The dust has settled in Central Queensland, and the good people of Bundy, Gladdy and Rocky have survived the onslaught of poets. The Queensland Poetry Festival was a blast last-last weekend (24–26 August, 2012) at The Judith Wright Centre, but we touring poets didn’t skip a beat. We arrived in Bundaberg on Monday, 27 August, to give the first of our regional workshops.
I had the pleasure of travelling nationally with the Arts Queensland Touring Poets Program in 2009, but this is the first regional outing for QPF. I joined performance poets Scott Sneddon (Darkwing Dubs) and Steve Smart (from Melbourne), and QPF’s lovely Talina McKenzie, who kept us poets out of trouble/got us into the best kinds of trouble. Over the week, we infiltrated Bundaberg, Gladstone and Rockhampton, taking the Tilt Train between stops.
We landed at the Bundy airport in the evening and headed straight for the School of Arts. I’ve never poeted in such a beautiful space; a storm came over and, through the rain, lightning lit up our villanelles with appropriate drama. We expected around eight participants from Bundaberg Writers’ Club, but more like 18 showed up. A win for poetry, but a challenge (a good one) in that I had two hours to teach metre to such a big group. Fortunately, they were a great bunch and I think we were all infected with iambic pentameter.
The next night we performed for the first time as a group at Alowishus Delicious (best cakes evarrr, by the way). We had a fantastic crowd jammed into a Bundaberg alleyway — but before the poetry, projected artworks lit up the laneway out back. It was all very Melbourne, to be frank: great tea, rad laneway art, and Scotty and Smarty’s voices booming down the corridor out into the city.
There are very talented poets and performers in Bundy, and I can’t wait to see what kind of events they get together in coming months. Also, the pub that adopted us (I can’t remember its name) was very good to us funny-looking poet types. By Tuesday evening I had begun to realise how much extraordinary fun I was having reading, listening, workshopping, learning, meeting new people, and drinking very kindly-priced single-malt whiskey.
On Wednesday morning, we came face-to-face with the mysterious Bundaberg Ostrich. No one seems to know about this ostrich, except Scott, who is the bird whisperer. Olly the Ostrich is possibly in witness protection away from the Bundaberg Zoo, so if you want to know where she is you’ll have to ask us for the treasure map. We walked somewhere between one and 14 hours to reach her — I lost track in all that blithering exercise. But she became an unofficial roadshow mascot. Here is she is being a showgirl:
Incidentally, Olly was very fond of Scott’s head, which she tried to eat/communicate with (we’re not sure). If only Olly knew how many workshop examples she would star in in ensuing days.
Gladstone was very generous to us (even if my hotel room was haunted and the fridge exploded). We took in the lovely art gallery there, and had lunch at the yacht club before sprawling for a nice long while on the shore. My workshop with the young folks at Trinity College was by far the most fun workshop I’ve ever given. I hope I can share the awesome poem they wrote, at some stage. Talina and I even managed to get a little shopping in whilst the gents had haircuts (to become for respectable for the Rocky leg of the trip).
In Rockhampton we met such wonderful characters as Davo — who prefers bashing to poetry — and we visited the second-hand bookshop with a big poster in its window declaring, “YES! WE DO STOCK PARANORMAL ROMANCE!” It sure did, too. We made it through unscathed. In fact, we had a lovely time gadding about and, on Saturday, reading at the Rockhampton Regional Library. I had learned so much from Scott and Steve that, by then, I had memorised some poems and gave the “performance poet” thing a shot. It was awesome! Even better, Kristin Hannaford (whom I toured with in 2009) and Northumbrian-Rockhamp…tian Paul Summers joined us. To round out the tour, Steve and I performed a spoken word cover of Nick Cave and PJ Harvey’s Henry Lee. That was pretty cool.
All in all, it was a very happy time and I felt in my element. I can’t wait to do more performing, workshopping, and travelling this year. I’m lucky this motley bunch of writers was thrown together; I learned so much from them and it felt very right to be having poetry adventures again. More, please!