Ahmad, M M and Castagna, F (eds.) 2012, On Western Sydney, Westside, New Serie, vol. 2, Bankstown Youth Development Service, Bankstown.
This anthology consists of poems and short stories that are written by writers who were mostly living in Western Sydney at the time of the publication and many of these texts are about Western Sydney. Some of my favourites from the anthology include:
The excerpt from Felicity Castagna’s The Incredible Here and Now reminded me of my own youth, being in the car with a friend’s older brother who was driving recklessly.
I enjoyed the uncomfortable dialogue between two strangers on a train in Amanda Yeo’s ‘Nine Minutes’. A young man from Camden hits on the young woman who narrates the story. I liked that Camden and Campbelltown were mentioned in this short story, as sometimes I feel like South West Sydney isn’t part of Sydney, or of Western Sydney, it is pushed to the side and forgotten.
George Toseski’s short story ‘Green Tea’ is a dialogue between a young woman, her mother and her mother’s friend.
Tamar Chnorhokian’s short story ‘Flashbacks of Leon’ explores the mutual conflict and prejudice between private and public schools.
Kavita Bedford’s short story ‘The Bath’ explores a child’s realisation of domestic violence through the imagery of the squealing sound the drain makes when you pull the plug in the bath.
Lina Jabbir’s poem ‘Walk next door’ brings the suburb of Bankstown into the houses of these two neighbours, “Bankstown ‘City of Progress’ / It overflows in the backyard / Inside our house / Through the kitchen window / The sunset bright / In between construction beams / Where frosted glass stands alone…” (p80). This poem moves from describing the suburb to the small and everyday-ness of “Sipping coffee” and “Pondering your cactus” which “cut her hands / When she reaches for the mail” (pp80-81).
Peter Polites’ ‘Passing of the Eye II’ is a coming of age story that explores the sexuality of a young gay man through the friendship of three boys.
Rebecca Landon’s poem ‘Bankstown2 (Square in the Heart)’ describes driving around Bankstown and Fiona Wright’s poem ‘The Streets I Have Loved’ describes driving home.
Frances Panopoulos’ poem ‘Puss Puss’ is another Bankstown poem.
Phillip Hall’s poem ‘Waiting in Penrith South’ captures the sounds of Penrith as Hall describes the peaceful moments of a stay-at-home-dad’s day before the school bell rings.
Fiona Wright’s short story ‘Writing about Violence’ captures the persona teaching a poetry workshop to teenagers. It explores the intimidation of the size of the boys through the repetition of “The boys are big”. The story captures the different kinds of kids that a teacher is faced with, the quiet one who struggles to know how to start, the boy who is drawing a comic instead of writing a poem and the girls who won’t let you see their work until they have built a relationship with you. The story doesn’t end with any special breakthrough where the teacher feels that they’ve had some kind of life-altering impact on one or more of the students. Instead, the story ends with doubt. The teacher feels that they are bullying students with poetry and words as they show off their intelligence and demand that the students write about their traumas.
Mariam Chehab’s poem ‘Career’ describes the pressures that young people can feel as they try to decide what they want to do with their lives. Everyone around them has an opinion.