Ever noticed the prevalence of hats at poetry gigs? I counted 10 at See What I’m Talking About at Poetica La Mama on Monday night. Seriously, I’m wearing one next time. I need to imbibe that poetic vibe, man.
Wordsmiths riffing to photographers’ work is a seriously smokin’ idea. Monday nights’ poets responded to 17 beautiful photos by Andrew Watson, David Harradine and Jessica Rizzi.
Melbourne’s busiest literature buff, Angela Myer kicked things off and not in a zillion years would you imagine that this was the girl’s first go at a live reading of her own stuff. She spoke with a purposeful clarity and surety that lent much to her work. Her second poem, ‘Longing and the Aftermath of Something’ was my favourite. Written in response to a beautiful photo of a young girl, it oozed hunger and passion while managing its own kind of aural zing with its short, sharp sounds and lines like I make pancakes // I take to his remnants with a straw.
Briohny Doyle responded to her visual stimuli with a subtle theme of loss: feeling loss, lost within your own neighbourhood, and blindness to a lover’s true, maybe murderous intentions. Doyle’s writing is powerful and sharp, but unfortunately some of it was lost to her overly quick delivery.
Ben Pobjie had the rowdy, hat-loving crowd revved up. He let the photographic images spark an idea and then off he ran into his own irreverent, crazy world of incestuous Grandfathers and facetious poets: Are you like my Grandfather… who spooned me?; I didn’t choose poetry, poetry chose me. It’s more than a get rich scheme, it’s a way of life… like quadriplegia.
I could see the skill in Pobjie’s work, which sounded like flash fiction when read aloud, but somehow it wasn’t for me. It seemed too much like shock for shock’s sake, and ultimately left me bereft of any lasting images.
Sean M. Whelan delivered three diverse readings in his effortless style. ‘This is a Ghost Story’ was a cracker of a poem created in response to a beautiful photo by David Harradine of an Asian streetscape. Any poem that starts with There’s a ghost in the Golden Sheep massage parlour just has to be good, right? It was an evocative word-shower of imagination and surprise. It was more than the sum of its parts and left you with a story that lingered long after he finished speaking.
Sean’s last poem was decidedly reminiscent of a Tim Winton story called ‘Abbreviation’. Despite the fact that for some reason I found this a little off-putting, it was fascinating to look at the photo and see where Sean’s brain took him in crafting a poem from it.
The illustrious Barry Dickins rounded off the evening and was certainly the crowd favourite. It seemed odd to me that Barry responded to five different photographs while all the other poets responded to three, but I guess that’s what happens when you’re famous…
Barry did steal my heart, I must admit. He didn’t read or perform his poetry; he breathed it out across the room. There was a definite rhythm to his work which was beautifully matched by his seductive voice. His third poem was written in response to a photo of an alley: I love you keenly, alley. Like death in a good mood… Your father, my father, our father, who art in alley.
If I’d been wearing a hat I would have taken it off. Next time.