Poet and Novelist


How we do poetry

The Australian Poetry Symposium was held recently, in Newcastle, in tandem with the annual celebrations for the Newcastle Poetry Prize. The NPP was also celebrating its 30th anniversary: all those ambitious poems written and re-written and posted in, all 200 lines of them, for 30 years... something like 3,000,000 lines of poetry! The prize was originally established as the Mattara Poetry Prize by Paul Kavanagh and Christopher Pollnitz and they ran it for many years before it morphed into the current NPP. Congratulations to everyone involved for this magnificent and brilliantly long-lasting demonstration of Australian poetry and its tenacious poets.

The Symposium was a very full day of poetry and discussion, mainly discussion. A lot of time given early to poetry as entertainment (what the Americans used to call Extension in their professional organisations, ie: getting the public involved) and then a change of direction to give poets a chance to talk about... actual poetry. Given a program which ran from 8am (cafe readings) until 9pm (the final papers) and then moved to the pub for a further hour of Slam – the day was far too long and too densely laden with presentations. The program was made more unwieldy by the Director Paul Kooperman interpolating a 30 minute (ie: unscheduled) performance about the value of Slam poetry by Emily Zoe Baker into the middle of the day's events. This was a repeat of a performance she'd given at another event and seemed an unnecessary indulgence in a busy day already busy with poetry as performance (a persistent part of the AP agenda). It then made all subsequent panels and events run madly against the clock.

The feedback several of us received suggested the panel session on Inhabiting the Poem was a very welcome shift back to addressing the poem, and writing, rather than reception; and several of the night papers were also sharply interesting, especially Michael Sharkey adding critical suggestions to issues of professionalism/s in AP's modus operandi, and then Pete Minter's biting piece on the Lehmann/Gray anthology. Pete addressed the politics of the editors' anthologising of indigenous poets (or not), ie: their inclusion in/erasure from the anthology. Fascinating. Absurdist, even.   

Other than writing and reading and publishing poetry, we discuss it, award it and anthologise it, and each of these forms matter. Always worth thinking about.

Details of the events are available at the Australian Poetry website.