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Wednesday, 18 February 2009

There’s a call-out for trucking poetry, reports Steve Meacham in The Sydney Morning Herald (8 February).

The Red Room Company, a non-profit organisation based in Sydney, is running it. Founded by Johanna Featherstone, the company has its roots in 2001 with a radio program on 89.7fm, Eastside Radio, called Red Room Radio Show. The company was founded in 2003.

Featherstone reckons the cab is "the perfect place" to write poems. Truckies are “ignored, repudiated and misunderstood” according to the company's website. This is true especially when they tailgate at 100km per hour on a single-lane highway.

The road may go on for a while in this uncomfortable manner but there’s lots to see and truckies, for all their faults, are in the box seat when it comes to visiting the countryside. Every day they ply their trade and are presented with aspects of Australia most people see infrequently, if ever. Cloud shadowed hills, dried out pasturage, the sun breaking out from behind a clump of gum trees to show who’s boss despite your grip on the wheel of your rig as you hurtle along at speed.

Featherstone asked John Laws, the retired radio announcer - and a bit of a poet himself - to put out a call for truckies to volunteer their work for scrutiny and inclusion via a website, dustpoems.com.

To be included in the ‘logbook’ of poetry will be work by “a wandering wordsmith” named Mick O’Brien who features in Meacham‘s story (pic).

Featherstone got the idea for the collection at a highway truck stop. “How many poets are there within the trucking industry?” she asked herself.

"People have this image of truck drivers being large, rough and covered in tattoos," said Mr O'Brien, 41. "But most of us are ordinary blokes, and there's a lot of women driving trucks these days, too."

Dust Poems “is being created in partnership with Sydney Olympic Park Authority and coincides with the Royal Easter Show,” says the website.

Construction sites, carparks and hidden locations of Sydney Olympic Park will be transformed by installations that display the six poems in interactive ways. The public will be invited into these spaces by way of a route map that navigates a Truck Poem Search. The Search will contain toy trucks donated by the public, and poems logged at the Park by roaming visitors. You can help us construct the Search by donating toy trucks to deposit points at the Red Room and Sydney Olympic Park.

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