Hats Off

My first poetry review for the Overload Poetry Festival is up on the Overland website. And here it is again. For those of you who feel the need to read it twice. Totally understandable, of course.


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.



Filed under Art, Australia, Beauty, Festivals, Fiction, Flash fiction, Melbourne, Overland, Overload Poetry Festival, Performance Poetry, Poetry, Reading, Review, Theatre, Writing

9 responses to “Hats Off

  1. That hat observation really made me laugh – SO TRUE. Why is that??!!


  2. And my feedback indicates the hat thing is a world wide phenomenon, England, the US, everywhere, performance poets must wear special hats. There has to be a reason, perhaps it’s something to do with their brains? Further research is definitely called for. Thanks for the heads-up, I’ll get the team onto it right away.


  3. sounds like a nice event. too much ocean between me and thee…

    where might a get a read at Barry’s work? i did a google search but came up empty…


  4. My hat had me on when I commented over there, Simonne. I will simply say here, cool review.


  5. Pingback: Melbourne Retrospective « into the quiet

Leave a reply, start a conversation - go on, you know you want to!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s