Day #2 of QPF 2011 was just as thrilling as Day #1. I, like so many others, lined up for the more than seven hours of poetry on offer yesterday, kicking the day off at the Open Mic session, Residue of Midnight. While there were a few ‘word-weary’ heads early in the morning, they lit up as the poetry started to flow.
The Open Mic, was incredibly diverse. There were readings of traditional ballads, poems of protest, poems of peace & poems sampling music lyrics. It was quick fire, with everyone clocking in under the 2minute mark… 22 poets in the first hour!
I then caught readings by Max Ryan, Andy White, Michelle Dicinoski at the session, Midday Arrives and Drinks. Max’s set took us on a journey with a bus full of Beatles fans; took us through the vibrant streets of India; and through the darkness of a rainswayed night. Max is a captivating performer, with that incredible ability to draw you in to his world. And speaking of captivating, Andy White just seems to radiate positive energy on (and off) stage. His reading from Stolen Moments at this session was stunning, giving the audience a taste of the many musical poems in the collection and his version of Samuel Beckett to open the show was as good as I have ever heard it! To close the session, Michelle Dicinoski delivered another powerhouse reading from her debut collection, Electricity for Beginners, a book that must rate as one of the Australian releases of the year.
Next up I went along to The Zen Method of Bingo. Matt Hetherington, opened proceedings and from the first poem, held the audience transfixed. His senryu sequence, detailing the breakdown of his marriage was up there with the best things I heard over the weekend. And when he entered into a call and response with an 8month old in the audience, the room was in stitches. It was, to say the least, a masterful reading. The lovely Julie Beveridge was up next, reading from new work written during our recent time in Vancouver. Her poems bristled with images of departure lounges, fireworks, seals, snakes and morning sickness. I hope to twist her arm to publish one or two of the poems here in the near future. Chris Lynch rounded out the trio in this session. Chris also read from new work, blending haiku and tanka with his longer, lyrical works.
And then there was A Crash of Chords. Ashley Capes opened the session dipping into work from his three collections; his poem farm, and the line ‘in the horses mouth, even straw sleeps’ never failing to stop my breath. Then something quite amazing happened… Sheish Money, Jane Sheehy, Anthony Beveridge and winner of the 2011 Thomas Shapcott Award, Nick Powell hit the stage and tore it up. This was the debut of their show, Shift and it was sizzling. Nick Powell had all the moves (and then some) of a young Jagger; while the band, lead by Sheish’s growling vocals and guitar, lay down a rock solid foundation for him to spit out his words. It was passionate, it was fiery and it was damn fine fun to watch! Let’s hope it’s not a one off show.
The final session in the Shopfront Space was aptly titled Among the Last Bright Leaves. The sun was setting in the window, giving the room a beautiful ambience. It was wonderful to hear Aidan Coleman again. This afternoon, he read predominantly from his series, Stroke Poems, forthcoming in his collection, Asymmetry. The intimacy and quiet dignity of these poems resonated with everyone in the room. Asymmetry is definitely a book that I am looking forward to being able to spend time with. It was also a pleasure to hear Ron Pretty. His final two poems, which he tells us were written with a glass of wine in hand on his balcony, were sublime; rich with musicality and perfectly delivered. And finally, Nicola Scholes took centre stage, opening with a long, experimental prose poem, that was a textual rush.
Then it was Onwards to Infinity, the final session, of the 15th annual, QLD Poetry Festival. Like Saturday night’s, A Million Bright Things, the mood was upbeat and the poets kept things shimmering from start to finish. Highlights included an impromptu collaboration between Sandra Thibodeaux and Kevin Gillam on cello, another helping of Sawako’s cacophonous, bilingual ‘ant poems’; and Andy White’s rollicking version of Looking for James Joyce’s Grave. It was also a blast to hear each of the QPF Committee Members perform. I had the immense pleasure of asking Sheish up on stage to play the grand piano as we performed our collaborative piece, Let It Rain / Meditations on a day when the river… it was a rush! Then the crowd lifted the roof as Festival Director, Sarah Gory took the stage to close the festival. This was Sarah’s first year with QPF and I personally hope that it the start of a long relationship.
And so the festival was over, leaving us all with the hum of poetry in our bones, and a bounty of memories to live with until next year. I hope that all of the poets heading for home today travelled safe… we miss you already!