February has but a handful of days left, which means Summer is also all but gone… It is also time to say goodbye to our February Pin-Up Poet, Ross Donlon, but never fear, he will be hear in Brisbane before the month is out performing at Riverbend Books and SpeedPoets. And he is also running a workshop while he is in town, which is what we got to talking about this week.
I wanted to ask about the workshop you are running in Brisbane titled ‘Catching Poems’. What can participants expect to come away with at the end of the day?
Yes, I’ve begun to call my workshops ‘Catching Poems’ picking up on what someone said – I forget who, ‘The world is full of poems. They just need an edit.’ The class will be writing poems to begin and reading poems aloud in the last session.
I have a couple of mantras I put on the board and one is by Frank O’Hara : ‘Follow Your Nerve’.
So the aim is to have the class come away with a number of drafts from short bursts of intensive writing following some ideas and stimulus and models I supply. Ideally there will be ‘useful lines’ or ‘useful passages’, even a ‘useful phrase’, they they can then take home and build into a finished poem from the exercises.
It is not a class where poets will be pondering and mulling for an extended period of time and chatting with me. Others are put off or lose concentration with that muttering, I think. I do ‘go around the class’ and invite poets to read their ‘best bit’ be it a phrase, or line, or sentence or pasage – more as the class develops and poets become more relaxed. So, if the class goes away with, say 6 ‘useful bits’ in 6 different kinds of poems to work – that’s what I’m after.
I was at the last launch of a major Australian literary journal. There were six readers, including me, but an observer present said that only three of us could be understood. The rest were too fast and / or indistinct because they were too far from the mike. Diction is helped if the pace is right. So I think this is a useful skill to learn whether for reading poetry – or at your wedding!
So in the last session we will do microphone technique and reading for an audience where each person reads a poem they have chosen (not their own) using the mike. I will model what I do, then it’s likely each poet will go through their poem a couple of times with me offering some advice.
In sum, I hope the class will take away: some useful drafts / some new poems and names to follow up / some ideas about reading technique.
I’m also happy to do a Q and A if there’s time about my experiences as regards publishing or reading or anything else about writing and reading poetry.
There are still places left in the workshop, so for those lucky enough to be able to attend, here are the details:
Catching Poems w/ Ross Donlon
Join award-winning Victorian poet Ross Donlon for an all-day session, giving poets ideas to catch and edit poems as well as tips and practice on how to read for public performance. This is a hands-on workshop using both formal and more open structures, so poets can expect to take away a number of drafts. There will be time for writing and sharing. The afternoon session will also include tips on mic use and public performance techniques with flexibility for other interests which may arise from the early session.
Ross is published in both newspapers and academic journals and has read at festivals both in Australia and England. He has won prizes both for the written and spoken word, including the Launceston Cup, premier spoken word event of the Tasmanian Poetry Festival and the Wenlock Festival Poetry Prize (U.K.) judged by Carol Ann Duffy, English Poet Laureate. His latest book, The Blue Dressing Gown and other poems, is published by Profile Poetry.
When: Sunday 4th March 2012
Time: 10am – 3pm
Where: Room 1.A, State Library of Queensland
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information or to enrol in the workshop.
At Haberfield Demonstration School
I was with the boys in our group
at the meeting place, a peppercorn tree,
eating lunch inside the shadow.
The peppercorns’ bright, spicy scent
remains in memory
the way it stays on fingers with the stain.
Soon I would be ready for the Big School.
Boys were separated from the girls’
asphalt playground of rectangles, circles and squares.
Boys played wars up
and down a sloping paddock beyond the classrooms.
We heard the cries a continent away.
Suddenly the talk came to fathers and what they did.
As turns edged around the circle like a clock
I discovered that I could not speak.
What was it that could I not say?
The bell saved me as I was falling.
A huge part of who I thought I was
had avalanched, as if a shelf dropped
from a mountain.
I was an obedient child
but I ran home from school then to Nan,
my family skittled by a missing pin.
We sat on her bed and looked at photographs
and a face the size of a fingernail.
Bill. From the war.
She fanned out pictures like playing cards.
It was a summer’s day.
The bedroom’s lace curtains glowed in the heat.
Wind blew sweet scent from Peek Frean’s biscuit factory.
The bitumen noise of cars rushed down our street.