Redgate Beach Surfing

Creatives often find energy from the natural environment.

Plants and animals inspire shapes in paintings and prints, photographers are eager to capture the raw light of dawn or dusk landscapes, and writers take up forest residencies to hone their craft. Robert Wood, a poet, is one of those creatives who was inspired by his connection to the land to write his latest book entitled ‘Redgate’, a title giving honour to one of the region’s popular but lesser known beaches. Robert grew up with an old timber family home off Redgate Road and checks on his craypots regularly around that part of the coast.

He’s spent years working abroad in places like New York and New Delhi, but always felt tied to the south west. His book traces themes of community through the familiar sea, sky and forest that compose the landscape of Redgate.

Robert shared some insights about his new book and what the Margaret River Region (Wadandi Boodja) means to him.

Robert Wood Author Redgate
Image Credit: Leah Jing McIntosh.

Robert Wood

Tell me a bit about the journey between the idea for ‘Redgate’ and its publication?

I began writing Redgate in 2017 while on a residency in New York. I was missing home and my feeling took on a poetic form. It took a year or more to finish the manuscript before I found a publisher in New Delhi. This was after a trip to India where I gave a number of interviews and performances. But the idea for the book comes from the country itself.

How significant is the title of the book – Redgate?

Redgate as a place matters for its identity. It refers to the beach, the houses, the people who are there. As a title, I wanted to map out this place as a poetic territory, a place in the mind and heart’s eye, a place of poetry. As a word then, it also has colour (red) and an object in it (gate) and that has a nice resonance with social and historical senses. To be red hot and to open the gate so we can welcome visitors into our place.

What does the Margaret River Region (Wadandi Boodja) mean to you?

I have spent a lot of my life in the region and am always grateful for the ongoing custodianship of traditional owners. For me, it is a place where I can connect to nature, spend time with family, reflect on my purpose. And always as a recent arrival and guest. The region keeps me humble and is a place of meaning that touches me in a deeper part of my being. I love cities from Mumbai to Melbourne, but Wadandi Boodja is a place I am always thankful to carry inside.

What are some of the through-lines or overarching messages you want to share with readers?

I think for me it is about the sanctity of daily life, of the sacred quality in the small things, of how we are in this together and do our best when we share a cup of tea with each other. In that way, it takes nature as the bedrock but is aware of damage and violence, all while knowing that being alive here is a privilege that should not be taken for granted. I wanted the message to be one of gratitude – to country, to history, to the relations we continue to have with each other. And to dedicate it to my sisters who have always been there.

You brought out a poetry book amidst a global crisis. Do you think that some of the themes you explore might resonate with people more after they have had a chance to reset or ponder about life?

I had the choice to launch the book during Covid or to wait. I thought it would be part of the book’s journey and a way to mark the moment by going ahead with what we had planned. For me, the lockdown stage was a chance to re-affirm my commitment to creativity and consciousness. It meant I spent more time in the veggie patch, walking along Redgate Road, drinking wine from nearby, fishing for herring, and reading the classics in my library. I hope that comes through in the book itself.

For visitors travelling to the Margaret River Region – what are your top three suggestions of things to do?