Monday, October 24, 2005

2005 WA Spring Poetry Festival: spontaneous explosion of creative ideas, fresh poetry and the power of community

The 2005 WA Spring Poetry Festival: spontaneous explosion of creative ideas, fresh poetry and the power of community

Initially a flow on from the 2004 National Poetry Week activities, Coordinator Maureen Sexton met earlier this year with various Poetry organising folks from across Perth. With a view to seek ideas and energy for "Spring Poetry Month," many diverse events were planned throughout September 2005.

Keen to build a Poetry Festival for 2006, I initially came on board to help Maureen create a functional website [] and to offer support where I could. I've been participating in various art/poetry/music festivals and events over the last ten years or so, as well coordinator of many events both here and interstate.

When I saw the scale and diversity of events on offer - some 50 plus activities organised across September - I realised that this was indeed a "Festival" in its own right. However there was no decent funding. And little initial volunteer support. We quickly applied for funds from the City of Perth, who came to the party with some basic funding, venue and tech support. However it was Maureen and her partner, Lyn who held the fort miraculously intact and worked tirelessly to build the Festival bones into such a workable body.

Frances Macaulay Forde's poetry events in the Pages Cafe at the WA State Library were also well attended and provided ample opportunities for our poets to read their works. Non-stop thanks and appreciation must go to these very excellent women of Perth Poetry.

BUT massive respect also goes to EACH and EVERYONE who did anything whatsoever to make this year's festival into a workable model for the future.

The inaugural WA Spring Poetry Festival was a much-needed splash of energy for this state - indeed an opiate to the general state of poetic endeavor in this part of the country. Having been a guest in August at the 2005 Melbourne Overload Poetry Fest and the Queensland Poetry Festivals, it was good to realise that much to my surprise, Perth poetry is fresh, alive and cranking in 2005.

Whilst in Melbourne and Brisbane I talked up the idea of a WA Poetry Festival to many Australian poets and poetry organisers.

From my travels over the last few years to various arts, poetry and writerly festivals and events in the eastern states, it seems that many poets are quite keen to make the journey west, but nobody really knows about opportunities to read and distribute their work here. With 100s of chances to participate over the month, the WA Spring Poetry festival is an excellent excuse to get poets here.

As a result we had several talented poets travel over from Melbourne: Steve Smart, Meg Dunne, Amelia Walker and Kristen Turbett to name a few. There was also high levels of genuine interest from many other interstate poets from all over Australia to travel to WA for the 2006 festival.

For my main role in the WA Poetry Festival 2005 experiment, I built and maintained the Festival website, offered advice and helped where I could, including some of the Friday night events. The SubVerse readings were almost surreal inside the somewhat intimidating acoustics of the newly furbished Perth Town Hall.

Whilst not necessarily an ideal venue for poetry, much fun was had and crankin poems were heard throughout the various nights. It was beautiful to hear a poetry which is invigorated and charged with political energy.
Amongst the highlights for me were David Starr and Lois Olfry’s poems about Aboriginality and life in the North West; but also Viv Glance's powerful imagery in her performance piece based on the US invasion of Iraq.

I attended several events throughout the month and was generally impressed with the quality and diversity of poetry we have here in WA. I enjoyed the Poet Trees - a virtual mini-jungle of words in the Murray St Mall. I was also impressed by the positive public reaction to actual poetry at the accompanying "Poetrees Aloud" readings - as well as the enthusiastic responses to performing poems at the Speaker's Steps!

In particular the delivery and performance aspect of poetry appealed to me during the Festival. It is a beautiful thing to listen to the human voice; to embrace the sound and rhythms of poetry; to consume the meditation and passion of the human utterance.

In the 21st century - all-consumed by post-oral, mega-hyper, glossy-mud-media - we rarely take in the real poetry of each others voice and language. But, so it seems, there’s a plethora of WA poets keen to embrace the passion of poetry performance at the moment. I look forward to hearing/collaborating on more great stuff over the next 12 months as we build the 2006 festival events program.

The Festival was also a good opportunity to see the poetry community – as scattered and fragmented as it seems – to actually come together for such an event. September 2005 saw over 100 people read and perform their works in public, along with hundreds more participating in the “Poet Trees”, the Poetry Walls and other opportunities. In essence the festival has given Perth poets an untapped mass exposure for the normally disregarded genre of poetry.

Considering the current lack of Poetry Readings on offer in WA, besides WOW and Voicebox, there has been little opportunities for emerging and even established poets to read, perform and distribute their efforts around Perth. Throughout the month there were murmurings of potential new readings appearing in more Perth venues over the coming months.

Perth Poetry is alive and bangin I tells ya!

And the 2006 WASPF looks set to be an even bigger and better oiled series of poetic events. We are seeking more funding and gathering a team of interested people who want to contribute and participate in this ongoing project to bring Poetry to People – and People to Poetry!

Please let us know I you want to help...

NOTE: The website is now an ongoing, organic networking resource for WA poets and will eventually become a portal for West Aussie poetry for a long time to come.

Please send me suggestions as to how you think the website could be improved.

allan boyd - WASPF05 Team

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