Saturday 16 March 2024

"'Dancing With Empty Prams' — A brave, raw and compelling poetic novel"

As my verse novel Dancing with Empty Prams makes its way out into the world, I have been touched by the feedback I have been receiving. One colleague, a mental health nurse, wrote to me saying: 

“I wasn’t sure how I would feel about a work about infertility. I am one of those people who has never wanted a child and always been relieved at the one-line reading. When friends have struggled with infertility, I’ve found it difficult to find the right responses and been very aware that I wasn’t as empathic as I would have liked so I hoped that the poetry might help me with that. And it did!

I bought both of your books and read them both cover to cover on that Saturday afternoon. You said that your book wouldn’t be a best-seller but I really can’t see why not, it was a genuine page-turner, I was completely engrossed. All of your poems reflect multi-faceted human experience, everything from despair to wry humour and nothing over simplified.

One of my best friends is trying to get pregnant for the second time after a long fertility journey with the first and I am so much better equipped to be a listening ear now. I’ll be giving her the book too as she will be excited (and validated) to find her experience reflected in verse.

You may also be pleased to know that I am now a convert to the verse novel form. I haven’t read a book from cover to cover for over a year. I thought my capacity had died with age but I’ll be ordering some poetry books now.”

A social worker friend wrote: “I read Dancing With Prams and loved it! It was very easy to read, especially with your engaging writing style. It's such a beautiful, tender, funny, heartbreaking exploration of a journey of infertility. I'm so glad you wrote it and you're sharing it with the world.”

I was thrilled to have two of my poems from the novel: “The intimacy of needles; the poise of liquid nitrogen” included in the Australian Poetry Anthology. This combined poem was also commended in the 2021 national Woorilla Poetry Prize and can be read below (you may need to click on it to enlarge).


Graham Matthews wrote a review of the book for Green Left Weekly in August 2023, available here and copied below. It’s great to have this book recognized by the staunchly feminist and environmentalist publication that I have a long association with.

'Dancing With Empty Prams' — A brave, raw and compelling poetic novel

"Dancing with Empty Prams is the second book published by Tasmanian-based poet and ecosocialist Susan Austin. It’s the fictionalised story of one woman’s struggle with fertility, the morality of having children and the desire to persist against numerous setbacks.

It’s a beautifully written book. It reads so easily, which I imagine means it took a lot of time to write, edit and rewrite. It’s written in a poetic form that greatly adds to the moment, depth and weight of the story. It’s brave, raw and compelling.

As a poetic novel, it’s possible to read Dancing with Empty Prams in a single session: in fact, I found it impossible to put the book down.

Although a fictionalised story, written about an imagined character, the detailed descriptions are personal; the sense of frustration, of invasion and depersonalisation, of hope and disappointment are very moving and intensely humane.

Austin has the courage to write about an experience that is so often suppressed.

“I can’t talk to my friends with kids just now. Even thinking about them makes me want to cry. They didn’t have any trouble conceiving. They try to understand but they can’t,” intones the lead character and narrator, Jade, a health food shop owner living in Queensland.

And again:

Bitter Disappointment hands me over to Hope
Steps me through some spirited salsa.
Anxiety takes over, stumbling with two left feet.
He leads me through some ungraceful pirouettes
before passing me back to Bitter Disappointment.

Austin has written a book with universal applicability. While we may not all wish to have children, we were all born; in many cases out of deep love and affection.

And as with many excellent books, it’s not just the story that keeps you hooked, it’s the wonderful way it’s told. I look forward to reading whatever book Austin puts together next."

Esther Ottaway and I both read at an event at Fullers Bookshop on the 10th August 2023, the fourth event in the Fullers Poets Series. We spoke on the theme Women’s Untold Stories and read from our new books. The audience was attentive and appreciative, with many nourishing conversations held afterwards. 

And lastly, a photo taken by Esther Ottaway outside Fullers Bookshop, with me holding my book, and of course, a pram. I have two more boxes of books on order so if you haven’t already got a copy, please consider placing an order through my website and I will send one to you, thank you.

Music and poetry - still an item? Also self-compassion, lemons and fishing

It’s about time for an update I think! It just takes a little dose of Covid to clear my diary and give me the time needed for things like this 😊

I started off the year by performing at the Cygnet Folk Festival, at the Poet’s Breakfast, and on a panel organised by TasWriters. Chaired masterfully by Danielle Wood, I spoke alongside fabulous local poets Gina Mercer, Anne Collins and Young Dawkins, with Tim Hodgkinson  playing double bass. The panel discussed the topic: 'Music and Poetry - Still an Item"?' and poets shared our thoughts and read some of our more musical works.

Photos thanks to Yvonne Gluyas

Last month I ran an Oasis Women’s Poetry Workshop on the theme of “Exploring connection and self-compassion through poetry.” We looked at Mary Oliver’s famous poem Wild Geese and explored how poetry exercises can help us mindfully notice our emotional states and manage our moods. I invited participants to write about their connections with special places, people or objects. Creative writing can have a powerful effect on our ability to understand and accept ourselves and I shared some exercises to enable us to view our characteristics and insecurities with self-compassion, based on the work of Dr Kristin Neff.

 “the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.”

-          Mary Oliver, from Wild Geese


In October I had my second haiku published in Echidna Tracks, the Australian Haiku online journal.

after four years  
the first lemon

It’s a short, simple haiku, testament to less is often more. It was accompanied by a striking painting of a lemon by Ron Moss.

Also in October last year I won the FAW Tasmania 2023 Poetry Prize and was awarded Highly Commended. I hope to get this year’s winning poem published so I can share it with you. It's called A different kind of online and is about fishing, of all things! Inspired by many fishing trips with Dad when I was a kid.

I participated in a national ekphrastic competition judged by Chris Mansell. Andrew Bennett Ekphrastic Poems (30 pages A4) was subsequently published by WordXimage, September 2023. My poem (abridged below) was the second poem included in response to the painting “An Afternoon Adrift” by Andrew Bennett.  




Malted rye toast

with a dash of olive oil

thinly sliced plums

on top.







Sandals off

notebook ready

wrists relaxed.



words will come

like ants to crumbs.


I also came across a poem of mine called Veteran that a friend liked enough to include on her Resistance Words blog back in 2015. You can read it here.

In August last year I was interviewed by Arianne James for her Book Shelf program on Edge Radio. The recording was up online for a month but is now unavailable. We had a great chat about poetry and verse novels. Speaking of which, I'll do a separate post with Dancing with Empty Pram updates.

Thursday 20 July 2023

Esther Ottaway launches Dancing with Empty Prams

 Here is Esther's lovely launch speech for Dancing with Empty Prams, recorded in Hobart in July 2023.

Launch speeches and photos for Dancing with Empty Prams

It's been such a busy month as Dancing with Empty Prams has been launched, celebrated and distributed. The Brisbane launch kicked things off in June, with my dear friend Sally Lingard giving a beautiful speech in front of friends and family at the Chermside library. On the 7th and 8th of July I was honoured to participate in a double book launch with Esther Ottaway at Mathers House in Hobart, where I launched her fabulous new poetry book "She Doesn't Seem Autistic" and she launched my verse novel. Then last Sunday, 16th July, we repeated that over Zoom for friends near and far who couldn't get to the face-to-face launches. 

I couldn't have been happier with how the launches went and have loved receiving feedback from readers after they've read my book. One friend wrote: "Thanks so much for your incredible book. I picked it up last night and couldn’t put it down until I read every word! Thank you for sharing your story and the roller coaster ride of infertility with such compelling prose! Congratulations."

Another messaged: "I am really enjoying your novel. I love the format and the fact that you can deal with such a big topic in a heartfelt but light way. Well done, very impressive."

I have been posting copies of the book to people in Queensland and Tasmania and a good friend purchased a bunch and sent them off to relatives around the country, so it is possible to say that my book is being nationally distributed :-)

Below are some photos of the Hobart launch, as well as Sally's speech. If you haven't already, it would be great if you could purchase a copy of my book through my website. Thanks for your support. 

Sally Lingard launching Dancing with Empty Prams in Brisbane

Thursday 29 June 2023

Dancing with Empty Prams makes its way out into the world!

Dancing with Empty Prams has been launched! It was so lovely to celebrate its release in Brisbane on the 17th June 2023, surrounded by family and friends. My long-term friend Sally Lingard gave a beautiful launch speech and I spoke about the reasons for writing it, followed by a short reading. Here are some photos from the event, held at Chermside library. 

I'm excited about the upcoming Hobart launches. Bookings are steadily flowing in for the two Hobart events. If you haven't already, you can book tickets here.

I've also updated my website so you can now buy copies directly from me, using the secure PayPal button on the front page or the 'Buy my books' tab. 

Here are the ways you can buy my book, in order of what works best for me:

1. Pick up a copy at the launches in Hobart on 7th or 8th July or other upcoming events (Oasis Women Poets, Seasonal Poets or the Fullers poetry and conversation event on 10th August)

2. If you live locally, deposit the money in my bank account (message me for the details) and I can give you a copy when I see you next or drop it into your letterbox

3. Buy it via my website and I will post it to you

4. Grab it from Fullers Bookshop or The Hobart Bookshop

Thanks so much!!

Friday 2 June 2023

Winter book launches and catch up on publication news

In two weeks I will be in Brisbane, in my home state of Queensland, launching my book Dancing with Empty Prams on the 17th June at the Chermside library. This book has been a long time in the making and I’m excited that soon you will be able to read it! My mum read it for the first time last week and said that it was “beautiful and poignant”. If you come along you can hear me talk about why I wrote it and listen to some of the poems. Here’s the Facebook event with more info.

And in five weeks I’m thrilled to be teaming up with the wonderful Esther Ottaway to do joint book launches in Hobart. I’ll launch Esther's masterful new poetry collection She Doesn't Seem Autistic and Esther will launch my verse novel Dancing with Empty Prams. There’s a choice of attending the Friday evening event at 6pm on the 7th July, or the Saturday afternoon event on the 8th July at 1pm, both at Mathers House in the Upstairs Hall, 108-110  Bathurst St, Hobart. Esther and I will speak about our new books and the issues raised in them and give poetry readings. All events are free entry and there’ll be complimentary refreshments. A special price will be available at the launch: both books for $45. Card payments only at the launch.

Join us! Book your spot here.

We will also be doing online launches later in July (Sunday 16th July) for those who live interstate. Email me at for more info.

In other good news, two of the poems from my soon-to-be-released verse novel Dancing with Empty Prams were chosen by the editors for publication in the Australian Poetry Antholgy Volume 10. These poems, submitted under the title The intimacy of needles; the poise of liquid nitrogen, were Commended in the Woorilla Poetry Prize 2021 so it’s great that they’ll now reach a national readership.

I’m also honoured to contribute to the first issue of Folk Ku Journal, published by King River Press, alongside so many heartfelt haiku by talented writers. I enjoyed reading this first edition. Here are two of mine that have been included:

apples from the neighbours’ tree

kids pick the best ones

for their teachers


now the kids are seven and nine

I gaze

at the view

Read the whole collection here.


I also made it into the January edition of Echidna Tracks, with a little family dinner-time angst that turned into a haiku:

fried rice
with extra ingredients—
kids go hungry

Susan Austin

I also had a haiku chosen for the next issue of Echidna Tracks, which I will share when it comes out.

In December last year I found out that two of my poems, Calcium, horses and other dreams and Ode to a park bench were Commended in the FAW Tasmania Norma and Colin Knight Poetry Award.

My poem First day falling was published in Burrow’s September 2022 issue, which was on the theme of mental health through the prism of Place.

My poem Mask up was published in the Poetry in the Hospital publication edited by Tony Brennan in August last year. With a Covid wave happening again here in Tassie, it might be time to pull the masks out again when I go into the crowded stores or on public transport.  


Mask up
the Covid bogeyman hasn’t yet found the exit
like an uninvited guest at a party
telling too many tedious tales
get intimate with your own expired air
the garlic memory of your lunchtime focaccia
the quickening heat of your unsettled breaths

Mask up
it’s a new way of life
maintaining life is the purpose
although it seems like all they do is interrupt
the facial expressions and connections that enrich it
don’t turn to touch to compensate
or we’ll all have to sanitise again

Mask up
it’s the new fashion
choose your mask to match your outfit
and don’t forget which one is clean
which was yesterday’s that needs a wash
is there any point to make-up
or toothpicks anymore?

Mask up
even if it scares the kids
feels like we’re in a new apocalypse
these cloth and paper defences
promise to keep your germs out
and my germs in
let’s share other things instead
like hopes and fears
and all the fragile hesitations in between

I was thrilled when Happy accidents, a long poem from my verse novel Dancing with Empty Prams, was published in the Australian Poetry Journal 12.1, the theme of which was “divergence, relevance”.

And I’ll leave you with a photo of a haiku that was published in the Haiku Down Under 2022 Anthology, Poetry From The Edge.

It’s the reason why I devote some of my time to co-ordinate the Climate Action Hobart activist group. Poetry can change the world, but it’s not enough on its own, in this critical decade, grassroots action and campaigns are needed too.  

Sunday 16 April 2023

Dancing with Empty Prams

I know it’s been a while between blog posts but I’ve been busy! My second book, Dancing With Empty Prams, is coming out soon with Walleah Press. Ralph Wessman, the publisher, has been a wonderful supporter of my poetry since I moved to Tasmania almost 20 years ago and I am so grateful and happy that he has applied his skills and time to helping me bring this book into the world.

Dancing With Empty Prams is a verse novel. It tells the story of a woman whose plan to have a baby carries her on a quest she never could have imagined. Six poems from it have won or were commended in state and national poetry competitions and nine have been featured in journals and anthologies, including the Australian Poetry Journal. It started off as a collection of poems documenting my own journey of infertility, and when I was awarded a Career Development Grant from the Australia Council for the Arts in 2020 I was able to work with the immensely talented Dr Gina Mercer to turn it into a verse novel. I am proud of the end result and excited to share it with the world.

I had help from a creative group of friends in work-shopping cover style ideas and my friend Jen Lorrimar-Shanks designed the beautiful cover which you can see below. 

Esther Ottaway has been a fabulous support and we have decided to do joint book launches in Hobart on the 7
th and 8th of July at Mathers House in Bathurst St – check out my Facebook page Susan Austin Poet for more details. I will also be doing a Brisbane launch at the Chermside library on Saturday 17th June at 2:45pm. Because the novel is set in Queensland (Hervey Bay to be precise, close to where I grew up, in Maryborough), it is great that I can launch it there first.

I’ll share with you below some of the endorsements that I have received for the book. I will make it available to buy from my website when it is printed. We are getting close! Thanks for your support.  

"Susan Austin's Dancing with Empty Prams is a moving, involving account of a woman's fertility quest, and an inventive, carefully structured verse novel. The reader is drawn in to an emotional and physical ordeal across years of trying, miscarriage, and ultimately the gruelling IVF process. This book's significance is in its voicing of an experience not often represented so thoroughly in literature - a lonely journey made more challenging by taboos, ignorance, prejudices and opaque jargon. Anyone who has been touched by these issues will feel seen." Melinda Smith

 “It is estimated that as many as one in six couples in Australia have trouble getting pregnant – some who find it impossible to conceive naturally, choose the IVF journey which can oscillate seemingly endlessly (as it does in Dancing with Empty Prams) between hope and disappointment, optimism and dispiriting self-doubt.

Susan Austin’s verse novel on the subject is emotionally charged but avoids sentimentality by keeping it real. It is well-informed if not experienced and as such is an important book for the women who will personally connect with it, for their families and friends to better understand and appreciate the journey and for the general public who will find in Dancing with Empty Prams a human-interest story that is genuinely moving, educational and at times downright funny.” Jane Williams

 “The directness of the poems, exploring the most intimate aspects of human fertility, is matched by a ferocity of craft which kept me turning pages. This is powerful and important work - cogent and topical.

It is vital that women’s experience is added into the national cultural mix. For decades publishing has been dominated by heroic hyper-masculine quest narratives. This work subverts that tradition through a wry, poignant, punchy exploration of the quest for motherhood, a matter literally of life and death, played out in suburban bedrooms and clinics across Australia – and yet rarely documented or heard in the national conversation.”  Dr Gina Mercer

 I have watched Susan Austin develop as a poet and a person since the late 1990s. She is committed to living life as a poet, and her poetry grows with all the other aspects of her life. She is also a charismatic performer. She brings both the poet and non-poet with her, often into difficult terrain. She is a poet who has something to say, and people respond to this.

Susan Austin brings her verbal acuity, sound ethical concerns, charm and humanity to this current project. She makes compelling poetry. I have rarely read a poetry manuscript, such as this one, that I can’t put down but need to read in a sitting. She is an important voice in poetry, especially Tasmanian poetry.” Liz Winfield

Susan’s verse novel, Dancing With Empty Prams, is one of the most keenly observed poetry works I have read in recent years. It lays open the suburban life of a couple to expose the piercing, intimate, bleak, and intensely lonely experience of infertility. The experience for the reader is emotionally deep and gripping: it is a book which, as it progresses, becomes impossible to put down. I cried at the end. Susan’s craft in this work is masterful, and the issues she raises, compelling and relevant.” Esther Ottaway, 2022 Tasmanian Literary Awards winner