I’ve decided. After some inner wrangling over the benefits of continuing with this blog, at this particular juncture the best thing is for me to stop.
With the poetry residency over, I had considered segueing into a broader consideration of poetry, to include the musical kind, for example. One thing I haven’t mentioned is that I am also a concert pianist. Four days after my end-of-residency poetry reading, I played a concert in Ballarat with a dear clarinet-wielding friend. Not sure of the intelligence behind the decision to hold a poetry reading and a concert in the same week, but that’s how it happened.
No surprise really – I’ve been squeezing things in around the edges of my days for as long as I can remember because choosing between writing and music was never an option. To do so would be akin to lopping off my left arm in preference for my right: not good for overall coordination and well-being. Any attempt I’ve made over the years to restrict one in favour of the other has resulted in diminished capacity all round – as though someone turned off the oxygen tank.
But I have hit my limit as far as fitting it all in goes. You see, a big incentive to stop has arrived: the impending birth of my child. Any day, they say.
So while there might be more poetic adventures to share in the future, this is it for now. THANKS to you who have followed this blog, I’ve appreciated it. Take care, write on, and I’ll read you around another time.
And not just flora, it seems. Hearts. Minds. Enthusiasm floweth all round in the poetry project. You may recall me mention a gaggle of poets involved in a collaborative venture between the Art Gallery of Ballarat, the University of Ballarat and Ballarat Writers Inc. Well, we’re now at the celebratory end of the project, having workshopped and written and revised and polished and rehearsed our new works over the past six weeks.
The anthology of our words is now on the designer’s desktop, our shiny new pieces being set next to the art works that inspired them in a 48-page full-colour wonder. The booklet will be available free to recital-goers with their ticket, and also for sale in the gallery shop. A collector’s item for sure.
Book your ticket here. Because it is a roving recital – one that will move around in the exhibition space – numbers are strictly limited in each performance. You won’t see this anywhere else.
It’s exciting to think that in two weeks today, the group will have the first recital under its collective belt and will be looking forward to the second.
For me however, the chance to speak my words in the roving recital would be a bonus: the birth of my first child may intervene…
Back on 8 September, an eager group of writers gathered at The Bean Barn to take part in a new project called ‘Artists inspire artistry’. It’s based on an idea that has been buzzing around in the Ballarat Writers Inc. box of ideas for a few years: a roving recital of new works written in response to art. Roving because the works are read in front of the art that inspired them – in this case, selected from the soon-to-open exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ballarat, ‘Capturing Flora: 300 years of Australian botanical art’.
When earlier this year I was approached by the gallery to offer suggestions for events that could run in conjunction with their exhibition, up popped the idea. I figured we could spread the love even further still, so invited staff from the University of Ballarat’s School of Education and Arts to participate. I recruited passionate academics in literature and spoken performance. So now the project involves the Art Gallery, the University and literature/arts students, and members of Ballarat Writers Inc: a fine developmental opportunity for local aspiring writers and a ripper cross-arts collaborative endeavour. Fabulous.
From mid-September to late October, 11 writers and poets are learning about and practising ekphrastic writing, workshopping ideas, visiting the gallery, and writing writing writing. They will also be treated to workshops in presentation. Their brief: to produce a new piece of writing in response to something from the exhibition.
The project culminates in two public recitals in the exhibition space on Friday 9 November and Tuesday 13 November. You’ll even be able to buy a copy of the totally unique, limited-edition anthology of new writing that will include full colour plates of the artwork associated with each poem, vignette or story. Just a little exciting!
Given the exhibition title, perhaps a more appropriate collective noun might have been a ‘pod of poets’. Maybe?
They did it again! The caffeine fiends at The Bean Barn didn’t just follow the line I left on the residency whiteboard, they led it down some seedy lane ways and back alleys.
Nine different sets of handwriting appeared on the board over the week, with some truly alarming word selection and a bit of a racy sentiment (that’s a warning to the underage folk reading this). The rhyming scheme was was changed after the first stanza which shortened the rhythms and to my ear chopped it up somewhat.
Silly Sam moved to Sydney to see the lights and delights
He kept to himself through the days but found trouble in the nights
You see, the seedy side of Sydney caught his fancy by and by
and a ‘lady’ of the night entrapped him like a fly!
She delighted him like a jam fancy but unexpectedly her name was Clancy
She led him up the garden path and lay him on her hearth
She plied him with some grog for she was after more than a snog
However his endowment was not as foretold so she kicked him out into the cold!
This only made his problems worse – poor Sam fell asleep in a hearse.
Now I know it came down to a rhyming conundrum but really, did nothing other than ‘hearse’ come to mind at the end?! That’s just morbid, whoever wrote that line. Still, I enjoyed it for its silliness, and for the proof that communal poems are possible – unpredictable – but possible.
Ironic isn’t it? Just as I’m closing in on reporting the residency antics with this blog as they happen instead of a million weeks behind, the end of the residency zooms up to meet me. Things don’t last for ever. Especially the good things.
It’s all supposed to be over by October because another brood of cafe poets will then be ushered out into their respective cafes by the kind folk at Australian Poetry.
This means I have some organising to do: the long-awaited drawing of the Residency Prize for starters. Remember way back at the beginning – in July – I ran some quizzes to reassemble sections of some well-known Australian poems? One of those winners will win again, and this time they’ll scoop more than a free coffee at The Bean Barn. I can’t tell you what they’ll win though – that would ruin the surprise. For now though, put aside 3-5pm on the 29th September for a final hoorah at The Bean Barn. One thing I can tell you though, is that there’ll be a very very fabulous poet reading some of his newly published works of genius as a special treat.
And don’t give me any excuses like the footy grand final being on, because it just won’t cut it!
The poem that magically appeared on the residency whiteboard this week resembled a communal effort! I had started it off with two lines instead of one, and chose the Ditty Approach: a silly rhyme with a little alliteration. People got into it and responded with two lines each, following the sentiment.
Perhaps the coffee-soaked environment at The Bean Barn encourages frivolity. Or maybe it just means at the core we’re all big kids who like to play. No doubt about it, this residency is bringing up the big questions…
Despite the little lumps in it, I’m proud of our communal effort. Don’t forget – every two lines of the following ditty were written by a different person:
Poor old Pete was in a pickle,
his plans had gone astray.
He picked a pair of pears but hadn’t
planned on them being prickly!
Or being so sweet and sickly
or the skin being so tickly!
Old Pete didn’t mind a tickle,
just not in a prickly way.
Thanks to those who contributed! Can’t wait to see what is created from next week’s two-line scenario.
You may recall I started a ‘communal poem’ on the whiteboard at the Bean Barn in a bid to get the visiting coffee fiends engaged in a round of poetry badminton of sorts. Then I waited. And saw.
Interesting result. Rather more on the scary end of the Interesting Spectrum than I’d have hoped, however. The communal poem concept of many people adding one line each to create a single poem didn’t eventuate. Instead it was apparently commandeered by one individual who rather liked rhyming. It was by no means a disaster (in spite of accessional bumps in the rhythm); it was just not particularly communal!
If I can find where I wrote the lines, I’ll update the post…
Poet on holiday. The words ‘poet’ and ‘holiday’ in the same sentence might be seen as a dubious proposition. A poet often doesn’t have two cents to rub together, let alone the capacity to save them up to any great effect. Harsh? I accept the likelihood that poetry will never afford me holidays – that is what my ‘other’ job is for. I am a realist. (At least when not day-dreaming or writing poetry.)
Anyhow. Before putting down the pen and swanning off to warmer climes, I set a new challenge to the coffee worshippers who frequent The Bean Barn: write a communal poem. I left a single line on the whiteboard in the cafe to start it off (without any idea of where it might go): ‘Your brittle edges…’ Then I invited the good folks of Ballarat to add one line each. That’s the only rule – one line. I thought it’d be interesting to see what came of those edges in three weeks’ time.
A quote for you, by Robert Graves:
“There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money either.”
Deciding to do this residency was partly inspired by a friend-in-words, Sarah, who had the smarts to ask her boss if she could take four consecutive Fridays off work so she could dedicate some time to her latest writing project. The plan resulted in Sarah finishing great slabs of her novel-in-progress, and getting a significant way down her writer’s pathway. Obviously not all workplaces are going to support such an idea. But the fact that she put it out there shows some pizzazz, yes? And I must add, Sarah’s stick-ability to the plan is impressive – I suspect I could be all too easily distracted by the antics of our chickens out in the back yard. However, I wouldn’t be the first to write chicken-inspired poetry…
At any rate, here I am in a poetry residency supported by the fine folks at Australian Poetry and The Bean Barn. From June to October I have a constant poetry seat. And yes, it is by a window (and all the coffee I can drink). So the reality may seem odd: setting aside Saturday afternoons purely to write/read/talk poetry has not yet resulted in any writing on the actual day. Talking, sure. Conveniently, several friends have discovered that they can find me here at this time, and I’m not about to send them away. So does this mean the residency is failing?
Nope. The writing has been happening BETWEEN Saturdays. It looks like the idea of having a dedicated time and space has created more time and space (something like dark matter?) Who’d have thought? It’s the experience of having a puzzle to solve and several days later the solution simply materialises, without you having consciously worked on it. Or so you thought. Plant an idea and watch it grow. Sprong.