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are an essential part of any poet’s toolkit.  So why I’ve only just joined some I don’t know.  And now I’m a member of three!

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The first is more of a workshop run by Jan Owen, a very prestigious local poet, in which poets share any poems they would like feedback on, discuss the poems produced from the homework task set, any other model poems suggested, techniques, style, etc.  Jan really is a mine of poetic wisdom.

The second group I was invited to is held at East Avenue Books and facilitated by Joan Fenney, co-owner, in which again poets share any poems they have for feedback surrounded by a beautiful array of books, forever a purchase risk where I’m concerned.

The third group, Poetica, also invited me, with the vote to be a unanimous one, so an exclusive group with some of the finest Adelaide-based poets I know (feel very privileged to be a member!).  Again homework is set every month with each member taking a turn to run the session.

Thankfully they’re all held on a different Sunday of the month so no clashes, but they really are a wonderful source of skill, insight and inspiration, generating some very thought-provoking work.  And I’ve learnt, and am still learning, so much about other poets, form, technique, movements, etc., knowledge I feel is enriching the poetry I write.

So there you go, I can’t stress enough the importance of poetry groups.  If you’re not currently a member of one, I would strongly recommend you try to be.

Amelia Walker and Mike Ladd were this month’s featured poets hosted by Friendly Street at the Halifax Café, two fantastic local poets who I thought complimented each other very well.

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Introduced by the lovely Jelena Dinic, Amelia was first up, but not before distributing a piece of paper to each table with a request to write down five things (in our case, five abstract nouns). Amelia actually started with a poem by someone else, something she often does apparently, and it just happened to be one of Kathryn Hummel’s who has recently returned from India where she published her second collection, The Bangalore Set. The poem focused on winded birds whose ‘feathered tips articulate their shock’, a vivid image.

Amelia had her first collection published at the tender age of 19, Fat Streets and Lots of Squares, essentially about Adelaide which has proved very popular with teachers in schools. Amelia shared ‘Him’ from the collection about a well-known local character who walked up and down Rundle Mall in white gum boots, referring to him as ‘an isolated hiccup’ and she ‘had heard from a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend, he does it for a laugh’. Amelia then read an updated version written now at the age of 32 called ‘For Johnny’, where he is ‘real like fairies’ with a ‘body dressed in loud undress’, a far more introspective piece that asked questions, culminating in the memorable line of ‘a made in China koala always monkeying your back’. This was followed by another new poem about an old poem inspired by the war memorial on North Terrace, which spoke of looking after soldiers in a nursing home, ‘with brushed teeth and perfect parts’ these were ‘old men unhinged from time’.

Amelia then collected the paper from the tables, put them in order and created a poem before our eyes. Beginning with our abstract nouns, for example ‘homesickness’, she connected each with a colour, an animal, a place and a time, producing some very thought-provoking lines. This was clever stuff and further enhanced the fact Amelia is an amazing performance poet who captivates her audience.

Mike read old work, from his second, third and fourth collections, which is what these readings are about, the antithesis to the Lee Marvin ones. Mike started with a poem called ‘Vasectomy’ where the doctor ‘chattered golf, his slice and splice, tapping the balls in’ which his, after, swelled to resemble ‘a witch’s fruit’ culminating in the poignant image of ‘me on the cliff top with empty arms’. Mike’s next piece was a ‘Poem for two brickies’ who threw bricks to the other with movement reminiscent of some kind of dance as they ‘placed to weight on an invisible shelf of air’. ‘Waiting room’ was just that, where the walls were ‘duck-egg blue’ and a girl was ‘scratching her name with a 20 cent bit’. Mike then shared four poems in one about water, which ‘has no voice tonight’, where ‘water cats’ loitered and resembled Siamese from whom you could ‘drink their eyes’.

Mike had written some semi-surrealist poems about objects inspired by a surrealist artist whose name I didn’t quite catch, one being ‘Dreams of a pillow’ in which the pillow imagines being ‘hard and sharp’, and another simply called ‘Spare chair’ which plays ‘wooden horse in secret’. Mike moved onto more naturalistic pieces – ‘Murray bend’ where ‘sand fire colours warm the eye’ in a ‘big fish dreaming place’, and ‘Parable of a farmer’ written in long lines to symbolise those made by cattle traversing a field so that ‘shambling cows turned hills into verse’. ‘Spinal unit’ Mike wrote after his partner fractured her spine, where ‘beds are altars for flowers’ and ‘patients brace for their separate nights’.

Mike finished with some beautiful snippets about vegetables in ‘A vegetative life’ – beetroot, asparagus, potato and parsnip, the ‘pale digits of the damned’, and red onion that he told ‘you contain infinity and make me weep’. Mike was just as engaging as Amelia, no doubt honed from his years hosting ABC’s radio program Poetica. This was a brilliant line up.

I meant to post this earlier in the week but as usual got sidetracked with other things! On Wednesday I went to hear poets Amelia Walker and Mike Ladd read at the monthly Words@Wall poetry evening organised by Friendly Street Poets.

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I was not familiar with Amelia’s work, however her performance was simply captivating.  She read extracts from a sequence she wrote while living in the Netherlands that told of her life when she first moved with her partner, the integration required and a degree of isolation, albeit loneliness, as a result. Amelia was mesmerizing, giving a very personal account that was highly entertaining but also very poignant.

Mike I remember from his interview of Mark Tredinnick at this years Writer’s Festival, aswell as from his regular stint on ABC’s Poetica program. Mike read from his new collection of poems Adelaide, published by Garron Publishing (yes, a copy was purchased!), which give beautiful accounts of specific aspects of Adelaide life. My favorite was A Snowflake in an Adelaide Schoolyard, describing “a day when you could see the trees’ secrets” and then it arrives, lending itself to different interpretations and questionable doubt.

It was great catching up with poet friends too – Jennifer Liston, Louise Nicholas and Nigel Ford – so I have already marked the next one in the diary, and looking forward to it.

February and March is a busy time in Adelaide – the annual Festival, the Fringe and of course, Writer’s Week.

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And what an eventful week it’s been! Last Thursday I attended a workshop by the inspiring Mark Tredinnick, a non-fiction literary master class that explored the process and influence of writing from fact.  The workshop generated a few ideas, thoughts and writers to research, so a very worthwhile investment I felt.

And then I went to a few sessions at Writer’s Week, conveniently taking place in the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Gardens just around the corner from where I work.  There was a poetry reading on Monday with the likes of Lisa Jacobson, one of the poets shortlisted for the 2014 John Bray Poetry Award with her verse novel The Sunlit Zone and David Malouf, who’s collection Typewriter Music was one of my many purchases from the frequently visited book tent.

On Tuesday evening I attended the monthly meeting of Friendly Street Poets (FSP) at the University of Adelaide where I read two pieces as a first time reader, for which I received a welcoming round of applause that managed to calm the nerves a bit (that and the free glass of wine I had beforehand!).  I have submitted both poems for consideration in the new annual anthology being finalised by the FSP editors so we’ll see how that goes.  I enjoyed the company of fellow poets Pam Maitland, Louise Nicholas and Nigel Ford, all of whom read extremely thought-provoking pieces, some not without humour, and were very supportive of my own performance.  Another noteworthy act was delivered by a group of New Zealand poets over to participate in their Fringe event taking place on Saturday night, Aotearoa Speaks – Chewing your Ears.  If their outstanding performance on Tuesday is anything to go by, this will be a fantastic and memorable evening so very much looking forward to it.

The final Writer’s Week session I attended was another of Mark’s where he was interviewed on aspects of love, birds and nature in his work by Mike Ladd, series producer of ABC’s Poetica.  This insightful chat prompted me to purchase another of Mark’s collections Fire Diary, which I have yet to indulge in.

So now I will take some time to breathe, reflect and do the thing that must be done following any whirlwind of words and wisdom…write, and then write some more!

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