‘I was delighted to attend Dr June Perkins’s short poetry workshop at Ink of Light, the Baha’i Writers Festival held in Brisbane this year. June’s passion and love of this art form was infectious as she led us through an historical overview of poetry featuring beautiful and significant works from different eras.
Titled The Power of Poetry, her workshop highlighted how poetry can be an act of worship (holding up what is worthy); how it can convey the inexpressible and how it can be used in community building.
June used a fun group activity that had all of us composing lines of poetry in response to a visual stimulus. The end result surprised us all, especially those of us who previously thought we could not write poetry. I look forward to attending a more in-depth and longer poetry workshop with this gifted teacher.
My family arrived in Boonah last Friday night, and stayed at the tranquil home of my friend Elizabeth who is a local resident and greatly involved in her local community’s efforts for sustainability. After enjoying a beautiful misty sunrise and breakfast, we headed up the next day to the World Environment Day festival which was being hosted by BOSS (Boonah Organisation for a Sustainable Shire). The most striking thing to attract our attention when we first arrived was the Vomitor, made from recycled materials and warning us what will happen if we don’t stop littering!
At tenish the traditional welcome from the Ugurapul people happened, conducted by Douglas James, his wife Denise and others from their community.
This was full of ceremony and quite moving. It included a reenactment of what should have happened when new people arrived on these shores, and a smoking ceremony.
After the traditional acknowledgement I gave a short official welcome speech and shared a poem especially written for the festival and dedicated to its themes. I spoke about how poetry is in everything, the totems that many of the Indigenous people’s of the world have and shared that my family totem from PNG is the Bird of Paradise.
I remembered my youth growing up in Tasmania and working with others to in my community to make sure the Franklin stayed wild river. I read out some statistics on the state of the environment in Australia and read ‘River Song’ from Magic Fish Dreaming. I focused on the power of unity and collective action from everyone in whatever capacity they can to bring about change in the world, and mentioned the story of Jadev Peyang.
My dear children shared three songs, and it is so good to see them continue to build their confidence performing in public!
There were more things happening throughout the day in the main stage area, but I mostly spent my time in the sheltered area on my book stall, selling books and was treated to some lovely chats with locals, visitors and other stall holders.
We encouraged people to contribute to a group poem, with about 15 people stopping to participate in this. You can read FROM LOVE – HERE.
Participants, all ages particularly liked the magnet play to create parts of the poem. Here are a series of photographs on the poem in progress.
I managed to sneak up the top on a break to see the following dancers, due to having my dear family on hand to help me out.
The highlight of the day was making friends with Rebecca Brain (BOSS Vice President), also from PNG. I was so delighted when she took a copy of the book home to read to her children, which I wanted to gift to her, but she insisted she had to pay me something, and paid me the retailers price and presented me with a bilum as well. Quigley the Quoll loved that bilum!
I met some other lovely stall holders, food van people, performers, and non profits as well as the singers of the day stopping by to say hello and offer encouragement to my kids for their music. That was just lovely. There was also a storyteller, or was it bush poet who came and told me a long joke about Salmon Rushdie and the Atlantic ocean, because my book reminded him of it… (due to being about a fish.)
Pictured (above) are the not for profit Days for Girls making a difference. There was a whole range of workshops, films, face painting, and demonstrations going on, but I didn’t have a chance to capture all that as I was chatting with people at the stall, about poetry, totems, environment and more.
Dear Elizabeth dropped by a few times to see how it was all going.
I just loved meeting so many interesting people in Boonah.
A massive, massive thank you to the people of Boonah as well as my friend Norah who said hello. May your festival go from strength to strength.
It was also a lovely surprise for my hubby to see the father of a friend from his childhood, who now lives in Boonah!
For more photographs of the day head to my FLICKR SET
You can find out more about BOSS on their facebook page. HERE
Art in the city, not shut away in galleries, but everywhere you look.
It’s on power boxes, telegraph poles, railway station walls.
climbs onto walls and alleyways.
chalked, painted, sprayed, and poster papered.
It’s murals with messages from Martin Luther King
everytime I used to catch the bus in Marrickville
I’d see his face with an Aboriginal flag behind it.
It’s pieces that make you think, smile, wonder remember nature.
Driving past telegraph poles to the Gold Coast
we catch nature wrapping itself around telegraph poles,
birds and trees just in case we don’t see the real
they’re there in art.
I would love to go back and photograph these artistic poles.
I think of the artists commissioned or perhaps underground ones.
What are their names?
Are their signatures there? Is there a guidebook somewhere to tell me the story of the…
Poetry is telling about something in our life.
Poets look closely at life around them.
Poets try to tell about life they see, or hear, or feel, or move through.
Poets also tell something new about what they experience.
Poets also try to imagine what the future might be like, from what they observe. They might imagine a future that has gone bad for us because of our actions of today. They might imagine a future that is fabulous because of the better actions we can do.
Poets try to tell these things in the fewest words they can, rather than writing a story about them. But this is not a rule and some very famous poets (e.g. Ezra Pound) have written a poem as long as a book.
Poets ask questions about everything they experience in life. They think about those things, and look at them from all different angles. This is why poets can be very important to society. Many other people learn a great many things from hearing about it through poetry.
Today I am going to show you one way of writing a poem, even when you don’t think you have anything to think about or write about. You can even do this in a group of 3 children. Do either as individuals, in small groups or as one big group.
1. Sensorials. Each student in the group writes down one thing you remember doing or seeing or smelling or hearing or feeling or tasting or even thinking, since you got up this morning. If doing it as an individual, try to remember five sensory experiences.
2. Free Associations. Now write down what comes to mind when you hear a word. We will start with the theme of the poetry week – RIPPLE. What word comes to mind from the first response. Write it down. And then what comes to mind from that response. Repeat this process until you have five words.
3. Now write each of these words on a piece of paper against the previous list of Sensorials.
4. Now, looking at these pairs of words, write next to them an action or a sound that comes to mind.
5. So here are your key poem words. . .
6. Now, to form you poem around these words, you need to look at everything you have written down, for some sort of meaning, a pattern of meaning. You don’t have to use everything.
Maybe some words stand out. What do they tell about each other? However you start to think about connecting your word images, turn the ideas back onto yourself. Make some phrases about what you are thinking. Speak them aloud. How do they sound. You have to talk poetry but also write everything down. You can cut it out and move it around as you try to make it sound right on the next reading. 10 minutes.
MY EXAMPLE: How I was thinking as I wrote a poem:
My experience this morning – I put on the kettle;
A ripple word: ripple THINK wave THINK pebble
Pebble is an interesting image. Action is skimming. A rapid movement across water. It has a sound like ‘touh, touh touh’; To make skimming there also needs to be the action of throwing.
But if everything comes back to refer to me, then perhaps I am the pebble. And then if I am throwing the pebble then I am throwing myself. How? Where to? Maybe I can think of going to my car to come down to Tully, like I am throwing myself out of the door and down to Tully to the poetry workshop.
My first draft was really clunky but it got the ideas down in a basic poetic form from which I could work the words around. For example, eventually I used the word ‘shot’ instead of ‘throw’. The shorter word fits into the rhythm / metre better, and the sound of the word ‘shot’ is like something going fast and hard, and that is an image the listener will get that, that is different from just saying throw, which is a drawn out word, a bit slower, and softer.
After a while I had: “I picked myself out of bed, like a peeble from the shore put on the kettle poured my coffee drank it down and shot the pebble out the door skimming touh, touh, touh, to Tully”
And because it still sounds a bit clunky about drinking the coffee, I’ll change something in the middle. I realised that I don’t even need to say I put the kettle on, because I can leave that up to the reader or listener’s imagination when they hear that I am drinking coffee. Well that is just my choice. There is no right answer for this. If you think the listener has certain experiences as well and they will fill in the gaps with their own imagination. So now I have:
“I pick myself out of bed, like a pebble from the shore, put on the coffee drank it down and shot the pebble out the door, skimming touh, touh, touh to Tully.”
But it still seems that this poem doesn’t say anything much. Just a description of going to Tully. But is that interesting enough for a poem. Well, because I had a reason to go to Tully, to run a poetry workshop, maybe I can conclude with that in the poem. But that doesn’t sound interesting.
So I chose to return to the meaning of the theme Ripple, to see if I can make a connection with this event of me going to Tully to run a poetry workshop. It occurred to me that ripple has another meaning about a small splash (event) making a lot of waves (events, growth, development). See how making word connections and associations continue to work.
So I could imagine me as a pebble falling from up on the Tableland where I live, into the sparkling water that is Tully. And there is a splash (of poetry work) and a lot of ripples (new poetry work from new poets). And I can see your lives as poets spreading out in ripples from Tully into the world, into the future.
So now I have:
“I picked myself out of my bed
like a pebble from the shore,
put on the coffee,
drank it down,
and shot the pebble
out the door.
Skimming touh, touh, touh,
splashing into Tully,
to the world.”
Hey, did you see, I got throwing back. The kettle is still lost.
But what about a title: mmmmmmmmm (thinking) – what are two or three words that just say everything that the poem is trying to say: Pebbles, for sure. And the poem really is all about me as a poet and everyone I will work with today are poets. And I am the pebble in the poem, so all poets are pebble.
That’s my title: Poets are Pebbles.
POETRY WORKSHOP FOR GRADE 4 STUDENTS TULLY POETRY WEEK THEME – RIPPLE