Samuel Wagan Watson

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Samuel Wagan Watson
Born1972 (age 48–49)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Parent(s)Sam Watson (father)
RelativesNicole Watson (sister), brother (name unknown)

Samuel Wagan Watson (born 1972) is a contemporary Indigenous Australian poet.

Early life[edit]

Samuel Wagan Watson was born in 1972 in Brisbane, to an Indigenous Australian father, the novelist and political activist, Sam Watson, and an Anglo-Australian mother. Watson grew up in Caboolture West and completed his secondary studies at Morayfield State High School, with his sister Nicole, a lawyer. Watson is of Irish, German, Bundjalung and Birri Gubba descent. In his youth, Watson enjoyed fishing and diving off the end of a jetty in Brisbane with friends.


Watson originally was known as an author of short stories, however changed focus to poetry after many rejections from companies. Watson's shift was inspired by one such company noting that his writing contained good poetic elements. Watson's first poems were in sonnet form, in contrast to the free verse of his current style. The themes of his poetry range from observations of everyday experience, to the effects of colonisation in a vividly direct, almost tactile, language.

In the late 1990s, Watson was invited to participate in a Brisbane City Council project to raise awareness of the Boondall Wetlands, alongside fellow poets Brett Dionysius and Liz Hall-Downs. The project was set up to bring together historians, poets, photographers, environmentalists and designers and show the cultural history of the Wetlands, both the local indigenous history and the experiences of European settlers.[1] In 2000 an audio CD was produced of the three poets' work, called Blackfellas Whitefellas Wetlands. The very different voices and focus of the poets worked together to create a sense or place and of history.[2]

His 2004 poetry collection Smoke Encrypted Whispers has been set to music by 23 Brisbane-based composers, who each wrote a two-minute piece to respond to a particular poem. The project was commissioned by the clarinetist Paul Dean, who conducted a recording of the work featuring soprano Margaret Schindler and the Southern Cross Soloists, with Ron Haddrick narrating.[3]

The Japanese Aeronautical Exploration Agency has commissioned Watson to write some haiku to keep Japanese astronauts amused on the International Space Station.[3]

Watson is sharing a house with his brother, who has been described in an interview as 'someone who loves to play music', and his spouse.

Watson is currently touring Australia and delivering poetry courses in various schools, such as Brisbane Grammar School, as a writer in residence.


Watson recognises the influence of his parents in his work, and also cited Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukowski and Robert Adamson as influences.[4] Watson says that music helps him write, and says that it 'is a major influence on (his) poetry'. He also says that music helps to block out outside noise, especially from his brother.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Samuel Watson has also received a Highly Commended in both the Anne Elder Awards and the 2000 Award for Outstanding Contributions to Australian Culture.[6]



  • Of Muse, Meandering and Midnight. (UQP, 1999) ISBN 0-7022-3174-6
  • Itinerant Blues. (UQP, 2002) ISBN 0-7022-3282-3 reviewed
  • Hotel Bone (Vagabone Press, 2001)
  • Smoke Encrypted Whispers. (UQP, 2004) ISBN 0-7022-3471-0 review
  • Three legged dogs, and other poems. (Picaro Press, 2005) OCLC: 69249268

Articles and other publications[edit]

Other media[edit]

  • Watson, Samuel Wagan; Brett Dionysius; Liz Hall-Downs (2000). "Blackfellas Whitefellas Wetlands". CD. unknown.


  1. ^ "Brisbane City Council: Blackfellas Whitefellas Wetlands". 4 July 2007. Archived from the original on 31 August 2007. Retrieved 3 July 2007.
  2. ^ "The Cortland Review by David Kennedy". Spring 2002.
  3. ^ a b "Fine Australian poems in lovingly crafted musical settings", Limelight, June 2013, p. 79
  4. ^ "Booked Out Speaker's Agency". 4 July 2007. Archived from the original on 1 September 2007.
  5. ^ "Samuel Wagan Watson wins 2018 Patrick White Literary Award | Books+Publishing". Retrieved 31 October 2018.
  6. ^ "Poet Samuel Wagan Watson". 17 August 2005. Retrieved 14 August 2019.

External links[edit]