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With Adelaide Writers’ Week wrapped up for another year, I want to share some of the highlights for me, predominantly poetry, despite the limited selection this time.

The Opening Address, Imagination Redeems, was delivered by Ben Okri, a Man Booker Prize winner for his novel The Famished Road. Ben was an engaging speaker, believing that “literature is one of the great freedoms” and that “reading happens in the theatre of the mind”. Being human is a strange condition, which we “seem to accept and hurry about our lives”, and Ben went onto explain the concept of unfreedom, where “our deepest dreams are strangled at the roots of their dreaming place”. Ben left us with these words:

The strength of our freedom is wholly dependent on our imagination. Children see small castles in stones growing into adults who cannot see the small stones in castles. Literature is a way of seeing with the mind.

The first session was Open Book with David Malouf, the title of his new collection, which spans all stages of life. David explained how he learnt poems by heart, his first favourite being Kenneth Slessor, quickly followed by Rainer Maria Rilke, Wallace Stevens, Emily Dickinson and W B Yeats. For David, poetry comes from a dreaming, rather than a thinking, place, and when planning a collection, he waits until he has enough poems and then tries to order them in a coherent way. David shared the title poem from his new collection, and ‘On the Move’ and ‘Late Poem’, stressing the importance of close listening and layering in language.

Next up was Fiona Wright’s The World was Whole, the follow up to her award-winning essay collection Small Acts of Disappearance. Fiona’s writing is mesmerising, part poet, part memoir, who doesn’t consider herself to be a confessional writer. She’s not ashamed of her illness, with her new book about managing it on a daily basis. When stuck, she reads Helen Garner, a famous diarist and thinks herself a slow writer, having to battle with a double consciousness in that she can never just sit in a park and relax, her mind is constantly working. Fiona spoke about transcendent time (a journey) and imminent time (here and now) – her new book focuses on the latter.

The final session I went to were the Poetry Readings with Birgitta Jónsdóttir, David Malouf, Fiona Wright, Joelle Taylor and Ben Okri. Birgitta’s an Icelandic poet, who read a moving piece about refugees as heroes and another about colonising women inspired by the #metoo movement. David read a poem about the war in Brisbane in 1944 from his first solo collection, followed by a few from Earth Hour, another of his fascinating works. Joelle’s a spoken word poet, sharing how she was raped by soldiers when she was five then reading excerpts from a canto in her new collection, Songs My Enemy Taught Me, to express this trauma. Fiona read from her new collection, Domestic Interior, including the title poem and the entertaining ‘Thank you internet’ which comprised a conversation Fiona overhead in a café. Ben closed the session by sharing a love poem, and another about stars and wishes/fishes, a clever play on words.

Needless to say my book collection has grown considerably with a few of them signed, so roll on next year’s Writers’ Week, and may there be plenty more of the poetic kind.

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