Tag Archives: Extinctions by Sandra Thibodeaux

A Matter of Disturbance: Talking with Sandra Thibodeaux

A vocal mob are about to descend on our fine city, as the 2011 QLD Poetry Festival is literally just around the corner. I have been bouncing questions back and forth between some of this year’s featured artists, starting with Australian Poetry’s inaugural Poet-in-Residence, Sandra Thibodeaux.

Earlier this year you won the role of Australian Poetry’s inaugural Poet-in-Residence. What have been the highlights of the role so far?

I loved my two trips to Tennant Creek. There are some great (mostly Indigenous female) writers there who always make me remember the important things – the strength of words, the beauty of female solidarity when all the nonsense is stripped away. I sometimes go to Tennant in tatters and leave feeling whole.

I have enjoyed getting to meet so many poets across Australia, both virtually and in real life. I’ve had some great laughs with people like Coral Carter, Amelia Walker, Matt Hetherington, Derek Motion, Nathan Curnow and your good self, Graham!

It’s been satisfying to see people’s ideas spark in the workshops I’ve facilitated. I’ve seen some barriers collapse and some new writing journeys commence in the different classes.

Winning the comedy debate in Katherine – That Books are Better Than Bucking – made me gloat for a few weeks. I’m fiercely competitive in a debate.

My Friendly Street gig in Adelaide was memorable – I’ve never met such hardy folk! Their readings are like one-day cricket matches.

I’d still have to call my recent Darwin gig with Sietta my favourite, though. I really love that band, the crowd was pumped, the open mic was top-notch – a great night.

Your touring schedule has been quite hectic and there is no sign of it slowing down. How has this manifested itself in your creative output?

Luckily, I’ve grouped commitments together so that I travel for a month or so and then stay home for the same amount of time. This has been a good balance. In the home months, I’ve knocked out a play (almost finished now) about a politician who breaks his restraining order two weeks before an election. Also, in the home months, I’ve followed up with workshop participants and written new poems, many of which have been uploaded to the blog.

And, of course, being on the road has been inspiring – I wrote a few poems in Tennant and in Adelaide, and feel some inspiration coming upon me now for Brisbane!

Life on the road will soon land you in QLD, where, as part of QLD Poetry Festival 2011, you will be facilitating a workshop titled, ‘Disturbing the Poem’. Give us the lowdown on some of the techniques of disturbance you will be asking poets to consider.

I tailor-make these classes according to the participants’ needs – they email me their poems ahead of the class. However, in general, I find that we normally work around issues of voice, position, character, structure, metaphor, concrete details, titles and last lines. We do this through exercises, models and reflections. They are active classes, and the participants walk away with a few new poems. Rob Walker, in the Adelaide class, said: ‘I especially appreciated the huge amount of time and thought that you obviously put into our poems in preparation for the workshop. I was blown away that you’d actually gone to the Botanic Gardens to research my obscure trees.’ So, yeah – give me your trees, and I’ll help you bend them towards new sky.

You have been a part of the QLD Poetry Festival family before in 2005. What are your memories of the festival and what are you most looking forward to this year?

I like how you’ve used the word ‘family’! Well, that’s how it felt. I remember Graham and Julie holding hands in the audience once the lights went down. Cute! I was room-mates with Amelia Walker in 2005, and we’ve continued to be friends. I met Yvette Holt for the first time, and we went on to work together on several occasions. I was mesmerised by Hinemoana Baker and knocked out by Ian McBryde – I love his dry wit. I was also struck by the talent and integrity of Kevin Gillam, and we invited him to Darwin last year. And I must say … Graham Nunn’s MCing was superb – I much prefer the snapshot style of introductions you do. They’re so much better than full biographies.

Is there a poem you have recently written that has you more excited than usual?

The ones that have excited me the most are too long for this forum, I feel, but I don’t mind this one:


Camp dog draws an arc around your fire.
With a flick of your careless head, you allow
her into the warmth when you have a need
of her bristling fur beneath your fingers.
She approaches on careful paws, never asking too much.
Is this why you give her even less?
Her ribs are numbered. When you’re done,
you toss the bones into the ashes,
nudge her away with cracked boots
and leave the number of a disconnected phone.


Catch Sandra at the following QPF 2011 events:

Disturbing the Poem w/ Sandra Thibodeaux
FRIDAY 26 August
10:00am – 1pm

Join Australian Poetry Poet-in-Residence, Sandra Thibodeaux, as she takes you through the art of poetic disturbance. Sandra will be encouraging participants to ‘disturb’ their poems, shifting perspective, place, chronology and voice; playing with economy, resonance, metaphor, structure, colour, and the senses. Such disturbances may unearth new levels to the poetry or may lead to the creation of new works. This active workshop is designed for poets o f various levels. Though not essential, participants will get more out of the workshop if they email drafts of poems a week beforehand.

Where: Queensland Writers Centre, Level 2, State Library of Queensland, Cultural Centre, Stanley Place, South Brisbane

Cost: $20

To book please contact the Queensland Poetry Festival on 07 3842 9950 or by email at qldpoetry@gmail.com. Places are strictly limited, so get in early.

FRIDAY 26 August:
Of Rhythm and Rapture

Join us for the opening night extravaganza of 2011 Queensland Poetry Festival, Of Rhythm and Rapture.

Lighting up the stage will be poets Sandra Thibodeaux (NT), Sawako Nakayasu (Japan), Jacob Polley (UK), and singer-songwriter Kate Fagan (NSW).

Acclaimed singer-songwriter and poet Kate Fagan will feature with a very special one-hour feature set showcasing her musical and lyrical talents. This is also the first time Australian audiences will have the opportunity to experience the 2011 Arts Queensland Poet in Residence Jacob Polley’s ‘transcendental’ style, and the textured, eccentric work of Sawako Nakayasu.

It will be a night to set the stage on fire!

Tickets start at $15 and are available now through the Judith Wright Centre on 07 3872 9000 or via their website. Don’t forget to join as at the JWC for the rest of the weekend of FREE poetry and spoken word.

When: Friday 26 August

Time: 7.30pm

Where: Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, 420 Brunswick St Fortitude Valley 4006

SATURDAY 27 August:

Shelter in the Flesh, 2:45pm, SHOPFRONT Space, Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts (Free Entry)

SUNDAY 28 August:

Onward to Infinity, 7:00pm, THEATRE Space, Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts (Free Entry)


Filed under interviews/artist profiles

A few days with Salt on the Tongue pt. 1

Well I am finally back in home waters and my head is leaking poetry, thanks to an incredible weekend in Goolwa + Tuesday night’s Riverbend Books reading & last night’s Back Room event at Confit Bistro.

So my thoughts on the Salt on the Tongue festival…

Let me start by saying that Goolwa is beautiful country and it was a true privilege to be welcomed to the land by Aunty Eileen of the

Ngarrindjeri people, in traditional language as part of the festival’s opening night celebration. Other highlights of opening night were the debut screening of a film produced by Joe Dolce, featuring one of the last ever interviews with the late Dorothy Porter, detailing her love of C.P. Cavafy and the festival launch speech by Stefano De Pieri, best known for his television series A Gondola on the Murray and his work with the Mildura Writers Festival. Stefano spoke passionately about the land and the devastation of the Murray River as a result of the years of irrigation; his speech brimming with the same wild fire that makes poetry so vital, concluded with a poem about the Murray written by Paul Kane.

And then came readings by the international guests: Glenn Colquhoun (New Zealand) who charmed the audience, reading a series of love poems for an ex-girlfriend who was born in South Australia; welshman Robert Minhinnick; Slam Queen, Arianna Pozzuoli (Singapore) who lit up the stage every time she got near a microphone; and Elizabeth Smither (New Zealand). A big first night… and after rising at 4:30am it was time for this Lost Shark to close his eyes and prepare for Saturday.

Saturday kicked off with readings from Bronwyn Lea (her poem Insufficiaent Knowledge gets better every time I hear it), who then introduced Yvette Holt who read a selection of her work from Anonymous Premonition and Sandra Thibodeaux who’s new collection ‘extinctions’ is an absolute gem. Favourites from her set included Extinction (An obsession with the sea steers his poems/ but he’s no lovelorn sailor/ no spilt seaman) and Rabies (Your dog bit me/ right on the throbbing part of my thigh./ And I know why:/ he sniffed that I was another mongrel/ grovelling fro your scraps). A bristling first session!

This was followed by a reading from three Tasmanian Poets – Esther Ottaway, Anne Kellas and Adrienne Eberhard. I was particularly taken by Adrienne’s work. Her poems Phosphorescence (When I pull the rope, a bucket/ of drowned stars appears, as if the night-/ sky’s fallen into the sea) and Earth, Air, Water, Fire: A Love Poem in Four Elements ( from earth: We carry caves inside us/ – the heart’s dark chambers,/ water-washed cavern of the womb) are still resonating with me.

Then we were off to Cafelicious for the launch of Andy Jackson’s debut collection, Among the Regulars. While it was sad that Andy’s book was not there for the launch (it is however now available online), it is always a pleasure to hear Andy’s wonderfully physical work. And he is one of Australian poetry’s true gentlemen!

Following this we took off to catch the end of the Motherlode launch. And what a launch. This was a true poetry sampler, with 21 of the included poets (incl. Jordie Albiston, Jill Jones, Jan Owen, Rebecca Edwards, Jude Aquilina, Lisa Gorton) getting up to deliver a poem from the anthology. Motherlode is an incredibly vital anthology and it was a real treat to hear so many of the voices in one live setting.

It was then time to prepare for my own session alongside Alex Skovron, Sarah Day & Louise Oxley. I have long enjoyed the work of each of these poets so it was a real thrill to be able to introduce them and hear them weave their spell. Many of their lines are still circling in my head:

‘one night a thousand calendars from now’ – Alex Skovron

‘ with a brushstroke I can take myself into and out of the dark’ – Louise Oxley

and Sarah Day’s description of a cat poised, ‘a laser beam of concentration’

Saturday night’s main session was a symposium on the state of poetry in the country. While it was wonderful to have a gathering of minds, sharing their thoughts on various aspects of Australian poetry – establishing touring circuits, models to overcome the difficulties with distribution, the merge between Australian Poetry Centre and the Poet’s Union – for me the event missed the mark. Too many of the speakers approached the forum with a narrow focus, speaking emotively about specific strategies being implemented in their state, when what we really need to be looking at is the bigger picture of audience development on a national (and even global) level. Julie Beveridge presented some really interesting data, gathered from a survey of more than 50 poets in Australia, which confirmed that audience development is where our national body needs to be focussing its energy. I do, however, think there are some interesting discussions beginning, as on the positive side, the forum provided an opportunity for many of us to network and make stronger connections.

These discussions continued at the festival club, housed in a little boutique brewery right on the river… and to soundtrack the discussions Max_Mo were carving out a mean groove, featuring some cool jazz and the words of Amelia Walker, Mike Ladd & Rob Walker. A great way to close a massive first day…

I will post my highlights from Sunday and Monday + a few photos tomorrow night.


Filed under events & opportunities, poetry & publishing