A few days with Salt on the Tongue pt 2

Sunday…

Well the flow of words was again, relentless.

The morning session Kumarangk: Hear the Children Crying was incredibly moving. The session featured readings by Ali Cobby-Eckerman & Lionel Fogarty alongside five new indigenous voices and local elders Aunty Eileen McHughes and Aunty Phyllis Williams. The poems merged to form a dramatic narrative that portrayed both the historical and contemporary ambiences of Hindmarsh Island and the local Yaraldi clan of the Ngarrindjeri. When Lionel Fogarty chimed in, echoing the line ‘but I’m black’, during a poem read by one of the new voices, you couldn’t help but feel a tingling in the base of your brain and an ache in the gut.

I then took myself down to set up for the publisher’s market. This was again an idea, full of promise, which didn’t quite deliver. There were several publisher’s there displaying some mighty fine product – these included Small Change Press, Ginninderra, Dangerously Poetic, Ilura Press, Wakefield Press, Red Room Company, Australian Poetry Centre & Giramondo as well as some individual authors – but the programming (authors reading from new collections), dominated the focus leaving little time for people to browse the ample supply of poetry. I stuck around for the first two hours before heading off to the mighty Friendly Street Poets session.

Friendly Street Poets are proudly the longest running reading in the southern hemisphere. In talking to people over the years I have heard stories of up to 100 people reading in the open mic session at their monthly gathering in Adelaide, so I went anticipating something special… and they delivered. The energy was high and the atmosphere crackling… almost 40 people took to the mic in a quick fire two hours, showcasing everything from japanese forms to ballads; sonnets to high energy spoken word. And the session was MC’ed superbly by a gentleman known as Avalanche… his saxophone jam with Benjamin IQ Saunders to close the show reminded me of the free-wheeling jazz poets of the 50’s and 60’s. It was spontaneous, loose and from the gut. I can’t wait to get back to Adelaide to feature at Friendly Street in November.

Next was a session featuring Glenn Colquhoun, Jennifer Mills, Julie Beveridge and Brook Emery. Jennifer Mills from Alice Springs opened the session, reading predominantly from her PressPress chapbook, Treading Earth. During the weekend, Jennifer has put together an amazing little project called the ‘Sound Atlas’ which takes the listener on an audio walking tour of Goolwa and features new poems by arianna pozzuoli, sandra thibodeaux, emilie zoey baker, barbara galloway, ezra bicks, sarah day, jennifer mills, julie beveridge, ali cobby eckermann, tamryn bennett, jill jones, andrea gawthorne, jillian pattinson, esther ottoway, and stephen edgar. This is a great way to experience the town and the poetry of many of the festival guests.

Glenn Colquhoun was next on the bill and I have to say he blew me away… the highlight, a haka, written in the english language. Glenn warned us that he was quite shy and retiring, so when he ripped through the haka, hands flailing and tongue wagging, it certainly fired the audience up! Glenn is definitely a poet well worth investigating… you can read a selection of his poetry here.

Julie Beveridge was next, reading predominantly from her collection Home is Where the Heartache is, a series of poems themed around the idea of ‘domestic menace’. These poems take us straight to the point of crisis and don’t necessarily deliver us a conclusion. Instead they leave us with the character/s, right in the thick of moment. Her poem, Playing the Market, about a woman in Ipswich who killed her husband and skinned him, is a great example of her word-power and incisively black humour. Julie’s book is available here.

And finally Brook Emery read from his recent collections, Misplaced Heart and Uncommon Light. His work is unsentimental and insightful. His measured, rhythmic reading a perfect close to what was an amazing session.

My head needed a little breathing space, but I was soon back in the Regional Art Gallery to hear Grant Caldwell. Grant is one of those poets who never disappoints. His almost deadpan performance style gives the necessary room for his razor-wit to work its charm. Reading predominantly from his forthcoming collection, it left me anticiparting its mid-year release through 5 Islands Press.

And then there was the Slam. I went expecting high energy and I got high energy. Emilie Zoe Baker MC’ed the event urging us to clap like Les Murray just poked you on Facebook, and Arianna Pozzuoli opened proceedings as the sacrificial poet. While the event was more of a showcase (there was none of the traditional scoring), you could sense each poet wanted to lift the bar when they hit the stage, to take the crown of ‘The Greatest Poet In All The Land’ – oh yes, this was chanted loudly throughout the night!

Highlights included James Griffin’s performance of his stunning (sub)urban ballad ‘Suburbs of the Heart’, Robin ‘Archie’ Archbold’s shirt ripping antics (he managed to pop a button into Arianna Pozzuoli’s wine glass), IQ’s freestyling response to the other poets, riffing off each poem that had gone before him and PiO’s number crunching experimentalism that eventually won him the title. The beauty of this Slam was never once did it become stylistically narrow and the words were always at the forefront… a cracking way to finish the the second day at Salt on the Tongue before heading off to the local RSL for $3.00 Coopers stubbies and the chance to let the torrent of words start to sink in…

The final day offered up many fine readings and before I got on the bus to head back to Adelaide I caught feature sets from Jeri Kroll, Jordie Albiston (her latest collection The Sonnet According To M is wonderfully musical as was her reading), Patricia Sykes, Chris Wallace-Crabbe, Emily Zoe Baker, Jennifer Mills, Sandy Caldow, Bel Schenk, Julie Beveridge & Chloe Wilson. So as you can well imagine, my head was full to overflowing with the imagery, words, voices and rhythms of the weekend.

It was a great weekend and I am very pleased to have been a part of it all. There are things I would have like to have seen happen, first and foremost, a greater engagement with the local community as there was a distinct lack of locals in attendance. In fact, on the Saturday morning we got talking with a local walking her dog and she asked why there were so many people in town… I strongly believe that if APC is committed to taking the festival to a regional town every two years (and believe me, I am right behind this as an idea), there needs to be alot more work done in the lead up to ensure the local community is engaged and has a strong presence at the event, otherwise, one could argue that it makes greater sense to host the event in the capital cities for ease of access.

There are a few photos that I want to upload, so I will try and get myself organised to post them tomorrow…

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2 Comments

Filed under events & opportunities, poetry & publishing

2 responses to “A few days with Salt on the Tongue pt 2

  1. Again, Graham, a most comprehensive overview of this great weekend. I did, however, see quite a bit of local community involvement at the Friendly Street Poets event at The Old Court House (I think it was Sunday afternoon.) I don’t remember the names of any of the local poets, but I had a bit of a yarn with a couple of them afterwards and was quite impressed with both the number of people willing to share their work at a local forum and the quality of that work.

  2. Mike Hopkins

    Rob, you’re right, there were several local poets at the Friendly Street event, but I agree with Graham that, overall, the local involvement was not significant (though the local council was clearly very supportive). If you’d driven slowly through Goolwa that weekend, there was very little to signify that there was a poetry festival on e.g a banner across the main street for instance. I think the local businesses benefited, but that was about it.

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