… and before I can blink the sleep out of my eyes, I am back at The Judith Wright Centre, ready for the double helping of words on offer; Storm and Honey featuring performances from Doubting Thomas & Eleanor Jackson (aka DJ Thought Fox and MC Lady Lazarus) and Andrew Phillips & Tiggy Johnson + the launch of Nicholas Powell’s ‘Thomas Shapcott Award-Winning’ debut collection, Water Mirrors (UQP 2012).
Knowing that I can catch Nick reading later in the day, I opt for Storm and Honey and this is richly rewarded. Thought Fox & Lady Lazarus open up with a performance that has them embodying Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, re-imagining their lives through their own performances and interpretations of interviews and poems, alongside readings from both Plath and Hughes with the most stunning visual imagery creating a swirling backdrop (and later in the day Doubting Thomas is rewarded for his mastery of the poetic film, taking out the QPF Filmmakers Challenge). Thought Fox and Lazarus are captivating on the stage, their interaction crackling with energy. It’s the perfect poetry hair-of-the-dog to get the day kickstarted… intensely dark and joyous and I would kill to watch it all over again.
From there, we are taken on a full 360 degree spin with a life-affirming performance from Phillips and Johnson. They take us into the heart of their families, then skillfully and fearlessly, allow us to experience some of their most intimate moments. The reading is taken from their dual collection, That Zero Year, which I was honoured to write a blurb for. This is what I had to say:
From the sudden weight of Thirteen Weeks to the biting complaints of Fishing, That Zero Year, screams with joy.These poems form a dialogue of love and loss; unpicking stitches in the family weave to welcome us to the bedside table of these most private moments. Here, we witness breath-taking devastation – the missing knee in the chest, the remembered rub of a belly – and wide-eyed wonder – a smile wriggled through to the toes. That Zero Year is an unflinching celebration of breath and blood. Phillips and Johnson know what it is to be alive and we are richer for it.
This is a collection that I strongly recommend you seek out. You can do so by contacting author, Andrew Phillips via his blog. And their reading… earnest, heartfelt, wonderfully human!
So with a buzz in the temples I eagerly take in the opening of Whisper Me Awake. I have the pleasure of catching the majority of Vanessa Page’s reading and she proves just why her work has been shortlisted in the Thomas Shapcott Award in 2011 and 2012. Her voice is assured, her words ringing with the fullness of the heart. If you have not yet acquainted yourself with Vanessa’s work, you can do so here, and believe me… she is a poet to watch!
From here, I am on dad duty (the most wonderful duty in the known universe), so it’s not until the 3:15pm sessions, Through These Paper Walls and Sharp With Sparks, that I get my next poetry fix. And what a fix… first up I take in Robert Adamson’s last reading for the festival. Hearing Robert read is a wonderful experience… his voice, lifts the words gently from page to ear; easy as breathing. Highlight is not even close to describing Robert’s readings… his presence at the festival has had a profound impact on me. Then it’s off to the Theatre to catch the end of Nicholas Powell’s reading and the first half of the man I described as having the best fingernails in poetry, Steve Smart. Nick is dazzingly relaxed while Steve is poised and menacing. It’s a great combination! And then it’s back to the Shop Front to hear Paul Summers, close the session with another rousingly witty reading. His lyricism is sharp and his keen eye for detail takes us into the heat of each moment. Before QPF I was not familiar with Paul’s work… thankfully, I am now.
For me, it’s now a long stint working the book store, where I am fortunate to have incredible conversations with Robert Adamson and Jill Jones. Working the store is a real pleasure and a great chance to connect with many of the festival punters, all of whom are brimming with festival energy.
And then, in what seems an instant, we are all rolling in to the Theatre for the final session of the festival, Evening Draws Back The Sun. There are many stunning performances, but the closing trio of Darkwing Dubs, a.rawlings and Tylea showcase the vastly different styles that QPF so elegantly unites on the same stage.
Dubs is a master of the blackly comic, bringing the room to its knees as he surges through a treasure trove of Saturday morning super heroes and threatens to slap an orangutan in the face; but he can also kick hard… delivering a slap to the senses with a poem that takes a child’s-eye look at domestic violence. a.rawlings then delivers a superb reading from her collection, Wide Slumber for Lepidopterists. Her presence on stage is magnetic, her voice control, thrilling. Having angela with us in Brisbane as Arts QLD Poet-in-Residence for the past two months has been nothing short of inspirational. And then, Tylea hits a big open chord, heavy with delay and sends the most delicious shiver right through to my toes. Like rawlings, she is impossible to look away from… her easy manner and delightful banter (school fetes, jumping castles and sick children) hold the audience captive allowing the emotion of her songs to burst inside us all. Tylea closes the festival by inviting Pascalle Burton on stage, to pay tribute to Yoko Ono. It’s a rush and the perfect way to sing QPF to sleep for another year…
Before I sign off, I have to pay tribute to Sarah Gory, Talina McKenzie and the volunteer committee. I hope you are all, like me, high on festival spirit. QPF is the pinnacle of our poetry community; the fire that brings us all together and I for one, am incredibly proud to have sat by its warmth.
Til next year…