Lou Smith

Lou Smith is a Melbourne-based poet of Welsh, Jamaican and English heritage who grew up in Newcastle, NSW. Her poetry has been published in journals and anthologies both in Australia and overseas including Wasafiri, Mascara Literary Review, A Slow Combusting Hymn, Overland, The Caribbean Writer, Nine Muses Poetry, sx Salon, Soft Surface and Caribbean Quarterly. Her book riversalt was published by Flying Islands in 2015.

Lou has worked as an editor and proofreader and was the co-founder of independent publisher Breakdown Press, publishers of political poster series and books such as How to Make Trouble and Influence People: Pranks, Hoaxes, Graffiti and Political Mischief-Making from Across Australia and YOU: some letters from the first five years. 

She is currently working on a number of writing projects including two new books of poetry, one of which is set in her hometown of Newcastle during the Great Depression. 

Lou has a PhD in creative writing from the University of Melbourne where she sometimes teaches. 


Here are three poems are from my collection riversalt.

An Evening Swim at Kilaben Bay

Between the wooden slats

of the boardwalk

distant lights of houses

blur in a diffraction of amber

like Venus through drizzle

or in the curve of waves

fanning from shore


My grandma

sprinkled sugar

on banana fritters

caramelising it in butter

specks of sweetness 

dissolving through batter

into the melting warm fruit

this island was built on sugar

Mum will only eat strawberries

when coated

in enough castor sugar

to form a hot pink pool

in the bottom of the bowl

swirls into thickened cream

like blood entering water

this island was built on sugar

in the day’s heat

men with machetes slice 

through hedges, the cutlass

a legacy from when those

who had been enslaved

cut sugarcane

hands bleeding

like sugary sap

this island was built on sugar


The dampness flows  from the hill

the dampness

moulds us

taproot still

the dampness flows

from the hill

and we scoop up water in jars

catch tadpoles with

glutinous eyes

in the quarry

where the men used to mine

with horse and dray

in the quarry

in the heat of summer days

skin off shoulder blades

peels like dried glue sheets

and words hang from trees like rotting vines

not sapped, not blood that drips

and pains amber red

but green and fungal

smelling of carcass flesh

lantana delicate pale pink and lemon,

the scent of not here,

lantana camara, everywhere

in the quarry 

skin pitted on hard small rocks

gravel used for roads

like this cul-de-sac

where time travels in circles

the crow caws

and the bush beckons us

through spotted gums and shade of leaves,

to leave the yellow ochre 



and walk into the cool

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