Week 11: 9-22 September

There’s no stopping them now. The momentum has built with each communal poem – they have sprouted an air of confidence. I rather like the tangents this week’s communal poem takes, albeit surprising (and still a little bumpy rhythmically). Again there’s a morbid fascination, and dark humour – possibly from the same coffee hound who contributed to last week’s effort? This time there were 10 different sets of handwriting.

Pretty Polly was a pest, she’d be a pain on purpose
but pretty Pam on the other hand was part of a travelling band.
Pretty Peter was a twit, social media was his thing
but little did he realise, his tweet had broke his wing!

Amongst the many other things he was still a dickie bird
just trying – oh was he ever trying! – to be heard.
Taking a step back and with a big breath
he jumped off a cliff to fly but instead fell to his death.

But just before he hit the ground, life flashed before his eyes
he was proud to be president of the Vic Bears…
    Yeah mate… WHO CARES!

Week 10: 2-8 September

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.


The end is nigh

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!


AP’s Cafe Poet Program


Week 9: 26 Aug-1 Sept

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.

Week 4: 22-28 July

How’s this: you wouldn’t think when it’s so easy to ‘just google it’ that I would mistake Roald Dahl for an Australian. Clearly this is an example of that phenomenon where, if you like them enough, well, they must be Australian. Just like the Queen is.

I never said I was an expert on poetry. But I might become an expert on googling instead. This residency is bringing about learning in such unexpected places, mmm?

This week’s ill-fated poetry quiz was indeed a stanza out of Roald Dahl’s ‘The Three Little Pigs’ from the ‘Revolting Rhymes’ series. The winner of the covetted coffee is Adele, and she also goes into the Draw from the residency. Special mention goes to Alex and not just because his dad, David from Tutmut, pulled me up over Dahl’s citizenship. Maybe it was Dahl’s notorious, um…personality traits that convinced me he was Australian.

At any rate, I suspect I bamboozled the coffee fiends with that minor transgression of borders. And yes, I promise to just google it next time. If only to keep David from Tumut off my case…


Stranger things

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.

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.