Week 2: 8-14 July

A trip back to primary school is what the week 2 quiz offered. I had dug out an old hard-cover from my shelf, its plastic sleeve cracked at the corners: C.J. Dennis, ‘A Book for Kids’ (Angus & Robertson). Inside the front cover, a note:

“Bronwyn. With love from Mummy and Daddy. 6th Birthday, 1978.”

Turn the page and there is an attempt at my full name, some letters bulging where the pen had tried to make a run for it. I wouldn’t have had my pen license by then, so I was clearly living dangerously at a young age.

It seems the Big Kid Approach to poem selection won some friends. Entries doubled this week! Or perhaps it was C.J. Dennis’ tight rhymes that made it easy to reassemble, even if you didn’t know the poem. One family demonstrated exactly that, when on the last day of week 2, they insisted – no, begged – that I didn’t take the quiz away just yet because they hadn’t done that one yet. Their attempt was faultless, yet they hadn’t heard of the work, nor could they name the poet. They had clearly paid attention in primary school rhyming class though.

Congratulations to Beatrice (or is that BJ? Very apt for this week’s poet!) for getting the first correct entry in. Go get your free caffeine hit at The Bean Barn, and good luck in the prize draw. Yes, it was the opening stanza from ‘The Triantiwontigongolope’ – the strangest critter you’ll ever see… Make sure you read the whole poem.

Other splendid reassembling was noted by: Stephanie and Rebecca, Joe (again), Kate, Ellen, Kevin, Helen and Paula, Roisin and (another) Kate.

Poet C.J. Dennis – poem first published in ‘A Book for Kids’, 1921.

Back at the ranch

 There is a magnetic whiteboard hanging in The Bean Barn.

If you’ve not yet seen it, look to your left as you walk in the front door on your next visit. On it you will find dozens of single magnetic words, all in the flavour of the oofice – including those awful weasel words like ‘strategic’, ‘opportunity’ and ‘innovation’. Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing bad about the words themselves. But in the office where they are often combined in long, ill-fitting sentences, they can take on a whole new meaning. Of saying nothing at all.

So why do I mention it? Because people have been creating their own short ‘poetic’ works on the whiteboard. Some of them are little short of true Office Philosophy. Here are a few two- and three-line gems:

synergistic knowledge
is a nap opportunity

cross-function sex
can maximise economy

never with corporate paradigm
will I compete
if boss pleases me

corporate paradigm cross-functions
with global monkey business
to identify collaborative economy


Beautiful, yes? Maybe it’s the caffeine. Thanks to everyone who has made the board what it is today… Keep going!

Week 1: Sun1-Sat 7 July

Crazy stuff. The first submission hit my email inbox on Monday afternoon, one day into the first week. It was all correctly reassembled, correctly titled and poeted (authored?). Three more submissions came in that week, only one of which was incorrect. Not too far wrong – just two lines reversed. And they all knew the title and poet – ‘The Man from Snowy River’ by Banjo Patterson.

Congratulations to Joe whose speedy entry won him the first free coffee for the residency. You have scored a chance in the draw for the Residency prize. Joe said:

“I like the challenge. I never thought on a

week 1

The first stanza from AB (Banjo) Patterson’s poem ‘The Man from Snowy River’

Monday afternoon I would be reading poetry. In fact never in a million years would have read poetry. Thank you for the idea.”

Congrats also to Lyndal and Kaylea, Kathy and Prue for their entries. You’ll have to be quicker next time!

The challenge

So. You get to the cafe, put in your order and find a seat. At the Bean Barn, tables lines the left-hand side of the building. Small, cosy. On the table you see a tiny china tea-cup and saucer. In it are a couple of mini pencils, a brown paper bag and, held in a clamp, a folded piece of card: instructions for the poetry challenge. You have one week to figure it out.


Read the instructions, make a start. You have one week to figure it out.

Weekly doses of poetry

Despite the loud sniggering that poetry often elicits (is that an Australian thing, or do I just talk about it in the wrong company?), if I were the betting kind I would wager that most of us can recall some snippet of poetry. Whether that is reluctantly or willingly is irrelevant. We can. My theory is that poetry is left in many of us from childhood, wedged between memories of learning to ride a bike and exploring the neighbourhood. 

Apart from simply learning more about poetry in this residency, I want to unearth those rusted-over memories of poetry in the community; help myself and others reveal the funny, beautiful, heroic and absurd visions made real by poems long forgotten. Enter the weekly quizzes. 
Each week I am setting a challenge to the good folk who have the sense to visit the Bean Barn for their daily brew. To start with, the challenge is to piece together sections of poems that have been dismantled by scissors. To warm up, I have chosen the familiar; poems that I think lie close to the Australian psyche. A big call, you think - how can I know? It is a guess. If you think the reassembly challenge is easy, I dare you to try it. Do you really remember where all the words fall? Cheating is, of course, for the cheats.

This blog is where I will share the trials and victories; where I will name the victorious and the gallant, and where I will reveal who will go in the draw for a prize at the end of it all.

Onward blogger

Blog commenced Saturday 30 June 2012 in my head. Clearly a result of over-stimulation from Day 1 of my residency at The Bean Barn, Ballarat Victoria. A word of thanks to Australian Poetry‘s Cafe Poet Program for the residency – four months of dedicated poetry time. Bliss.

So in the first week of the residency, a punter asked me, ‘What kind of poet are you?’ Um. Good?

Is that the point I should’ve talked about the style in which I write? Because that’s where I come unstuck. I hear that I am classified as ’emerging’, but as to what kind of poet… Is that like what flavour? In that case I’d opt for sour over sweet. Maybe I should have questioned the question like all good academics. Turned the tables. Set the challenge.

But there’s the thing. I don’t know a great deal about poetry, despite claiming to be a poet. Aside from the names of some poetic forms, the rest is instinct and a fair amount of feel. That’s a part of why I decided to undertake this residency: to learn more. Certainly part of this is self-conscious paranoia that I haven’t done any formal study of writing. Not exactly life-threatening, but it nags at my middle-class values. ‘Do you know about the effect that so-and-so had on poetic form?’ Nope. ‘Who were Australia’s first leading poets?’ No idea. But I do recall falling in love with poetry as a kid. I forgot about it for a decade or two as life happened, as I suppose most would (it doesn’t pay the bills, after all).

So the plan is for this residency to teach me a thing or two. We’ll see about that.

Hello world!

In a desperate bid to quarantine some time for writing, I applied to be a Cafe Poet with Australian Poetry and take part in a poetry residency. Who’d have thought I’d get one. Enter blog.