Still a couple more features to round out my QLD Writer’s Week series… lucky #13 introduces John Parke.
What excites you about poetry?
I find it the best way to capture the essence and emotion of a story. Recently, I have started using poems as the basis for short films that incorporate footage, photos, animation, and music. There is plenty of scope to get the creative juices flowing in this approach.
What are the themes that interest you/ that you like to explore in your writing?
I am using poetry to capture the stories of the commercial fishermen of Wynnum Creek on Moreton Bay. They have fished from the creek for 150 years and were responsible for the second largest annual catch in Queensland. Around 150 fishermen worked from the creek in the 1950s. Today there are only 8 fishermen left and their stories haven’t previously been recorded.
Charles Bukowski once said, ‘poetry is what happens when nothing else can’. How does a poem happen for you?
I find a topic for a poem and let my subconscious ‘chew it over’ for a couple of weeks. I then often write the first and last lines for the poem. find a start and an end for the poem. Then I think through the journey the poem will take. Finally, I fill in the details. Often the first draft of a poem takes about half an hour to write and then I revise it over the few days.
The view from the front steps
Our homes have nestled here since 1900
on the creek bank, watching boys become men.
Watching boats crafted to master the waves, in search of mullet,
watching nets tarred and fish sorted.
You were part of our family.
We shared our lives together within your walls and around you.
Those first tentative steps in the nursery rejoiced with glee by all.
The familiar smell of the Sunday roast, the laughter of welcome guests.
The slipway now a relic
Our memories, rubble.
The menacing truck collects its load
our kitchen, lounge and our past bound for Coffs.
It will return tomorrow for our bedrooms
and the corridor where we once played.
My hand on my cheek
brings small comfort.
Our family homes are gone.
They now build duplexes that surround me.
The grief so heavy is not mine alone
but that of our forebears.
What will tomorrow bring
to this place where we once built boats?
I live in Manly and am assisting approximately 60 unemployed people in the local area and Bay islands to establish their own business. My career has focussed on community development initiatives using a capacity building approach for both Indigenous and no-Indigenous communities. At present I am establishing an initiative called the Friends of the Fishermen of Wynnum Creek. The initiative involves collecting and making available stories (particularly through poetry) and images of the fishermen to the general public.