St Kilda’s Poetic Streets

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By Helen Brett

On my first night living in St Kilda I got hopelessly lost, wandering among the many streets named after writers and poets. In the dark I was meandering from one corner to another in streets like Dickens, Wordsworth, Milton, and Gordon, all the while seeking the reassuring neon lights of Fitzroy or Acland streets. Eventually a kind man in a milk bar put me on the right track.

The following day, as if on cue, I read a notice in the St Kilda library on Carlisle Street about a walk coming up on Saturday November 3rd, billed as a ‘Guided Walk: Poetic streets of Elwood’ and I thought; this is for me!

Meyer Eldelson, a member of the local history association, led about twenty of us for two hours through leafy Elwood. The first street to receive a literary name was Shakespeare Grove; honouring not the playwright but a local public official. It then seemed a good idea to draw on other writers’ names to give the entire suburb a literary feel. As well as literature and local history, Meyer was knowledgeable about architecture and even botany – beside the canal he casually picked some leaves of a creeper plant and presented them to us to taste. This was bush tucker, a sort of native spinach which used to be fed to sailors to prevent scurvy, and I must say it tasted surprisingly good. A useful source of free greens the next time I forget to get my veggies at the farmers market in St Kilda or the Gasworks!

Once we arrived at a particular street corner, Meyer arranged that one of us would read a poem from prepared sheets which he distributed. We were all a bit shy at the beginning but by the end everybody, good humouredly, did their bit of reading. One man read a few poems from a poetry anthology he had brought along. We were delighted when a young girl, aged about ten, read a poem that she had composed herself. Perhaps she will be our next Dorothy Hewitt or Gwen Harwood and we will be able to say we met her on an Elwood walk!

The City of Port Phillip organises free guided walks each month. This is a great community initiative and I cannot think of a nicer way to spend a few hours.

 

Watch out for the evening walk on Australia Day next year, details of which will be advertised on www.victoriawalks.org.au or you can phone: 9209 6522

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