QLD Writer’s Week Feature #13 – John Parke

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?

 

About John:

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.

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7 Comments

Filed under interviews/artist profiles, poetry & publishing

7 responses to “QLD Writer’s Week Feature #13 – John Parke

  1. Trudie Murrell

    I really enjoyed learning more about you John. It makes my reading of this poem richer. I feel the sense of history more strongly now. I would love to see and read more of the Friends of the Fishermen of Wynnum Creek’s collective work also.

    Thanks

    • John Parke

      Hi Trudie

      Many thanks for your comment. They are great characters and stories. I am yet to prepare a website, but a recording is booked for December to record the poems which will be put to animations and also be the basis of short films. Here is a poem I wrote today called “Knew the Bay like the back of his hand”

      Mick had spent his life on the Bay
      “I know it better than the back of my hand”, he would say

      The fog that morn was beyond believing
      a blind man at the helm had more chance of seeing

      With crab pots a ready a bit of fog wouldn’t deter
      such a fine navigator as Mick Driver

      He set off from Wynnum Creek with a confident smile
      for the short fifteen minute trip to nearby Green Isle

      With thirty minutes gone and still not seeing land
      concerns began to grow in this seasoned fisherman

      With furrowed brow he steamed on a little way
      and came across a child in a small boat at play

      “Excuse me laddy are we far from Green” he stopped to speak,
      the child’s reply, “I don’t know, but this is Wynnum Creek”

      With that, back into the Creek Mick snuck undetected
      in hope his reputation might still be protected

      But his fears soon realised and all looked dire
      as rumours soon spread like a raging bush fire

      Though of this circular trip he did not confess
      from that day he spoke little of his steering prowess.

      Note: This is a true story of a circular trip Mick Driver took on a very foggy day. Mick was a very brave and strong fisherman who was born around 1920.

  2. Great interview and I really loved that poem John – pulled at the heartstrings. It’s so sad when a communities livelihood and way of life changes or is taken away from them – something some never recover from.

    • John Parke

      Many thanks, Gabrielle

      It’s true. It is quite an emotional journey for me too as the loss is so deep for many of the families who had fished for generations. The poem above was based on a 93 year old lady watching her father’s houes be cut in half and taken away. It marked the end of 5 generations of fishermen. I am going to use the poem and some powerful footage I took on the day the house was taken away as the basis of a short film I plan to enter in the Tropfest short film festival.

      • John Parke

        There didn’t seem to be a reply button after your last post, but thanks very much, Gabrielle. Love your pics of the frogs in your blog.

  3. This is great John. I find it so interesting how you go about ‘chewing over’ the poem and writing the start and end first. I love these two very different poetic stories of Wynnum Creek. All the best with Tropfest.
    Andrew

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