Cafe Poet Update

I'm shamefully overdue for an update on my experiences as a Cafe Poet. It's not for lack of things to write about, either.

First, there's been the chance to meet a lot of fascinating people who love poetry. There was the older gentleman, a former soldier, who spotted a story in the local paper about me as poet in residence, and came by to show me his poems and tell me a whole lot about his life story. He himself is too young to have fought in either of the World Wars, but he lost family members in both. He writes poems about that, and even now, when he gets to the part where they die, he still cries.

Then there was the young woman on assignment to take photos that epitomize Wollongong as "a city on the verge of recovery" or something implausible like that; she's just back from riding ponies across Mongolia. Here is her web site; she has some fabulous photos under "Essays". Gratifyingly, she still shoots actual film with a venerable and tank-tough Pentax K1000, the same model camera I myself have dragged all over the world with me. Her shots have a burnished quality that crisp, crisp digital can't equal, I'm sorry, that's how I feel.

I've given out little slips of poetry from the Poet-Tree (get it, get it?) to dozens of people, most, if not all, of whom have been delighted. I've been having lots of fun scouring the Internet for startlingly brilliant works from poets of diverse backgrounds (diversity is good) whose work is in the public domain (not violating copyright is good).

I've had a mini-write-in with someone who found me (somehow) on Twitter.

I've begun organizing the series of open-mic readings and slams that will, I hope, provide a focus for performance poetry in Wollongong, and I've already started finding like-minded people to come and read, or just come and listen. The more, the better, y'all! Go to the Poetry at Yours and Owls page on Facebook for more information!

Along those lines, last week I had the terrific experience of attending a performance-poetry workshop by the people at the Centre for Poetics and Justice. It was actually here in Wollongong, which knocked me out (figuratively speaking), because while the University of Wollongong does have a creative-writing program, there doesn't seem to be a lot of performance poetry associated with it, and I was shocked, frankly, that it would even occur to the CPJ folks to stop here on their tour. Turns out one of the three founders is a 'Gong boy, and they wanted to do a gig on his home turf. Worked out great for me, as I got to attend a very inspirational workshop at a very reasonable price, and go to their performance later that night for an equally reasonable price. They are very supportive of my efforts to galvanize some performance poets into action here, and they let me announce my upcoming events here at Owls, as well, so it was win-win-win-win all around!

Finally, part of my brief as Cafe Poet is to actually, like, write some poetry while I'm sitting here. What's interesting me at the moment is using poetic language on stage — to ramp up the intensity, the imagery, in what the actor is saying, and to give them a chance to really cut loose on some really electric stuff. Fun and challenge for the actor, for the writer, and (hopefully) for the audience. Well, I've been working on a short one-person piece (I'm estimating it will run about 12 to 15 minutes or so) that incorporates some stuff I wrote a while ago, some stuff I've written while sitting here at Yours and Owls, and some stuff I came up with during that workshop. I've sent the piece off to a theatre company that is calling for submissions, so we'll see how that goes!

So: status report, two months (one-third of my residency) along. Writing poetry, check. Publicizing my residency and the program, check. Being an ambassador for poetry, check. Creating a welcoming atmosphere for other poets, check. Coordinating poetry-related events, check. Blogging about the experience, check (finally). Bringing more business to Yours and Owls — don't know yet, but I guess all the publicity and stuff can't hurt.

And now, back to writing poetry. I leave you with my current favorite piece of performance poetry, by Mark Grist:



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