Monday, May 20, 2013

Sydney Writers' Festival 2

I have read a few 'best of' lists for Sydney Writers' Festival events, but none (that I have seen) focus on poetry. In fact, few include poetry events at all. Which, I guess, is understandable. For Australians of a certain age (mine), the chance to hear Molly Ringwald both talk and sing is bound to block out any other things happening.

Anyway, in an attempt to right the balance, here are the poetry events I am going to try to attend.

Rare Objects Series Launch - Thursday 23 May 10 am

Luke Davies will launch a selection of chapbooks from Australian poets, including David Malouf.

Anis Mojgani - Thursday 23 May 6.30 pm at UNSW

Anis will be performing a solo show at UNSW. I believe it is already booked out (it is a free event), but I have my ticket! There is a waiting list.

Celebrating the Voice Writers' Night - Thursday 23 May 6.30 pm in Wollongong

This regular Sydney Writers' Festival event will launch a collection of poetry written by indigenous inmates at the Junee Correctional Centre. This is sure to be challenging and diverse writing.

Dermot Healy with Luke Davies - Friday 24 May 2.30 pm

Luke Davies' Interferon Psalms was the most challenging book I read last year. During this event, he interviews Irish writer Dermot Healy.

Words and Music - Saturday 25 May 10 am

Facilitated by Luke Davies and featuring musicians, poets and an ABC radio host -  Kate Miller-Heidke, Jeff Lang, Kate Fagan and Andrew Ford - this combines two of my loves: music and poetry. And according to Twitter, Kate Miller-Heidke appreciates the poetry of my predecessor as Australian Poetry Slam champion Omar Musa. Twice the reason to hear her speak about the intersection of music and words.

Marathon Poetry Reading - Saturday 25 May 4 pm

This event will mirror somewhat the Spoken Four event from the Friday night Festival Club, instead this time showcasing the written form of poetry. Eight poets from a variety of backgrounds and countries will present their work.


While I am posting links to events, I should say that the Sydney Writers' Festival online program is one of the best I have ever seen. If you doubt my suggestions, just checkout You can browse by day, author, genre or venue.

Some other lists:

ABC's coverage and participation in the festival

Concrete Playground

Crikey's Liticism

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sydney Writers' Festival

Thanks to Word Travels, one of the rewards for winning the Australian Poetry Slam is the opportunity to take part in the Sydney Writers' Festival. Later this week, I will participate in several events during the festival and perform alongside Anis Mojgani from the US and Kate Tempest from the UK.

I have been a fan of Anis Mojgani since I started performing poetry and searching for inspiration on YouTube. I have only just recently discovered Kate Tempest, through the online recommendation of Scroobius Pip, no less.

For my major event, the Festival Club on Friday 24 May, we will be joined onstage by Eleanor Jackson from Brisbane. This is a very diverse lineup of performance poets, which should give a great demonstration of the breadth of spoken word.

These are the Sydney Writers' events I am participating in:

Mouth to Mic - Friday 24 May 4 pm

Miles Merrill from Word Travels will interview Anis, Kate and myself after we each have given a short demonstration of our work to the audience. I dread these sorts of things - I don't particularly like explaining my work and always feel somewhere between pretentious and superficial when providing answers - but I am really looking forward to hearing Anis and Kate talk.

More details can be found here.

Spoken Four as part of the Festival Club - Friday 24 May 7 pm

This is my main event of the festival. Anis, Kate, Eleanor and I will each perform a set within a 90 min poetry feature at the Festival Club. This will be followed by The Chaser and HEDTalks with Max Lavergne, Eddie Sharp and Andrew Denton. My favourite bit: I am up first so I can get my rubbish over with before sitting back and enjoying the rest of this entertaining night.

Details on this event are here.

Troubadours and Minstrels -  Sunday 26 May 12 pm

This creative event will see musicians lead small groups to poets hidden in alcoves through the Rocks. After a short performance, the groups then rotate to another poet. The combination of music, poetry and the architecture and history of Sydney is unique.

I believe this event is already booked out, but details are here.

Q-Poetics - throughout the festival

Curated by Sydney poet and performance artist Skye Loneragan, Q-Poetics will see poets delivering 'literary relief' to festival-goers waiting in queues. I am one of the poets who will be entertaining those waiting and those travelling between venues.

Next post I will list some of the poetry events for the Sydney Writers' Festival which I am not part of, but which I highly recommend nonetheless.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Making Sense

On Saturday 3 May, I performed as part of Sense at the Nishi Gallery in New Acton, a well-curated 'audio journey' from spoken word through classical and jazz to 'intelligent dance music'. The largest drawcard was Max Cooper, a British electronica producer. Sense introduced me to Cooper and I have since become a serious fan. I recommend you listen to Synesthetes Museum, which includes a thoughful spoken word piece in the mix (from around the 55th minute).

Rosie Stevens plays cello on 'Manifesto'
Photo: Adam Thomas
For my set, I linked together four poems into Making Sense, which was very similar to other shows I have done recently. It builds on the themes of questioning my motivations and trying to discover my subtexts (a fruitless process, trust me, but hopefully one that is interesting to the audience).

More importantly, though, I achieved a first and was able to check off one item on my 2013 to-do list.* Rosanna Beatrice Stevens accompanied me on two pieces, on the cello and the piano. Rosie is a talented musician, writer and all-round artsy person.^

I gave Rosie recorded versions of two of my poems: 'Manifesto' and 'The Sound of a Fish Jumping'. She composed music to fit the words, pace and tone of the pieces. I think she did a brilliant job, taking the words to something that was more rounded and fuller.

Tapping out the fags of our white-hot wit
Photo: Adam Thomas
The addition of music had some strange effects on my poems and my performance. The emotions I felt through different passages changed slightly as the music played behind me. Sometimes, I could build on the sounds, riding the rhythms Rosie played - for example, during the 'pash' sequence in 'Fish Jumping'. At other times, I wanted to portray a different, but complementary feeling to what I was hearing in the music. This was tricky, such as when I was trying to go for a resigned, despairing reading while fighting the urge to tap my foot.

But with a few rehearsals and a musician who read my performance very well, the end result was a show I was very happy with.

The set list (with links only to the words at this stage, unfortunately):

* Make that half an item. I performed with a musician, but we have not yet recorded those poems. Don't worry, we plan to do that later this year. It was too good an experience not to capture it audibly.

^ Rosie is part of the creative team behind Scissors Paper Pen, a words-based event-producing collective in Canberra. She blogs here.