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Dani Powell

Dani Powell is a writer and performance-maker based in Alice Springs. Since 2015, she has been the Artistic Director of the Alice Springs iteration of the NT Writers Festival. NT Writers’ Centre caught up with her for a chat!

Dani PowellHow do you balance your different creative endeavours and what connections are there between them?
Although it’s true that I move across different mediums, I’ve found I’m not so great at working on multiple projects at once, so I tend to focus on one major project at a time. After I had a child, I found it very difficult to manage the large-scale performance projects I had previously worked on, and concentrating on my book was a response to that.

I approach my role as Artistic Director of the Festival from a performance-making perspective, though. I want to create authentic events that belong nowhere else but here, to bring together the elements of place, people, language and story – and to curate their interplay – almost like elements of a performance.

Most of your creative work is deeply engaged with questions of place. What is it about place and the central desert region in particular that animates you?
I love your use of the word animates. It really describes my experience of coming to the desert and feeling very creatively inspired or enlivened by the country.

Before I lived here, I saw country as land. But here I’ve come to understand country differently. Everything here feels stripped back, or spacious. And this seems to enable one to think deeply, to imagine, and not be so distracted. But I’m also living alongside another culture and have been influenced by the Indigenous people of this region with an appreciation of what Country holds. I guess I try to articulate this in my novel Return To Dust, which, in one sense, is a love letter to this country and its people.

Last year, your debut novella Return to Dust was published. What other projects are you working on?
At the end of last year, I started working on a second book and made some progress when I received a Varuna fellowship. However, once I start curating the Festival program, that very much takes over. I just heard that I was recipient of an Arts NT grant, so I’m looking forward to immersing myself in more writing after September!

If we were to take a peek at your bookshelf, what would we find?
At this point in time, you would find a lot of the titles to be featured in this year’s NT Writers Festival! Rick Morton’s My Year of Living Vulnerably, Nardi Simpson’s Song of the Crocodile, Laura Jean McKay’s The Animals in That Country, Alice Pung’s One Hundred Days.

Which Territory authors are you enjoying at the moment?
I’m reading a stunning collection of poetry by First Nations poets called Guwayu — For All Times, that includes the work of several NT poets, Declan Furber Gillick, Yvette Holt, Melanie Mununggurr, among others. I’m also rereading Penny Drysdale’s new collection, I am the Glass, and am finding more to reflect upon. And I discovered Karen Rogers’ picture book this year, which was my introduction to this stunning artist and writer from Ngukurr Community. I’m excited Karen is appearing at the Festival.


Inset: Dani Powell

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