.

thinking process, like all of Anna’s poetry is plain speaking, accessible, but completely astonishing. She celebrates wonder. Is wonder. But not in a naïve way. Her work always has an intellectual underpinning, but this does not intrude, or demand, it is part of the beauty. Aptly one of her recent books is titled Small Wonders.

Anna and I worked in the Poets Union together, and in political and publishing ventures, and joining No Regrets the Sydney Womens’ Writing workshop because of Anna, how much it all meant to me, and still does. Anna was always wise welcoming and generous, I remember telling her how hard I found it to speak up as a young woman, and how she encouraged me. I so admire her strength and intellect and kindness, but oh, her words and images, their clarity, their politics their beauty. In here you will experience the ecstasy of making, Anna prefers to work the whole surface of her images at once so the process is also about what emerges, it may be a head, a figure, a thing, a surprise.

The wonderful practical and almost mystical word ‘thing’ occurs a few times in thinking practice, it just pops out, thing, and I think of the words etymology, having loved Norse myths as a child, the ‘thing’ was really important, while it now means something more mundane, it derives from a word that meant, a great meeting. I feel the word glows with its origins. I will end with a quote from the ‘haunting’

Senegal yellow
thick and glowing
everything is ready and yet
the series consists of drawings
of objects from my parent’s houses
both parents now gone
objects are not objects

This speaks to me so deeply.

Objects are not objects.

Anna and Hilik’s house in Glebe has always been a haven for so many artists and writers. And now their The Shop Gallery too. Anna has always supported other writers and artists. And is a beloved teacher. Now it is the time for us to support her, to celebrate her work and the wonder-ful thinking process. Congratulations to you and Owl Publishing. Thank you, Anna.

 – Sarah St Vincent Welch

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Sarah St Vincent Welch grew up swimming in Middle Harbour and now loves walking on Mt Majura.  Her chapbook Open is available from Rochford Press https://rochfordpress.com/open-by-sarah-st-vincent-welch/

Unfolding Complexity: Mark Roberts considers Anna Couani’s thinking process

thinking process is available from http://www.owlpublishing.com.au/chapbook-series.html