The most well-known of the poets featured in Poetry Park (see previous post) is John Kinsella. Even though he now works in Europe, John Kinsella’s poetry still often evokes the landscape of Perth and the West Australian wheatbelt where he grew up. The poem featured on the panel in the park is titled “Como Beach Jetty” and describes a local landmark.
Recently we have been spending some time in the Perth suburb of Como, and tucked away in a hidden corner of that suburb we came across the Poetry Park.
Actually called Neil McDougall Park after a dairy farmer who kept dairy cows on the site until the late 1940s, the park now has a picturesque lake inhabited by some interesting water birds. On the grassed area surrounding the lake, panels display the poems of 12 highly acclaimed Western Australian poets.
The Cowra Prisoner of War Camp as described in Tom Keneally’s novel “Shame and the Captives”, is long gone. But the town still has a well-tended cemetery where Japanese prisoners of war, who died in Australia, are buried.
A special relationship between the town of Cowra and Japan was cemented with the opening of Cowra Japanese Garden in 1979. Built by Ken Nakajima, a famous Japanese garden designer, the garden has typical Japanese plants like cherry and maple against a background of the Australian bush. It also has beautiful ponds filled with carp.
A Sakura Festival is held in the garden on the last weekend of September, when the cherry trees are in flower. Visitors to the festival can enjoy traditional Japanese music, tea ceremony and a bonsai display.
The prisoner of war camp at Cowra was well-run with the Red Cross having access to the prisoners. The Italian prisoners, who did not take part in the breakout, were generally a happy enough lot. Many were sent to work on local farms, which were short of labour. A sub-plot of Keneally’s novel “Shame and the Captives”, has a young woman named Alice falling in love with an Italian prisoner of war.
Near the site of the former Cowra prisoner of war camp there is a monument to all Italian soldiers who died in prison camps during World War II.
The prisoner of war camp at Cowra is a few kilometres outside the town. A cairn now marks the spot where the breakout of Japanese prisoners occurred during World War II. In the novel, “Shame and the Captives”, Tom Keneally portrays the event from both the Japanese and Australian perspective. More than 200 Japanese lost their lives in the breakout, with many committing suicide. Five Australian soldiers were killed, including Lt Harry Doncaster who was killed by Japanese escapees while he was searching for them. A memorial to him can be seen on the Cowra to Canowindra road.
We have just finished reading “Shame and the Captives” by Australian author, Tom Keneally. Published in 2013, this novel is based on events that happened in the town of Cowra during World War II.
Cowra, called Gawell in the novel, is 315km west of Sydney and was the site of a huge prisoner of war camp, housing thousands of Japanese and Italian prisoners. On the 5August 1944, a thousand Japanese prisoners attempted to escape. The events leading up to the escape and the breakout itself are described in some detail in the novel.
We have visited Cowra twice in recent years and have been to the site of the former camp. Keneally’s novel went a long way to explaining some of the gaps in the story of the breakout as it is portrayed around Cowra today.
Sculpture by the Sea is on at Cottesloe Beach, Perth, Western Australia until 20 March 2016. We have been twice to see this amazing collection of sculptures displayed against the sparkling blue backdrop of the Indian Ocean.
Held every March, this year’s sculptures are exciting to see as always. One of our favourites is “Book Cave” by Juliet Lea. The artist collected discarded books from libraries in the Fremantle area where she lives, to create this work which is based on her love of reading on the beach.
Small children are very attracted to the inside of the cave, while adults look around the outside for a book or author that they know. We noticed books by Colleen McCullough, Oscar Wilde and Tom Keneally (who will be the subject of our next post).