Canberra is a very poetic city, but you may not realise it. I certainly didn’t!
Before commencing a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing, I had almost zero knowledge of poetry and felt fairly sure it wasn’t my thing. But from the very first semester, I found my coursework to be poetry heavy, and it was a poem by a Canberra-based writer that gave me a moment of realization: I am a fan of poetry and I have a massive amount of catching up to do. That poem is “Dinner Party at Ness” by Judith Nangala Crispin and I urge you to check it out.
I discovered that Canberra is the ideal place for a convert to poetics to find themselves. From the monthly poetry nights at Manning Clark House, Dickson’s poetry slam and readings at Smith’s Alternative every Monday night, Canberra’s poetry community is diverse, supportive and thriving.
And now Canberra has been host to the Poetic City festival for the second time. With a series of workshops that took place throughout June and the main festival events from 1st – 10th July, the festival has brought together the various niches of the city’s poetry community and provided a platform for local poets to share their words with a broader audience.
The festival is coordinated by poet and multimedia performer Jacqui Malins. In an interview on ArtSound FM’s program Poetry on the Radio, Jacqui explained she likes to put poetry in the way of people who may not have discovered it yet. So throughout the festival, you may have seen poetry popping up in various places around City West whether in the form of tear-off haiku flyers, the temporary poetry street library (constructed from refrigerators, because “poetry is cool”) or outdoor poetry readings and workshops.
The festival is supported by the ACT government and the City Renewal Authority with a placemaking grant. As this is the winter edition of the festival, many of the events and poems being shared have been focussed on the cold weather and the particular way our city looks and feels in the colder months.
Now that the main festival program has been underway for almost a week, you may already have caught a performance, an installation or an open mic event. But there’s still time to catch the densest part of the festival schedule in its final days this weekend. Come to the Street Theatre for Saturday’s Zine Fair and SlamCity Showcase, or to Parlour Acton for a celebration of NAIDOC week with ACT’s First Nations Writer’s Group Us Mob Writers, and many other exciting events.
Like any recent convert, I’m a little fanatical. I’ve been volunteering with the festival to get as close as possible to the action. Below are some pictures of our early morning set-up of the street library. It’s still standing and so far, only a few slightly soggy books! Have a look if you are in the area, and create your own poem from the abundance of magnetic words on the fridge doors.
See the full Poetic City Canberra program on the website (https://www.poeticcitycbr.com/) and follow the Poetic City Canberra Facebook page for regular updates.