Poetry has the power to take us to imaginary places, but often those rooted in the geography and history of past civilisations. And that’s what South-African born Australian poet John Mateer aims to achieve in his latest collection of poetry called Unbelievers, or The Moor. This collection aims to trace the influential but invisible histories of the Moorish state Al-Andalus, where the present day Spain and Portugal lie.
But there’s no mistaking the politics of apartheid, or the war on terror that has torn apart the Islamic and Western worlds. Nor can you mistake the startling similarities between Mateer’s adopted home of Western Australia and his ancestors’ hometown of Cape Town, South Africa. By drawing together these histories in parallel, Mateer succeeds in asking us: just how do the histories of civilisations survive the information age?
Here, in conversation with Rachel Worsley, he begins a reading of one of his poems from the collection.