Tag Archive: meaning

the meaning of life

pink flower treasury gardens melbourne sacred ordinary poem Talitha Fraser

The meaning of life
is shrouded in sacred
and ordinary things
like sunshine, coffee, candlelight…
Introduce ritual.
Layer purpose in all your choices.
Life is worth living.
Life is worth giving.
Life is worth having.

Talitha Fraser


Trigger warning for suicide. If you’re feeling down, please reach out to friends, family or support agencies like Beyond Blue, Lifeline: 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467, Kids Helpline (for young people aged 5 to 25 years): 1800 55 1800.


There was a suicide in my sphere recently. Not someone I knew but it impacted lots of people that I know and in the aftermath we talked, trying to make sense of it. It’s not something easy to make sense of. We tried to find out details, as you do – who/why/when – and learned for a variety of reasons that further information wouldn’t be forthcoming, people worry that a suicide might lead to more suicides. I hear that but at the same time, I wonder: if we don’t talk about it, if we don’t know it’s happening, how do you prevent it? This person, whose name we don’t know, who we don’t know anything about – we have shed tears for them, we want to acknowledge their life and their family, want time back to tell them they were loved because we know the surety of that whatever else we do not know. Now that I am conscious of my not knowing, I look it up. More than 8 people a day in Australia, one every three hours… more than from cancer (ABS, 2015). I don’t know that we really begin to understand how the comings and goings of people in our lives matters deeply.  My coming and going matters, your coming and going in my life matters whatever context of work, of community, of relationship… A life lived shorter than it might be is always tragic.  I felt a grief inside me that didn’t feel appropriate to show, didn’t feel appropriate to share – it wasn’t supposed to belong to me because this person didn’t belong to me except that we all belong to one another.  So I asked myself: Where is appropriate to show grief? And took myself on an excursion to the local cemetery (as you do). The following poem is made up of words entirely taken from words written on people’s headstones. It  isn’t intended to be some macabre or nihilistic exercise… but the opposite. What words of comfort or solace could we have said if there’d be time? What message of love? Read them and be comforted, be solaced, be loved now. Hear them deep in your soul, take them in and let them nourish you.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will know the essence of life.

v1 bw

v3 bw

v4 bw

v5 bw

v6 bw


Peace, perfect peace,
let your song be delicate,
the flowers can hear.
In God’s care.

In the midst of life we are in death.
Let not your heart be troubled
neither let it be afraid.
In God’s care,
not here but risen,
Love’s Tribute.

Always loved, always in our hearts.
Sadly missed.
Behind all shadows standeth God.
Some time, some day, we’ll understand.

So deeply loved, so deeply mourned,
till we meet again, at rest,
in heavenly love abiding.

Abide with me: fast falls the eventide
the darkness deepens, Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail, and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Thy will be done always in our hearts.
Loved and always remembered.

All losses are restored and sorrows end
in God’s care.
Those we love don’t go away
they walk beside us every day
To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.

Love lives on.



Soft light
born of earth’s turning
the sunlit and
yet shadowed
all is
as was

Talitha Fraser

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Artwork by Aysha Tufa

I’m spending my weekend popping in and out of varied sessions of the Footscray Arts Centres West Writers Forum – the description for a workshop I made it to today reflected on language:

As our world grows smaller and people become more familiar with one another through daily cross-cultural interactions, what stops us from finding ourselves or losing ourselves in each other’s stories? Is translation the final frontier in creative writing? Can we achieve fluid creative and cultural exchanges through the translation of stories? Or will some things always remain lost in translation? Join moderator Mridula Nath Chakraborty in conversation with academics Sanaz Fotouhi and Dr Nadia NiazLily Yulianti Farid and Josiane Behmoiras for this panel.

 Lots of different ideas came through –

The minute you write – let it go.
It will mean something different to every reader.
You can put forward your intention for the words
but that may or may not be picked up.

Josianne Behmoiras

Contextual translation is more important that word-by-word.
You need to translate meaning to a medium your audience can understand…

The interpreter makes their own “work”.

Dr Nadia Niaz

The original word in Buginese “Mukkunrai”
had to remain to carry the meaning – the English translation
“female” doesn’t capture all of the cultural meaning.
(on the title of her short story collection)

Lily Youlanti

All of us find ourselves constantly
translating and transitioning,
asking: “Where do I sit?”

Sanaz Fotouhi

This quote got shared; Charles Simic’s take on the magical absurdity of translating poetry: “It’s that pigheaded effort to convey in words of another language not only the literal meaning of a poem but an alien way of seeing things … To translate is not only to experience what makes each language distinct, but to draw close to the mystery of the relationship between word and thing, letter and spirit, self and world.” (and the article I found it in from The New Yorker mentions many of the panel-referenced works re the translation movement in Japan).

This panel of five had cultural tails in the following languages: French, Hebrew, Latino, Turkish, Kurdish, Buginese, Bahasa, Urdu, Bengali and more I’m sure… a lot of the focus of the session was around translating into English and how you break into, speak into, build an audience amongst English (white middle-class) readers (they are mostly the ones buying books/running the theatres/festivals/publishing houses, etc.).

I found myself thinking about Te Reo Māori (the native language of New Zealand where I am from) and how few speakers there are – there is a need to find reasons to use this language.  What might it look like to translate poems – not word for word – but their meaning.   This kind of interpretation lends itself to crafting something new. What does it mean to take the words I have written to be grounded back into where I come from? What might I discover through that process? Like the Treaty of Waitangi we will end up with 3 versions: original English, Māori translation and then a translation of the Māori back into English… apologies to anyone fluent in Māori who reads these as I’m bound to make gaffes in grammar and word choice… {if you want to collaborate on correct translations get in touch!}


I sit down in the middle of the river

The river sits in the middle of me

Won’t you come and sit by the river?

Sit by the river awhile with me


Enoho au ki roto i te awa
Aparima enohoana ki roto iho
Haere tahi i roto ki te awa?
Haere mai ki te Mātāpuna a muri ngākau ahau


I sit down in the middle of the river
Aparima* sits always at the heart of who I am
Will you keep me company at the river?
You are welcome at the Source that sits at the heart of me

(* Aparima is the name of the river that I identify with in my mihi, it denotes the acknowledgment of place/where I am from)


There is Room at the Table (originally written as a song to welcome asylum seekers/boat people coming to Australia, used at a Welcome Picnic outside a local detention centre)

There is room at the table x3
Let them in, let them stay

There is room at the border x3
Let them in, let them stay

There is room in our hearts x3
Let them in, let them stay

There is hope for a new tomorrow x3
Let them in, let them stay


He wāhi anō kai roto i te tēpu mo tētahi atu tangata?
Haere mai ra, haere mai ra, haere mai ra
Haere mai, nau mai, e ngā iwi e

He wāhi anō kai roto i te rohe mo tētahi atu tangata?
Haere mai ra, haere mai ra, haere mai ra
Haere mai, nau mai, e ngā iwi e

He wāhi anō kai roto i te to tatou ngākau mo tētahi atu tangata?
Haere mai ra, haere mai ra, haere mai ra
Haere mai, nau mai, e ngā iwi e

Nāu te rourou, nāku te rourou ka ora te manuwhiri
Haere mai ra, haere mai ra, haere mai ra
Haere mai, nau mai, e ngā iwi e


Is there space at the table for one more person?
Welcome, everyone is welcome

Is there space at the border for one more person?
Welcome, everyone is welcome

Is there space in our hearts for one more person?
Welcome, everyone is welcome

We will all contribute what we have and there will be enough to share
Welcome, everyone is welcome


What is notable about the differences in the English translations?

What does such an exercise tell us about the significance of interpretation in translation?

If you look up mihi (tradition Maori introduction – reference in poem 1) and karanga (traditional Maori welcome – style observed in poem 2), does this change your understanding of these poems meaning? How?

Any reflections on Simic’s idea that: “To translate is not only to experience what makes each language distinct, but to draw close to the mystery of the relationship between word and thing, letter and spirit, self and world.”?

I have believed



I have believed
in things unseen
for as long as I
can remember
I remember fairies,
Borrowers, Father Christmas,
and more…
In the believing
one knows
the power of things unseen
to work to our good,
and the good of others,
whether they believed or not.
The seeds of faith were born here,
among flowers and thimbles,
cycles and stockings,
the seeds of faith were born.

Talitha Fraser


Inspiration takes time I think.  Being present to what IS.  Seeing, hearing, touching, tasting what is already there as if with new eyes, new ears, new hands, new lips – appreciating with reverence and joy or delight the sacredness of ordinary things.  In this way: rocket from a friends garden, dived potatoes and tomatoes, eggs picked up by a housemate who also brings back that first coffee of the day. The meal is symbolic of more than the sum of its parts, overtones of love and life, aromas of sharing and community, flavour and savour more than mere fuel.  I wish everyone’s life could be made up of recognising these things that make life worth living… we get busy and we get blind.
I will taste the joy of being awake.


Elementary my dear…


Sherlock: “I’ve lived most of my life with the firm conviction that romantic love is an illusion.  It is a futile hedge against the existential terror that is our own singularity… …I feel liberated.  I am now and forever post-love, and, as such, I am free to pursue a life of meaning.”

Holmes: “I think it’s sad you’ve given up.  I think you have a lot to share if you cared to.  You shouldn’t be the only one who knows you.”