Sunday, 6 June 2021

Garden Lounge Creative Space, King Street, Newtown

I got to this event last night in the car by parking in the 4-hour metred zone up in Darlington and by catching the bus down King Street. On-board two kind people with American accents (who were locals) got through to me that the 370 was the bus I needed – which was good because that was the one that stopped. The driver somehow not being able to understand what I needed to know.

As usual I was early and Michael – who runs the Garden Lounge – made me a flat white to compensate for the effort of travelling all that distance from my home. People filed in in dribs and drabs but proceedings didn’t really get started until about 6.30pm. I’d arrived an hour earlier and a lovely man named David took pity on me and we discussed poetry and dreams.

Like me, David writes down his dreams. He agreed with me that “capture” is the right word to use for this process – due to the fleeting impermanence of a phenomenon that, once you’re awake, disappears (as he put it) “in a puff of smoke”. He said he dreams often of whales and the ocean. I told him about my dreams of a workplace I was at 30 years prior.

The readings themselves were footnoted heavily by Michael, who made a point of underscoring the importance of the acknowledgement of country. His version was rather long and intricate but this theme was reprised by the poets, Peter describing in one poem ceremonial statues made by Tiwi Islanders (you can see them at the Art Gallery of New South Wales on the ground floor), Michelle Cahill adding her own acknowledgement of First Nations people and underscoring – in turn – their precious custodianship of the land. In one of her poems, Michelle described roadkill in a way that made you recognise how important it was. For her part, Judith Beveridge talked in a preamble about fruit bats that, near Taree, had been falling out of trees due, she thought, to climate change.

Above: Mark Mordue reading

What struck me most about these four poets was the dividing line between the generations, Michelle and Mark being in most respects more interesting to me. Michelle, especially (and I singled her out in a post I made last month at a similar event) creates fine imagery with poetic language.

Above: Michelle Cahill reading

Peter and Michelle shared common ground in talking about colonial ambition. Mark signalled to a similar theme in one of his preambles when he described stones he’d once found on the South Coast – near Thirroul, a lovely little town near Wollongong – that he thought were the remnants of waste middens left by Aboriginal people. Mark was very conscious in his selection of poems about the fleeting nature of existence, and in one of them described a time when a man he knew pulled a gun on him. Judith countered by talking us though the approach of a mantis to a caterpillar, the coiling of the resources and the strike. Peter affectingly used words that described his late partner.

Above: Peter Boyle reading

I wasn’t able to stay for the second session of readings due to the time limit on my parking space so as soon as Judith had finished her first set I used the facilities out the back of the cafĂ© them bustled out to the street and promptly missed the bus. I went south instead of north and the number 307 was five minutes early. Traffic on King Street was pretty horrible, however, so it was just as quick to hoof it and I negotiated my way through the crowds of diners, the evening strollers, and the groups of young people spilling onto the pavement outside pubs all along the busy thoroughfare.

Above: Judith Beveridge reading

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