when I was seventeen

Tiggy Johnson was one of the first people whose blog I ever followed.

Back when I thought a blog was outrageously niche, like, “no one ever is going to have one of these ridiculous on-line diaries”*, I followed www.tiggyjohnson.blogspot.com (don’t you do that now, she’s moved to www.tiggyjohnson.com). There I found beautiful snippets of philosophy, gentle reflections on life as a writer, links to the lovely Page Seventeen Journal and a great deal of food for thought. She reassured me that there were people, good, solid, normal people out there for whom poetry was also a way of living, of learning and viewing the world.

If you don’t know Tiggy, well, you’re in for a treat. When you see her in person, you’ll be happy to know that once, just once, she beat an Australian Olympic swimmer. Obviously the defeat was crushing because said swimmer has been motivated enough to represent Australia three times. Poetry Olympics, bring it on.

Tiggy’s work is inspired by a range of things, sometimes she just “needs to get it out of her”, like the works that followed her grandmother passing away. Other times, it’s just wanting to share her words and work with others. She takes inspiration from the people around her, her children, her family, her own experiences – even extending out to research her family history. It’s the kind of writing that starts with people first.

Having had the pleasure to read Rosanna Licari’s work more deeply after doing a little Page vs Stage action with her, I can understand why Tiggy is currently dipping and returning to this great (Brisbane based too!) poet, although she can’t currently commit to a truly “favourite” poet. Perhaps if you’d like to become Tiggy’s favourite, you might even take her advice to the young poet to “just keep going/trying/writing: don’t give up”.

Betsy and I were keen to approach Tiggy to feature at Words or Whatever after her performance at the Queensland Poetry Festival, a heartbreakingly honest and tender collaboration with Andrew Phillips on the project That zero year. Something unmistakeably “lived” was being shared by both Andrew and Tiggy at QPF. When asked if her perspectives as a writer and as a woman were interconnected for her, Tiggy was judicious in her response as it depended on the work she was producing. She felt that some of the subjects of her work, whether about her children, or about some of the questions of “history”, might not be explicitly shaped by her gender. In other ways, however, her perspective as a woman is meaningful to Tiggy – even if she’s more subtle than polemic, concluding:

Overall, I’d have to say yes, as I am often conscious to portray a woman’s perspective in my writing, including that I sometimes like to tackle subject matter that might be considered more ‘womanly’, like in Shopping for girls.

At the moment, Tiggy is exploring her family history through poetry and has to admit that the female members of her family have been more “inspiring” than the men. Hopefully, at Words or Whatever on 16 November we might hear some of these family “inspirations”. Either way, Tiggy promises an insight into “the kinds of things people sometimes hide, and maybe a laugh or a tear”.

Tiggy Johnson began telling tales as a youngster when she told her mum her brother had hit her. With maturity, she developed skills to make stuff up that doesn’t necessarily come true. Her science degree and past life as an insurance loss adjuster did little to prepare her for her current work as a stay-at-home mother, writer and editor.  Tiggy’s short story collection Svetlana or Otherwise was released in 2008 and her poetry collection First taste in 2010. She co-wrote That zero year with Andrew Phillips, a chapbook to represent their collaborative performance at the 2012 Queensland Poetry Festival.

Her stories and poems have appeared in various literary magazines and on Melbourne trains.  She was awarded 2nd prize in the Herald-Sun Short Story Competition 2004 and loves NaNoWriMo. She was recently featured in ‘Best Australian Poems 2012’ and Going Down Swinging. Tiggy is a founding editor of Page Seventeen literary magazine, editing and publishing the first eight issues (2004-2010).  She is also a teacher but, shhhh, don’t let that get around.


By Eleanor Jackson

Eleanor Jackson is a Filipino Australian poet, performer, arts producer, cyclist, writer, gal about town, feminist, freewheeler, and friend.


  1. She’s a gift to Brisbane. Man i’ve learned a truckload working with Tiggy this past year. She’s pushed my writing and I loved performing with her. Can’t wait for her family history poems to come out. Good write up miss jackson.

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