Friday, 17 June 2011

Friday afternoon with Emma Rooksby on Regional East Coast Poetry

My author blurb says that I divide my time between Canberra and Wollongong. That word ‘between’ is in some ways the most important part of the description. I spend ten to twelve hours a week - two of my seven evenings - travelling between my home bases, looking out trains or bus windows, often writing about what I see, sometimes just staring into the dark. Rather fewer of my evenings are spent at poetry events in either town, yet there is so much happening, I would need all seven nights plus some to keep up with everything that’s going on. Here are just a few of the recent highlights.

In Canberra, Geoff Page continues to coordinate the consistently top-class poetry reading series, Poetry at the Gods, including an annual Dead Poets Dinner. To date, 2011 has featured readings from John Foulcher, Ian McBryde, Luke Davies, Lionel Fogarty, Jordie Albiston, Alan Gould, Mark Tredinnick and Bronwyn Lea. It is always a pleasure to attend one of these evenings, not only for the poetry, but also for the chance to talk with all the writers and poetry-lovers who attend the events.

Poetry happens in many Canberra cafes. Bohemian The Front in Lyneham hosts the monthly Traverse Poetry Slam, coordinated by poet in residence Julian Fleetwood, as well as other occasional events. Smith’s Alternative Bookshop has also made itself home to a good part of the Canberra poetry scene. Smith’s regularly hosts poetry readings, launches and other events, and stocks a huge range of local, national and international poetry. Issue 11 of Block, a Canberra-focused creative writing and arts journal, was launched at Smith’s back in March.

Many people help make poetry happen in Wollongong. For a town of 200,000-odd people, it’s full of creative buzz and interest. The South Coast Writers Centre hosts regular ‘Rocket Readings’, and down the road at Nowra are the ‘River Readings’. You can catch poets such as Kei Miller, Linda Godfrey and Lizz Murphy, and there’s also an open mic at both events. Wollongong’s Ron Pretty has recently started a poetry reading group that focuses on analysing and exploring other writers’ poems. Ron’s seventh book of poetry, Postcards from the Centre, was published in 2010.

The University of Wollongong supports many creative endeavours, including in poetry. The Faculty of Creative Arts recently hosted the launch of a volume in the Poets and Perspective series, featuring poems by Kate Llewellyn together with three critical essays by David Gilbey, Susan Sheridan and Anne Collett. As the introduction by Paul Sharrad notes, the book should go some way toward remedying the lack of critical attention to Llewellyn’s poetry.

I’m just off to catch the coach to Canberra, where this month’s Poetry at the Gods reading features Kevin Kart and Sarah Day. With so much going on in east-coast poetry, it’s worth the ride!

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