Samuel Wagan Watson

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Samuel Wagan Watson
Brisbane, Queensland
Spouse(s)Name unknown
Parent(s)Sam Watson, mother (name unknown)
RelativesNicole Watson (sister), brother (name unknown)

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


Samuel Wagan Watson was born in Brisbane; Completed secondary studies in Morayfield State High School where his lawyer sister Nicole also completed her secondary education; whilst living in Caboolture West with his mother an Anglo-Australian and father Sam Watson Jnr; his family is Irish, German, Bundjalung and Birri Gubba. His father is the novelist and political activist, Sam Watson. His poetry ranges from observation of everyday experience to the effects of colonisation in a vividly direct, almost tactile, language. In youth, Watson says that he enjoyed fishing and diving off the end of a jetty in Brisbane with some friends.

In the late 1990s, the Brisbane City Council set up a project to raise awareness of the Boondall Wetlands. 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] Samuel Watson was invited to this project, with the poets Brett Dionysius and Liz Hall-Downs, and in 2000 an audio CD was produced of their work, called Blackfellas Whitefellas Wetlands. The very different voices and focus of the three poets worked together to create a sense or place and of history.[2]

When asked in interview who had influenced him, Samuel Watson recognised the influence of his parents, and listed also Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukowski and Robert Adamson.[3]

Originally, Watson tried to write short stories for various companies, but his writing was rejected, and was described as being 'bad' and 'horrible'. However, one company did compliment his writing as 'having good poetic bits in it' resulting in Watson's shift to poetry. At first, he tried sonnets as a form of poetry, but later changed to free verse.

His 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 with the narrator Ron Haddrick, the soprano Margaret Schindler, and the Southern Cross Soloists.[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.

The Japanese Aeronautical Exploration Agency has commissioned Watson to write some haiku to keep Japanese astronauts amused on the International Space Station.[4]

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

Watson is currently touring Australia and doing poetry courses in various schools as a writer in residence. Among other schools, he has visited the prestigious Brisbane school; Brisbane Grammar School to do one such course.

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.[citation needed]



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

External links[edit]