The Conversation with Tamaso Lonsdale was jointly by Jaydeep Sarangi and Sourav Sangiri
About Tamaso Lonsdale:
Tamaso, the author of 18 published books, has been writing most of her life under various pseudonyms. She is the author of nine teenage novelettes for 'reluctant readers', four books on Australian birds, several published short stories and poems. She has self-published one book (Skye's the Limit) a story about a young girl's fight to save a rainforest. She has been awarded prizes in several writing competitions and has written all the Nature articles for two encyclopaedias.
Tamaso lives in Nimbin, Australia and works as a volunteer on The Nimbin Magazine and also helps to produce a literary magazine Beyond the Rainbow. At present she is involved in editing an anthology of poems from Australia and India entitled, Poetic Connections.
Tamaso Lonsdale's major Works:
Out of My Mind
It Isn't Easy
The First Day
Silver in the Sky
The Velvet Glove
Three Right Turns
Skye's the Limit
Brothers? Uncles! Sister? Aunt!
Birds of the Australian Bush
Birds of Australian Seashores
Birds of Australian Waterways
Songbirds of Australia
Would you share with us your parentage and childhood......
I was born on 9th February 1928 in Manly, NSW. My mother went into a diabetic coma and died three days after my birth. She had known that she would not live and had asked my father’s mother to take the baby as her own, which she did. I did not know that she was my grandmother and called her Mum and thought that all her other children were my brothers and my sister. I never quite understood how my father could be their brother. My father later remarried but I never went to live with them, only visiting on school holidays.
When did you settle at Nimbin, NSW?
I came to live in Nimbin in 1992
NSW has a strong literary tradition. Who are the important writers you read in your youth?
Ethyl Turner author of Seven Little Australians and many other books; Mary Grant Bruce author of the Billabong series. My favourite poets were A.B.(Banjo) Patterson, Henry Lawson, C.J. Dennis and Henry Kendall.
How did you start writing?
I wanted to write from the time I first learned how to hold a pencil and write the alphabet. I can’t say how I started - I just did. My father gave me a typewriter when I was nine years old and typed my little stories and sent them into the Sunbeams children’s section of the Sydney Sun newspaper. There were also children’s programmes on two Sydney radio stations and I was invited to read my stories there.
Can writing poems and short stories be taught?
I think that the basics of writing can be taught but unless the students have the burning desire to get their ideas on to paper they will never be writers. I used to lead a writers’ group in Nimbin and was able to help many people improve their writing skills but I always emphasized that the story was their story and they were not obliged to take my advice, although they usually did.
Why do you write?
I write because something inside me says I must. I would think for the same reason artists paint and musicians play their instruments.
What makes you writing most of you life under various pseudonyms? What are your pseudonyms?
I first wrote as a child under my given name of Lucy Speedy. Later I wrote under my married name of Lucy Lonsdale. Later still, after becoming a sannyasin of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh I wrote under the name of Tamaso Lonsdale and also as V.Tamaso. because my sannyasin name is Veet Tamaso , meaning Beyond darkness. I used this name for my trilogy because I was fictionalizing my life and my family but I did not want any of them to be indentified.
You are editing a literary magazine Beyond the Rainbow. How is it received in your part of Australia? Is there any particular focus of the journal?
Beyond the Rainbow has a very small distribution, simply being available in a few shops and to subscribers. We do not have a particular focus but welcome submissions of short stories, poems, excerpts from work in progress or published novels. We are all volunteer workers and cannot afford to pay our contributors but always send a copy of the issue in which their work is published.
At present you seem to be involved in a trilogy novel. What’s it all about?
My trilogy is now complete and is loosely based on my own life although it is written as fiction. The first book Brothers? Uncles! Sister? Aunt! takes the girl up to her marriage. The second book The Missus tells the story of her thirty year marriage and the third Beyond Darkness follows her life after leaving the marriage.
Tell us about your poems.....
I don’t think of myself as a poet although I have written quite a few poems. I need to be very moved by a scene or situation to write poetry. I mostly write in the traditional form of rhythm and rhyme. I sometimes wake in the morning with a line or phrase running through my brain, which inspires a poem, as in the first line of Visitations of Death - “Death came dancing by”, which caused me to recall the times I had faced death.
Could you mention some of your poems which represent you as a poet?
Sometimes Fishing is a poem which focussed on my marriage of thirty years. How Father Drove the Automobile told a little story that my grandmother had told me. Birth of a Grandson recounts the drama when my daughter was told that her baby would not live, or would be deformed if he did live. Death of My Father speaks of my father as he lay dying in my arms. Toby Just Wanted a Dog was written as a children’s book about a little boy who had everything but really wanted a dog. This one is dear to my heart but has never been published, perhaps because it needs illustrations.
You are editing an anthology of poets from India and Australia, POETIC CONNECTIONS. What’s your experience so far?
This is a most interesting project with lots of liaison between myself and Dr Jaydeep Sarangi. The work is progressing at a good pace and I am looking forward to seeing an excellent outcome.
Who are important voices from contemporary India? How are they different from the Australian counterparts?
Aju Mukhopadhyay, Sunil Sharma and Jaydeep Sarangi are the featured Indian poets and I feel that their poems do not differ significantly from the Australian ones. They all express similar emotions, and use poetic phrases to paint wonderful word pictures.
You have written books on Australian birds. You are so multifaceted! Would you tell us in details?
During the 1970s I worked with an Australian publisher writing encyclopaedia articles on all aspects of Nature. Each week they would send me a list of subjects, which I would research at the library and then write up the required number of lines. Then they asked me to compile four books about Australian birds, which I was happy to do as I have always been interested in watching birds. Again I researched information at the library. I was paid directly for this writing work and my name did not appear in the books. At the time I did not realise that they had stolen my copyright and therefore I earned no royalties from the sale of the books.
Who are significant contemporary writers in your part of Australia?
Nathalie Buckland, Laura Shore and Rob Harle, whose poems are featured in Poetic Connections, are among the many highly regarded authors in this region. Others include, Rita Carter, Mark Cornell, Maris Morton ,Veronica A.Parry, Max Ryan, Mark Scrivener and Quendryth Young.
Do you believe in the principle, “a creative mind is ever evolving” ?
Yes. In this rapidly changing world how can one’s mind not evolve?
Had you been to India?
Yes I have been to India several times. I went there first in 1978 to see my eldest son, who was living in the Rajneesh ashram in Pune. He now lives in Goa with his Indian wife and two sons.
How do you pass your idle moments?
I don’t have many idle moments but I do enjoy to meditate, read, sit enjoying the beauty of the surrounding rainforest, contact my friends on Facebook and play Backgammon and Scrabble on my computer.
Thank you, Tamaso for your love for us and our works. We remain grateful to you.