Friday, 30 August 2013

Poetry by Canberra poets

The poetry night went surprisingly well – well attended, well enjoyed and all contributed.

We started our discussion on Canberra poets and poetry with Professor A D Hope – who could be better! The chosen poem was about the ancient battle at Thermopylae with the moving line: ‘linger stranger, shed no tear….’ (Wikipedia says: ‘Thermopylae was a battle between the alliance of Greek city states led by King Leonides of Sparta and the Persian Empire of Xerxes 1 over 3 days during the second Persian invasion of Greece in 480 BC’).

In an unscripted but interesting juxtaposition we had Geoff Page’s sad poem ‘Perfect day in July’ next, about the Canberra Hospital implosion which occurred in front of about 100,000 people on 13 July 1997.

Moya Pacey was introduced to many of us  – well known to a member through being her children’s English teacher. (According to the ACT Writers Showcase – she was born in the UK in 1950 and has lived in Canberra since 1978. She has published widely both here and overseas and her first collection called the wardrobe was runner-up for the ACT Poetry prize in 2010. Her poetry has also featured on ACTION buses!) We heard the poem entitled 'The wardrobe'.

We were then treated to ‘Dog day’ about an old dog on a walk. As the member concerned and I both have old dogs it rang loud bells of recognition for us – quite tender and special.

Another member has just spent 3 months overseas and remarked on the appearance of poetry in public spaces from Italy to Scotland; for example, on the outside of buildings – the Scottish Parliament House, Canongate wall being a particularly vivid and expressive example. There are 24 examples of quotations on this wall and the architect, Enric Miralles designed it that way to show a ‘poetic union between Scottish landscape, people, culture and Edinburgh city’.  (Wikipedia is excellent for info about this exciting building.) The poem chosen was by Edwin Morgan.

A beautiful Italian poem about the ‘Angelo del mare’ in the town of Lerici was read to us in both Italian and English – quite wonderful!  The poem appears on a plaque at the base of a fortress.  (This town is on the Italian Riviera, connected by ferry to the Cinque Terre).  A very different poem followed about the mental health facilities at the Canberra Hospital called ‘The ward is new’  another by Geoff Page.

Action buses have ‘poetry in action’ this year – 270 entries and 10 finalists. We heard a short poem from this series by Geoff Page.

Rosemary Dobson (1920-2012), Canberra poet and intellectual was highlighted by 2 poems from her ‘Rosemary Dobson Collected’ volume. This collection was published shortly before she died.  The poems read were ‘Jack’ and ‘The tempest’.

John Stokes’ (another new name for some of us) poem entitled: ‘Remembrance of Roseanne Fitzgibbon’, was a very sad poem about the night before Roseanne died. Roseanne was a senior editor with UQP for many years and also Marion Halligan’s sister.

‘Dancing on the drain board’ 1993 collection of poems by the American poet (but long time resident in Canberra) Lynn Hard was presented to us by a member who knew Lynn well as a boss.  The poem chosen was about Dorothy Green. Dorothy Green (1915-1991) was Scottish born but spent her life in Australia from the age of 12 and was both an academic and champion of Australian literature, especially the early twentieth century writers such as Henry Handel Richardson and Patrick White and Christina Stead.

Geoff Page's v  box and ‘The tempest’ (an early very short poem which conjures up Shakespeare and tales of wrecked ships and seamen).

Geoff Page's very apposite poem 'At the polls’ was a fitting work to be read in this election season. 

Was Geoff Page the poet of the evening?

The concluding event was seeing a performance by Omar Musa, the young Malaysian-Australian poet from Queanbeyan performing at the recent 'TedxSydney' at the Opera House, 4 May 2013. Tedx is a fantastic talkfest about ‘Australian ideas worth spreading’ and a real honour for Musa to be involved. The performance was brilliant, available here.

Interestingly we didn't have any poems about Canberra landscape or people!