Launched – Our Tongues Are Songs

Thursday the 6th of May was a rainy night, new COVID restrictions had just been introduced after a mystery case appeared in Sydney…it was not the perfect conditions for a book launch. We were wearing masks again, we were worried about numbers in the room. But I decided to go ahead with it, I’d waited long enough, my readers were ready, the mic stand had been hired. I kinda felt like rain and COVID weren’t enough to stop us

The collection was launched by the wonderful Vivian Pham, author of The Coconut Children. Lately she has been receiving so many (well deserved!) accolades, take a breath…shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Award, for the NSW Premier’s Award, Vivian has won The ABIA Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year, and been named The Age and Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Novelist of the Year. Her launch speech was a complete heartbreaker, I loved it.

My launch for my first collection Bone Ink had been pretty wonderful, but this time I wanted to do something a little different. Our Tongues Are Songs is a collection of voices, different personas, different ‘I’s, and I wanted the readings at the launch to reflect that. I didn’t want just me reading, I wanted to hear other voices reading the poems. To make that happened I asked a bunch of my students, my daughter and a friend to read pieces they had selected from the collection. No joke, it was the best decision I’ve made in years, they were fantastic, each bringing their own particular interpretation to the poem they’d selected. It’s also great to have people reading from your collection because you get a chance to introduce them and tell the world how fantastic they are.

Readers for the launch:

Zoe Krabbe

First up was Zoe, author of three collections, the most recent is Aletheia . Zoe’s work is passionate, heartfelt and genuine. Over the years we have had so many fantastic discussions about punctuation and poetry structure! They’re also a wonderful performer. Zoe read Recovery Hotel.

Ela Pinar

Next up was Ela…the very, very first student to join the Story Factory year of poetry program when we started in 2018. Our first workshops were at the Parramatta PCYC, while people were boxing and lifting weights in the room next door. At the launch Ela read two sections from the sequence called When the towers fall. This sequence is inspired by the tower blocks in Redfern, and digs into what will happen as residents are moved out of these places they’ve lived for so long. You can find Ela’s latest collection – Raw Soul – here.


bea was the next reader, they read a poem called Dancing at the Bone Bank. Last year after one of the poetry workshops bea was having a chat about how they were going to the bone bank. I overheard, and of course instantly decided I needed to use it in a poem…this is the poem, dedicated to bea. bea’s latest collection – Splinters – is here.

Yaji Spencer

Yaji is an ex student who I hadn’t seen for over a year. He came along to read a poem called When parks were still parks. Yaji is the author of Palis Delon, a haunting first collection.

pax valentine

Next was pax valentine, young writer, wonderful daughter and one of the wisest hearts I know. She read Songs for the after-party. It’s the third poem in a short sequence about music in the inner west of Sydney, the lost hopes of music, and this poem is about the way people rail against the sorrows of the world. 

Bilal Hafda

The final reader was Bilal, an inspiring teacher and wonderful person to talk poetry with. Bilal read the first poem in the collection called With my mates. This poem originally came about as the partner poem for the poem that opened my first collection – Angelo. But as I wrote it become more and more, Bilal’s reading added another layer.

You can get a copy of Our Tongues Are Songs here!


  1. Sounds amazing, Rico. So sorry I couldn’t make it. The book is fantastic, I’ve read it twice! Congratulations 🎉

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