Melbourne, Victoria. Late January 2014

Melbourne is a beautiful city.  It reminded me a little of Bristol in so much as there are multiple small suburbs or areas just outside the city centre which seem to have their own personalities and stories to tell. As a by-product of finding my way to various poetry events and places to stay while I’ve been here, I’ve had the chance to explore around the city. I also heard a poem read by Melbourne-based poet Ian McBride… I can’t find it anywhere online, but it describes Melbourne (I’m paraphrasing) as a girl sleeping, curled around the bay. The poem describes the city as many other things besides. It does a much better job of describing Melbourne than I could, so I will keep trying to find it.

I’ve seen some brilliant poets. I bought a collection called ‘This Skin, A Net’ by Andy Jackson, who I saw read at Passionate Tongues in Brunswick. It’s uncommonly beautiful and unusual, whilst also being really communicative and easy to dive into. Andy has a website- amongtheregulars.wordpress.com. Have a peek at it, he’s great.

I also can’t recommend highly enough that you look up poet Randall Stephens. Happily, he’s just released a spoken word album which you can download NOW, and I suggest you do. He’s a robust, alarming, funny and sharp performer. See hear… https://randallstephens.bandcamp.com/

In all the poetry events I went to, unfortunately I didn’t see any female featured poets (apart from myself). This isn’t to say that this is common in Melbourne, I wasn’t there long enough to judge, but I would have like to have heard more from some of the amazing female poets that I heard in the open mics, especially from Loran Steinberg, who’s poem about being bothered by aggressive Neanderthals of public transport was articulate, scary, relatable and also funny. Having said that, there was an all-female poetry night called Mother Tongue, which I couldn’t make it to. So this is not to say that women are not represented in the Melbourne Poetry Scene or anything, just that I would have liked to have seen more.

I have found the Melbourne poetry scene to be friendly, welcoming and supportive. Thanks to Passionate Tongues, The Dan Poets, and Muses, Musos (despite venue troubles!) for having us. It was a real pleasure.

I’ve got to say, it was Australia Day while I was in Melbourne. The day which marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the first fleet of British Ships on Australian soil. It was really interesting and eye opening to hear and witness the various reactions and responses to the occasion. With people re-dubbing the day such things as ‘Invasion Day’ and ‘Survival Day, and celebrating in every way from Aboriginal Hip-Hop nights, to strong and active opposition of the day existing at all, to drinking all day, wrapped in an Australian flag , and subsequently vomiting all over  the last train home. To a certain extent, people in any metropolitan city will choose to celebrate public holidays differently, no surprise there. But it was more than that. Australia is Going Through Some Shit with regards to its attitudes towards its history, and treatment of its native people. Not one person, whether they were celebrating gently with friends, going wild, or purposefully not marking the day, didn’t have something to say about the whys and wherefores of if / when / how Australia Day should be marked.

The ins and outs of this delicate and complicated issue are not mine to pass comment on really. But I just found it really eye opening, interesting and affecting to see a city so deep in discussion with itself. The issue and the history are still recent enough that the end result is still being shaped, attitudes are still changing and the debate is still in full force.

Incidentally, we spent the first part of Australia Day at a BBQ with friends, and the second part at Muses, Musos- a poetry and music event which was supposed to be in a pub, but due to venue issues ended up being held on the pitch at Victoria Park (a well kept, but disused football stadium). In the end, we couldn’t have asked for a better venue, it was beautiful to hear and share poems in the open air and the hush of the stadium. And for my part in Australia / Invasion / Survival Day, I read Robert Burns’ ‘My Bonnie Mary’ with a glass raised to the sunset and the empty bleachers (it was also Burns’ birthday the day before). A final note on that event; what a pleasure to share the bill with this very talented woman, check her out. http://www.philemonmusic.com/

Whilst in Melbourne we stayed with old friends, new friends, friends with beautiful new babies, and our respective families, and made super welcome everywhere. I’m really grateful to everyone for looking after us, especially since while I was in MeIbourne, I got the sad news from home that another of my wonderful Grandads, Sid, had passed away. To lose two men who you loved so very much only six weeks apart is really hard, especially being so far away from home and not being able to support my parents and family properly in their grief. But both Jack and Sid were great adventurers in their time, and hard workers too. So the only thing I can do is determine to be a bold adventurer and a hard worker myself, while I am here.

We’ve got a Great Ocean Road to drive down, and when we get back to Adelaide, a beautiful fringe show to produce and perform.  There’s nothing like bereavement to remind you not to waste your time on this earth, so I’d better do it properly.

Brunswick East, Melbourne

Brunswick East, Melbourne

 

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