The Currency of Treachery

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Reading at Dusan Bojic’s house party in 2017.

So, my demise as a recognized Queensland poet probably began in 2013 with the Graham Nunn poetry plagiarism controversy, when I criticized him during the Facebook exchange that took place between his supporters like David Stavanger and Nerissa Rowan and his attackers like Anthony Lawrence and Ira Lightman. From memory I said something on Facebook to the extent that his poetry career was over and probably expressed similar shock and outrage like most of the hard-working and non-plagiarist poets expressed during that phenomenon.

Coincidently in 2013, his wife Julie Beveridge became the programming manager of the ‘Brisbane Writers Festival’, where Nunn was a guest that year as well. She then became the Director of the BWF in 2015 until recently in 2016 when she moved on from that event amidst the Lionel Shriver opening festival speech controversy last year.

Coincidently, the last time I read at BWF was in 2013 at the launch of Inkerman and Blunt’s anthology, ‘Australian Love Poems’, where I read my included poem along with other Queensland participants including Graham Nunn no less. As for a feature spot at BWF, I’d have to go way back to a poetry reading I did with Bronwyn Lea I think in 2011 or 2012 for a 10-15 minute representation of my work at Queensland’s premier literary event. So paranoia aside, it’s not a stretch of the imagination to see why I wasn’t included in that event over the five years of Beveridge’s control of the programming. You criticize my husband, you don’t get a gig. I wonder how Anthony fared then?

As for the Queensland Poetry Festival, my last 10-15 minute guest spot was also in 2013, where I read for the very first time on the same bill with Anthony Lawrence. Sarah Gory was the QPF Director then, until David Stavanger took the helm in 2015. I did read one poem of Sam Wagan Watson’s and one of my own last year for the “Big Read” Australian Poetry gig, but I believe Toby Fitch had more influence on my inclusion in that event than the current Co-directors did.

As for Brisbane poetry reading guest spots coordinated by the QPF, I read last year at “Couplet” for the first time at the BCC central library courtesy of Stavanger, but prior to that, my last QPF sponsored reading was in 2013 at Riverbend Books. A long time between drinks as they say in cricket. So to summarise, since 2013 I’ve had;

  1. one poem read at BWF in 2013.
  2. a 15 minute reading at QPF in 2013.
  3. a 15 minute reading at Riverbend Books in 2013.
  4. one poem read at QPF in 2016.
  5. a 15 minute reading at Couplet in 2016.

So, one reading a year practically, since 2013 which doesn’t sound so bad does it? Or what the fuck are you complaining about you angry middle-aged white man when many of your poetry peers from the 90s and the 2000s also suffer from a lack of recognition in their own home town and state in these same festivals, anthologies and poetry projects. You are not alone.

However, now that I have been embroiled in another heated FB exchange about the direction of the QPF in late 2016, and have been a very verbal critic of Stavanger’s programming direction over the last two years that he has co-directed the Queensland Poetry festival, I am wondering if I am about to enter another five years of ostracism and tokenism in my own home state of Queensland.

So why do I feel like the ‘bad guy’ when I turn up to poetry gigs in Brisbane, when all I have done is to question the integrity, quality and balance of poetry in the Queensland scene that has been scandalized by; Nunn’s (Mr. Poetry’s) ‘currency of treachery’ as Lawrence put it, as a poet, publisher, QWC ‘mentor’ and QPF director from 2004-2007; Stavanger’s strange programming decisions like including Clive Palmer in QPF 2015 and programming non-poets in the Brisbane Poetry Map project, as well as his emphasis on programming musicians and amateur performance/slam poets in the QPF; the clique of performance poet ‘friends’ who give themselves all the poetry work in Brisbane; and a poetry gerrymander where only a few ‘select’ high profile poets make the national grade as representatives of ‘Queensland’ poetry.

I love the irony. The Queensland poetry scene I helped to create, now turns it back on me and sees me as some kind of throw-back threat to ‘the good old days’. All I have done is post on this blog and write one letter to the programming committee. I have not written to the Australia Council or to Arts Queensland or to the Premier/Arts Minister complaining about QPF’s direction and programming. I hope we can sort this out amongst ourselves,but it looks like lines have been drawn in imaginary sand.

So when I rock up to the first Riverbend Poetry Series reading this year, I am routinely ignored by the self-same clique of friends, committee members and amateur poets in charge of all things poetry in Queensland at the moment – Stavanger, Te Whiu, Burton, Hadley, Rose, Jessen, Neerven, Barnes et al. Nathan Shepherdson who collaborates with many of these people manages an awkward hello. Ron? from speedpoets very aware of the controversy pats my arm sympathetically. I went to support Liam Ferney and Carmen Leigh-Keates because they are quality poets who deserve their place in the contemporary poetry community and have the publications to back it up.

They were excellent, but then I had to endure amateur, audience-interactive performance poetry from some slam winner and post-Plathian centos – (or I’ve run out of things to say myself, so I’ll cut together famous poets’ words to appear clever). In my book, a breath away from Nunn’s ‘currency of treachery’.

I’ve put in my EOI for the 2017 Queensland Poetry Festival, an event I started 20 years ago, when the Brisbane Writers’ Festival governed by Stuart Glover ousted local poets from their program completely. All I see are modern comparisons to the situation two decades ago. People say to ignore what is going on with the QPF and if I don’t like it, then start up my own reading that suits my understanding of quality and balance. But that’s a compromise I am not willing to make.

I may cut a lonely figure at these Brisbane poetry readings now, but I know that I am not alone in my concern for the future of the QPF and that many local, regional and national poets are also worried at Stavanger’s attempts to build new audiences for poetry at the expense of quality, integrity and balance in the programming. I guess we’ll all see his response to this criticism at the QPF program launch in a few months time.

Until then, I will just continue to write and publish and gnaw away at the those greater mysteries of the universe.

 

 

 

Dead Letter Office

24 February 2017

 

Mr B.R. Dionysius

38 Paluna Street

Riverhills QLD 4074

 

Dear Mr Dionysius

Queensland Poetry Festival Inc. (QPF) – Programming

Thank you for your letter of 3 February 2017. We appreciate your enthusiasm and interest in the Queensland Poetry Festival QPF).

The management committee considered your letter at its last meeting on 10 February 2017.

QPF’s objective is to present and promote poetry in all its forms. Our current festival C0-Directors are engaged to help QPF achieve this objective and, in particular, develop innovative and entertaining programming for the main festival and other QPF events.

Each year QPF seeks to balance the pull of its varied goals. QPF wishes to continue to support the many and diverse poetry communities and recognizes the festival is an important opportunity for poets to show case their work. QPF also wishes to diversify its audience, continue to increase attendance at the festival, and maintain and grow the support of its partners and funders.

Thank you again for your letter. We encourage you to submit an expression of interest for this year’s festival.

Yours sincerely

 

Tina Radburn

Chair

Queensland Poetry Festival Inc.

Open Letter to Live Poets

Paul Sherman Award

Queensland Poetry Festival

Level 2, State Library of Queensland Cultural Centre

Stanley Place South Brisbane 4101, Queensland.

03/02/2017

 

Dear QPF Programming Committee,

Firstly, please forgive this rather old-fashioned manner that I am using to communicate with you, the members of the QPF programming committee, but it seems to me that there is no other official access to your ears alone except by letter.

You may or may not be aware of the great Queensland poetry Facebook debate that raged over the 2016 Christmas period for about three weeks, instigated by an article I wrote for my WordPress webpage entitled, “Notorious Q.P.F.”. In that article I spoke about some reservations I have about certain aspects of the Queensland Poetry Festival programming over the last two years, and where the festival is headed under the leadership of the current co-directors.

After more than 230 comments by 30+ poets from both Queensland and interstate, it seems that I am not alone in my concerns that the QPF has some programming challenges. Here are some of those concerns from the thread summarised for your benefit.

  1. There is concern from some poets that the QPF is becoming too performance based in its programming to the detriment of page poetry.
  2. There is concern that the quality and balance of the programming is suffering from this overbalance in aesthetics towards performance poetry and music, which prioritises poetry as ‘entertainment’ rather than poetry as a profound form of social capital.
  3. There is concern that aspects of the QPF programming aim to be sensationalist and appear to be included for the sake of the festival’s publicity. An example of this type of sensationalism would be Clive Palmer’s inclusion in the 2015 festival.
  4. There is concern that there is a lack of serious intellectual/academic engagement with poetry as an art form, because of a lack of programmed panel discussions.
  5. There is also concern that not enough poetry book launches are programmed in the festival, which should be a priority for the distribution and celebration of new poetry collections both from Queensland and interstate poets, but isn’t.
  6. Added to that point, some local Queensland poetry publishers feel that they have been excluded from the festival for some time.
  7. Regional poets expressed concern over a lack of representation in a festival that seems to program most of its Queensland poets from South-East Queensland.
  8. There is concern from established and older Queensland poets, including older women poets about a lack of representation in the festival.
  9. There is concern that talented and successful Queensland page poets, some, winners of major national literary awards are being under-utilised in the festival program, when they are included.
  10. There is concern that a group of Brisbane-based performance poets (who are mostly friends of each other) regularly receive more opportunities with QPF’s poetry projects, readings programs and QPF festival programming, than other Queensland poets, who are not part of this Brisbane performance/slam coterie.
  11. On that point, finally there is concern about the closed membership of the QPF, that is, legally confined to the two co-directors, the QPF programming committee and the QPF board, and that this apparent lack of openness and democracy is a problem.

I hope these concerns might go some way to influencing future programming decisions by the QPF over the foreseeable future. There are plenty of good things that the festival is currently engaged in, like increasing the exposure of Indigenous poetry through the 2016 focus on First Nations’ writing, however, there are other concerns that need to be addressed if the festival is to maintain its status as the premier poetry festival in Australia.

Happy programming for 2017!

Kind regards,

 

B.R. Dionysius

 

 

 

 

Notorious Q.P.F

As the inaugural recipient of the Paul Sherman Community Poetry Award, I think it is my duty to share some candid thoughts about the direction of the Queensland Poetry Festival – Australia’s premier poetry festival for 20 years!

The Co-Directors of the Queensland Poetry Festival posted an article on Facebook about Tupac Shakur’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next year, stating that he was, ‘undoubtedly one of the most influential poets in the last 25 years.’ This is an interesting statement to let loose on the world, because it says more about the programming agenda of the two Co-Directors of the QPF than it does about Pac’s worthiness to be inducted as the sixth hall of fame rap star.

This seemingly innocuous post speaks volumes about an anxiety that has been developing in my gut over the last two years about the content and agenda of the Queensland Poetry Festival. Think back to the 2015 festival and the inclusion of the then billionaire Senator Clive Palmer. Now as a marketing strategy it did wonders for the festival’s publicity, even making the news on TV, however it begged the question, did Palmer with his single collection of juvenilia deserve to be in the QPF at all?  No. A thousand times no. On his publication record – no. On his performance record – no. Not even his twerking was that good to be included. On his ideological grounds – no. This bastard wants to dig up half of the Bimblebox nature reserve in Queensland for his China First coal mine, destroying the habitat of the endangered black-throated finch. So, he was just there for sensationalism; like a bunch of slam poets getting nude.  Quality. My major concern is about some of the dubious quality of the work being programmed at the expense of serious poets who deserve to be in this festival far more than the likes of Clive Palmer.

Ominously, it seems that over the last two years, the festival has become much more performance oriented than literary oriented. Hell, there was so much hip-hop, spoken word, music and performance poetry that I had to walk out of a Friday session because the international performance poet was becoming incoherent on stage, dropping papers while mumbling through their life’s ups and downs and broken relationships. Performance poetry – the reality TV of the writing world. Or as Bowie put it, “Making love to his ego.”

Okay, there were still influential local, interstate and international literary poets in the festival program – Tracey K. Smith, Chloe Wilson, Stuart Cooke, Bonny Cassidy and Brentley Frazer, being standouts, but they seemed to be mostly buried in the middle of Saturday’s and Sunday’s day programs, while the juicy night time events went to spoken word artists, storytellers, comedians, the Australian Poetry Slam – Qld final, assorted poetry-musicians paying homage to dead rock stars or established folk/country/singers. Sure they all have poetic souls like Tupac, but is the QPF a music festival? A performing arts festival with a bit of page poetry thrown in to keep the arts funding bodies happy? The below list is taken from this year’s festival website and emphasizes the performance orientation of these night gigs focused on being entertaining and popular ‘in a live context.’ Do the Co-Directors not believe in the power of the poem to stand by itself anymore?

KALYAKOORL : LITERARY CABARET
MANY WATERS RISE : LYRICS & POETRY PANEL
ARCHIE ROACH IN CONCERT
STEVEN OLIVER, SINGLE     **SOLD OUT**
AUSTRALIAN POETRY SLAM – QLD FINAL
KURILPA : STORYTELLING SALON
SENTENCED TO LIFE-CLIVE JAMES
IVAN COYOTE LIVE
RAW STYLES: UNDERGROUND HIP HOP 

Over the five years that I directed the festival, we made sure that our interstate and overseas guest poets were programmed on one of these popular prime night spots, and we programmed heaps of local and interstate page poets and finished off these events – yes with a band or two. Balance. It was a balanced program. Why should musicians get the best night time programming at the expense of hard working poets? Isn’t this Australia’s premier poetry festival? When questioned on FB about their programming content being weighted towards music and performance the Co-Directors responded with,”What we won’t do is limit the range of what contemporary poetry is today in a live context. Multiple forms of poetry were programmed this year, and QPF intends to continue this approach into the future.”

Well I beg to differ. These ‘multiple forms of poetry’ seemed to be all geared towards performance. My claim is that the quality of the festival is suffering from too much emphasis on performance poetry and music. Here’s a case in point about ‘limiting the range of contemporary poetry.’ Liam Ferney, a gifted Queensland page poet (and now goose hunter) whose last collection Boom was shortlisted for the NSW Kenneth Slessor Poetry Prize and whose recent 2016 poetry  collection, Content was shortlisted for the Judith Wright Calanthe Poetry Prize, was relegated to a quick ten minute spot in the festival program just before the launch of Hunter Publication’s Anthology of Contemporary Australian Feminist Poetry. In festivals past, a good award-winning local poet of Ferney’s calibre who had a new book out, would have received a 30-45 min spot for a dedicated launch. In fact, when I directed the festival, this was the primary programming consideration, as we believed that promoting a new book of poetry (either from Queensland or interstate poets) was the most important aspect of the poetry festival, because of the limited distribution of poetry collections in book shops. Sadly, book launches at the festival are almost a thing of the past, with only UQP’s Thomas Shapcott winner receiving this rare promotion every year with regularity.

The programming emphasis is definitely on performance as opposed to the literary/page. The lack of book launches and the entertainment prejudice of these ‘multiple forms of poetry’ sic spoken word events is evidence of this claim. Indeed, the most literary events of the 2016 Queensland Poetry Festival which actually discussed the nuances of contemporary poetry practice in panel sessions were largely due to the efforts of Toby Fitch’s and Australia Poetry’s Australian Poetry Festival revolving door act.

It’s almost as if the current Co-Directors are somehow confounded by the poetry book. Or that they are deliberately creating a binary between the contemporary Australian poetry publishing scene as opposed to the Australian spoken word scene. Just go back and look at this year’s program and at the amount of performance oriented events compared to page/literary events. Just count how many times the words, hip-hop, spoken word artist, lyrics, slam,  performance and musician are mentioned. Then count how many times published poet or award-winning poet is mentioned.

These should not be two siblings fighting over their Christmas presents. They should grow up and share. The Co-Director’s said I could have my opinion. I do.

 

 

 

 

Data on the Download

  • austlit

In this statistics driven world, here are some figures from the Austlit database of Australian writers’ publications. The first figure is for overall text publications, while the second figure is for poetry publications specifically. Granted, the good people of Austlit don’t always find every publication, review or award that an author receives and actually need writers to email them with publication details to make their listing even more accurate.

Below are the 8 Queensland poets chosen by Sarah Holland-Batt for this year’s 2016 The Best Australian Poems ranked according to their number of poetry publications. All excellent and award-winning poets and Holland-Batt should be applauded for ensuring this significant Queensland representation. I’ve included Felicity Plunkett and Tom Shapcott in this list; Shapcott because his genesis was in Queensland and Plunkett because of her publication and editorial role with UQP. Of course quality overrides quantity every time, and as Holland-Batt has also pointed out  – there are always more than 100 best poems published in any one year and editors are restricted to this number.

I’m fine with not being included for the last three years in this anthology; living in Queensland, away from the editorial, academic, generational and cliquey powerhouses of Sydney and Melbourne, I’m sure that Geoff Page doesn’t even know who the fuck I am. I’ve never been published in ABR either. Or in Quadrant. Or in Jacket.I’ve learnt to be patient, resilient and just to keep on writing, as without a doubt, existing on the margins and in the regions of the art form is a serious impediment to national reputation and publication, unless you’re playing the scene I suspect.

*Thomas Shapcott – 1520 (1053 poetry)

*M.T.C. Cronin – 943 (898 poetry)

*Lionel Fogarty – 637 (634 poetry)

*Liam Ferney – 149 (140 poetry)

*Jaya Savige – 157 (115 poetry)

*Bronwyn Lea – 130 (108 poetry)

*Felicity Plunkett – 166 (46 poetry)

*Ellen Van Neerven – 30 (14 poetry)

Furthermore, I have included the list of the Queensland poets published in ABR’s Queensland – ‘States of Poetry’ project edited by Felicity Plunkett. The 5 italicized poets have had poetry collections previously published by UQP. The double asterisked poets are included in both anthologies. Felicity Plunkett, herself a UQP poet has been the UQP poetry editor since 2010. Three of the selected poets had new UQP collections out this year. No conflict of interest here I guess in cross-promoting authors but, was this anthology really the ‘state of poetry’ in Queensland, or more the ‘state of UQP poetry’ in Queensland?

** M.T.C. Cronin – 943 (898 poetry)

**Lionel Fogarty – 637 (634 poetry)

Stuart Barnes – 123 (112 poetry)

Sarah Holland-Batt – 108 (96 poetry)

Nathan Sheperdson – 54 (52 poetry)

**Ellen Van Neerven – 30 (14 poetry)

So according to this comparison, when Felicity Plunkett edits an anthology she chooses Sarah Holland-Batt, and when Sarah Holland-Batt edits an anthology she chooses Felicity Plunkett. Poetry editors keeping things tight. Both chose Lionel Fogarty and Ellen van Neerven, supporting established and emerging Indigenous poets from Queensland which is a good call. I have no beef with that.. At best, however on paper this looks to be a homogenization of Queensland poetry , a select few being promoted, almost a closed shop and unless you’ve signed up to the union…..At worst it looks like pure nepotism and favouritism amongst a select coterie of editors and their stable of poets.

My bitch is that Queensland poetry is far more diverse in nature than is represented by either of these two new anthologies. Plunkett assured us at the recent 2016 Queensland Poetry Festival that there will be a second round of the ‘States of Poetry’ series for Queensland poets. Holland-Batt assured me that she, ‘excluded many poets who [I] have known in Queensland, including most of the poets recently published with UQP. Hopefully, some of my concerns about inclusion will be addressed in 2017.

Oh, and for the record my publication details are;

B. R. Dionysius – 525 (513 poetry)

 

 

 

 

2016 The Best Australian Poems

The Best Australian Poems 2016

This post will win me no friends, but fuck it who cares – the world has shifted on its axis. It’s been spurred by the Facebook pain of my dear friend Rebecca Edwards who is not included in Puncher and Wattman’s Contemporary Australian Poetry 1990-2015. (Update – Rebecca was included, but didn’t know about it). I did make the cut, which for me marks the first time I’ve been included in a national anthology of Australian poetry since Five Island Press’s, New Music: an Anthology of Contemporary Australian Poetry published some fifteen years ago in 2001. So I understand some of her psychic discomfort; some fucked up sliding doors phenomena, as though your poetic life over that period never existed at all.

So, the annual ‘best of’ Australian poetry published in 2016 is out courtesy of Black Inc. and edited this year by Sarah Holland-Batt (with the help of her cat Lola it seems). Right now there are two parties of Australian poets – the ones who were published in the anthology celebrating the fact, and the other party who missed out, scratching their heads and thinking ‘Why wasn’t I included?’ ‘I published heaps of poems this year, why didn’t she pick one of my poems?”I didn’t even get a rejection email!’

Anthologies I’ve learnt, are pretty random like poetry prizes. With poetry prizes the top say five shortlisted poems could all have won said competition usually, such is the quality of poetry now being produced in this country. The anthology I like to be included in is the annual Newcastle Poetry Prize anthology because all the entries are judged blind and get up on the strength of their writing, not because of some past or present association, political/aesthetic allegiance, part of some academic coterie, generational junta or for heaven’s sake because of mutual respect or god forbid conference friendship.

The usual names are there. The big guns.Generation 68, L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E poets, current literary journal editors, PhD poets, concrete poets, anti-pastoral poets, landscape poets, lyric poets, Sydney poets, Melbourne poets etc. As one of the poets who is scratching their head whilst members of the other party celebrate on social media, I could give in to bitterness and depression and paranoia about being left out. Jesus, the editor was even from my home state of Queensland (and city Brisbane), but that still didn’t sway her decision to include my work. Good on her for not being too parochial. There is at least a smattering of sunshine state poets included.

Clive James is in there. Again. Not quite dead yet I see as he’s still able to submit poems for consideration. I wonder how many poems he published in Australia this year? Then again he was video-cast during the Queensland Poetry Festival too this year, so he must still be of some cultural significance to editors and organisers in Australia – a place he hasn’t called home for a while. Then again, Clive Palmer got a gig too last year at Australia’s premier poetry festival and he’d only published a single slim volume of juvenilia maybe 30 years ago. But he made poetry actually newsworthy! Maybe that’s the strategy to adopt – go a long way on little talent, bullshit your way to the top like Trump has this week.

Then again this year I’ve had to deal with another oversight, so I’ve learnt to turn myself into steel. The best way to hit back at omission is to keep on writing and publishing your work. Like that scene in ‘Die Hard’ when Hans Gruber says to his gang of European criminals after they’ve hit an armoured police car with a rocket launcher,’Hit them again.’ There was that incident at the QPF when I questioned Felicity Plunkett over her editorial selection for the ABR ‘States of Poetry’ Queensland series. I asked her how she could justify selecting five UQP poets for the anthology out of the six poets included, when she was a) not a resident of Queensland, b) a published UQP poet herself, and c) the current UQP poetry editor. I don’t know, maybe I am being paranoid, but she gave a long-winded response about wanting an Indigenous poet and a queer poet and how two of the poets had been selected six months earlier when they didn’t have UQP contracts or publications, so they didn’t really count as UQP poets then. She didn’t mention either that three of the UQP poets had new books out this year – Holland-Batt, Barnes and van Neerven, so including them would help publicise their collections I guess?

What I objected to in that project was that two of the poets chosen didn’t even have books published at the time (they do now), and two of the poets are practically interstate blow-ins, one having been here for only three years. All I could help thinking was, what about other Queensland poets like Liam Ferney, Brentley Frazer, Vanessa Page, Kristin Hannaford, Chloe Callistemon, Carmen Leigh-Keates, Duncan Richardson and Ross Clark? Even Anthony Lawrence and Stuart Cooke who teach at Griffith University GC could surely stake a claim representing Queenslandness! Plunkett said that there’s more anthologies to come from ABR, a second or even third round maybe where inclusiveness (or non-UQP published poets) will get their chance. I just hope we don’t have to wait another fifteen years for the opportunity.

On the way out of that QPF session I was hissed at by Madonna Duffy, who said and I quote, ‘Maybe they were just the best!’

When it come to the selection of poetry in anthologies, I do hope that’s the goddam awful truth.

 

 

 

2016 Melbourne Poets Union International Poetry Competition

“Das Kapital” and “Goblin Valley, Utah” have been shortlisted in the Melbourne Poets Union International Poetry Competition. “Das Kapital” was written in response to the sudden and untimely death of the poet and thinker, Thomas Connolly who I knew in West End in the 1990s.Tom was a regular on the Brisbane poetry scene reading at venues such as Café Bohemia, Chalice Poets, Metro Arts, the Brisbane Fringe Festival and the Brisbane Writers Fringe Festival. He relocated to Tasmania where he continued to influence people with his wisdom, poetry and knowledge. “Goblin Valley, Utah” tells the recent story of a troop of scout leaders who knocked over precariously balanced boulder formations in Goblin Valley, Utah, that were millions of years old, out of ‘safety concerns’. The winners and place-getters will be announced at the MPU Awards Night on Friday 25 November 2016 at Collected Works Bookshop, 1st floor, Nicholas Building, 37 Swanston Street, Melbourne.

2016 Ipswich Poetry Feast Awards

“Grindle Road” has won the Rosewood Green Open Age – Local Poets Award at the 2016 Ipswich Poetry Feast.

 

Grindle Road

 

A bull bar is a ute’s clenched fist. There

is no prestige left in its silver colour. There

is no classic style to death. The killing floor

was outside, late at night between the men’s

& women’s prisons. He could imagine the

inmates asleep in their cots, whimpering as

he drove off the road & into the grassy gutter

blasting into the radiant mob like a steel bolt

into a cow’s forehead. The force felt inside

the cab was equivalent to smacking a face.

The high humidity suspended particles of

roo, clotting night’s air with smell of fresh

blood, like a stained tinted window. Death

was not instant. Seventeen times he floored it.

 

2016 Ipswich Poetry Feast Awards

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Skies

In 1985, when I was in Year 11 at Dalby State High School, my English teacher Mrs. Wylie allowed me to write a poem instead of an essay for a unit that I don’t even remember. We were probably doing a poetry unit; most likely protest/social poetry with poets such as Bruce Dawe and Paul Simon, as I seem to recall reading, “The Sounds of Silence”, “Blink, Blink Hospital Silence” and “Homecoming”.

That first poem was called “Summer Skies” (gag) and is a pretty clichéd piece of juvenilia, but at that time I liked it. So did Mrs. Wylie who gave it 9 out of 10, my best mark for an English assignment ever. So did Mr. Green the English HOD who read it out to his class. So did Bruce Dawe who was the judge of the 1985 Senior Secondary Poetry Prize and Peter Putnis who included it in the anthology “Through Our Eyes” published by DDIP. So did the editors of the 1985 D.S.H.S school magazine who published it at the end of the year.

20161025_100703

In fact I remember taking a school day off and my parents driving me to the Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education (USQ now) for the official launch of the collection and meeting Bruce Dawe who’d we been studying in class. That was pretty trippy. Reading a poet on the page is cool, but to actually meet the author of the work you were analyzing was on another level of awesome. I don’t remember what he said to me (I wish I could), but it was enough to be in his presence and to see a living and breathing poet at work.

So I thought to myself that this single poem had some legs and if one poem could affect so many people, then maybe I should write another. Thirty years on and I am an English teacher myself and I tell my students this genesis story of how I started writing poetry – due to the encouragement and flexibility of my English teacher. Consider my pleasant surprise then at our 30th high school reunion on 22nd October when I saw Mrs. Wylie standing in the function room of the Dalby Leagues Club amongst her former students, looking much the same as I remembered her. How special it was for me to go up to her and thank her for that small, but precious gift all those years ago in her class. I wasn’t sure if she even knew that I had gone on to write and publish poetry, but it didn’t matter. In the 1982 Ridley Scott film, “Bladerunner” the replicant Roy Batty says to Eldon Tyrell, “It’s not an easy thing to meet your maker.” Sometimes it is though, when the maker doesn’t even realize that they have made something wonderful.

QPF Program launch at Government House

Paul Sherman Award

This is the speech I never had the opportunity to recite at the Queensland Poetry Festival program launch at Government House on Tuesday the 12th July.

“Your Excellency, the Governor General of Queensland, Mrs. de Jersey, QPF Co-Directors, QPF Chair and board members, fellow poets and invited guests.

Firstly, my congratulations to the Queensland Poetry Festival for inaugurating an award that honours the life and works of Mr. Paul Sherman; poet, playwright, actor, English teacher, mentor and friend to many teenagers and adults alike, throughout his significant writing, performing and teaching career.

Secondly, I am honoured that people in the general community voted for me in this award, however my greatest reward is that the Queensland Poetry Festival, an event that began 20 years ago this year, has continued to flourish and become in my view, the most significant poetry event in Australia. That is truly the major prize.

So, it is with much pleasure that I surrender my win and give the award to where it is truly deserved. Matt and I are old poetry and political warriors who have the satisfaction of seeing institutions like the Judith Wright Centre for Performing Arts and the Queensland Poetry Festival achieve their artistic purpose which we mapped out in the 1990s and early 2000s.

This award should, I believe, go to someone who has built on this foundation, and is currently putting in the hard yards to develop poetry in Queensland, making it a stronger art form through her role as a slam poetry event organiser, published poet, dynamic performer and community arts advocate.

Therefore, I would like to invite Angela Pieta to the podium to receive the inaugural 2016 Paul Sherman Community Poetry Award for her continuing development of poetry as an art form in Queensland and for her fighting spirit in advocating for the arts sector in this new millennium.”