Chris Armstrong

Chris Armstrong’s poetry has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies, most recently The Suburban Review, K’in and Backstory as well as Griffith Review and regularly in Cordite. Armstrong was runner up in the Judith Wright Overland Poetry Prize for New and Emerging Writers in 2015 and received an ASA Emerging Writers Mentorship for her poetry manuscript The Watershed, which was published as a chapbook in 2017. Armstrong is currently involved as poet for The White Bluff Project ( a collaborative art, science and community project exploring ‘place’ with particular reference to the effects of climate and urbanisation on a coastal ecosystem. Armstrong was raised on the invaded lands of the Gumbaynggir people on the east coast of Australia but currently resides in lutriwita (Tasmania).


maana ngawaa muniimbugany muniim nyamigundi maarlala
ngawaa muniimbugany words live beyond our needy tongues to
affirm what is you call me to come see the classic smooth and
creamy shapes of stone wash’d in dreamy waves beneath the
white bluff where language too is a sedimentary thing lithified
into the first song within and where after and before daalgiya
ngaanyaw nguuralami giduurr wiigurr nyan muniim nyamigundi
maarlala ngawaabugany muniim maana muniimbugany ngawa
weigh it feel it roll it on that needy tongue feed it to your
children waagay fire yamaarr fish gaagal ocean language that
made me unmade you first manggaarla remaking what was you
juna junaa gayi wear lexis like necklaces of sophora tomentosa
ngayinggi yarrang listen niirum maanyung carrying the sound of
two whales breathing as they rise arc dive into the dark sea
ngayinggi yarrang beneath hooped pines beside cuttlefish
flotsam streaked with copper based blood jarlarrla gagalngay
how is the wind not called a living thing and a breath not thought
a word

Manggaarla is ‘first’ in Gumbaynggir language. Thank you to Gumbaynggir artist Tori Ann Donnelly, with assistance from Kal Morris, for the translations to Gumbaynggir in the poem Manggarla. The poem is part of a collaborative artwork with artists Tori Donnelly and Sarah Mufford for The White Bluff Project at Coffs Harbour Regional Art Gallery from 31 October 2021 to 15 January 2022. See It is also available as an image of the final artwork. The poem also acknowledges influences from Gwen Harwood’s poem ‘The Littoral’.