Café Poet? In the Riverland?

Those of you who follow me on facebook or twitter may be aware that I’ve recently started a 6 month residency as a Café Poet with Australian Poetry’s Café Poet Program.

What’s a Café Poet you ask?

Australian Poetry is a not for profit organisation established to promote reading, writing and publishing activities associated with Australian poetry in all of its forms. The Café Poet Program places poets in cafes as ‘Poets in Residence’ for a 6-month period to enrich the cultural life of the café and community and provide the poet with space and inspiration to write. The program began at Australian Poetry in February 2009 and has been a huge success, placing more than fifty poets in cafes all over the country and receiving extensive media coverage. AP have also connected cafe poets with various opportunities including working with RMIT media students and being published in the 2009 edition of Blue Dog: Australian Poetry. More information about the Café Poet Program and Australian Poetry can be found at: http://www.australianpoetry.org/cafe-poet-program/

So for the next six months I’m the Riverland’s very own Café Poet! Yay! I’m partnering with Sprouts Café in Berri thanks to lovely manager, Teresa Howie. Sprouts is a lovely little cafe and one of my favourite places to meet friends for a light meal and a catch up so I’m really excited to be partnering with them.

Currently I’m in residence every Monday from 9.30am. You can drop in and say hi, join me for a cuppa, ask questions, offer ideas for themes or titles to inspire my writing or have a go at writing a poem yourself! Throughout the residency I’ll be putting up special challenges to help people have a go at poetry – check them out on the Sprouts Blackboard and on facebook (follow me or Sprouts or both!).

There’s also a Poetry Box so that you can drop in any day of the week and drop in either a theme/title suggestion for me or a poem you’ve written which I’ll write a poem in response to – drop in the following Monday to see what I’ve created!

I’m really excited to be part of this National Program and looking forward to working with my Café and my community to get creative! I’d really like my time as a Café Poet to inspire others to have a go and perhaps entice some of our other local writers out of the woodworks to share their work – please come and play with me!

Throughout the residency I’ll be posting regular updates here and on the Australian Poetry website – you can also stay in the loop by following Sprouts Café and myself on facebook (if you’re not already!)

Today was the very first day of my residency…..so of course I was nearly 20 minutes late….

It was only as I sat down and opened my laptop that I realised the little sign I’d printed to sit on the table with me and convince you to talk to me (because I am non scary and I like talking to people, promise) had my name spelt wrong. It’s a pretty bad sign (no pun intended) when you start the day by misspelling your own name!!! Oh dear…

Today didn’t see much action from others (being the first day and all) – I had a few polite inquiries about what I was doing and a lots of people smile at me, a good start but I bet we can do better than that.

I decided to get the ball rolling by reflecting on Australia Day and seeing if I could capture the day in poem form. For regular follower’s of my blog you’ll know I was invited to make a speech for Berri Barmera Council’s morning celebrations last week….and you’ll also know that Australia Day, or to be exact the date of Australia Day stirs some ambivalent feelings in me.

So I tapped away for an hour or so exploring those feelings and last week’s celebrations and what they meant to me through poetry. Unfortunately I can’t share any of the finished pieces with you – if I decide I want to enter any of the poems I write during the residency in writing competitions they have to be unpublished (which includes self publishing online) but here’s a little snapshot of some of the early drafting to give you an idea of what I got up to:

“My voice dips. Do you hear? There. Suck them in. Against the wind. Tears. On my cheeks. In my eyes. In my voice. Look out. Over faces. A Sea. A whole world. Some nodding. Frowning. Crossed arms. Open bodies. Different. One. I say – I’m proud. Proud to be a Riverlander. You look back at me. We sign this contract together. Cut the cake. Smile for the photos. Here we are. Ready. Finally. Ready.”

“One flag or many.
Something sinking. Something soft.
Somewhere slowly waking.
Something harsh. Something burning.
How then to move? To put one foot next.
Then another.
Gently.
Kind.”

“Paper. Thin on skin.
Two steps, three.
Words now sinking in.
How is this me?
This fragile call
This echo that waits
To float, to fall”

“All the faces spread and stretched across one great grassy canvas
This is family. Community. The laughter of the Riverland.
I like it. This comfort. The smell of bacon. The taste of pancakes.
Wind whipping hair into my eyes. My mouth. My dry mouth.
Waiting.
I finger the papers. Leaf through the words. Words I’ve written.
Words I’ll say. Nerves. A tiny tremor of, what if.
How do I know? What they’ll say. What they’ll think.
Hear that name. My name. Two steps. Another. More.
Deep breath.”

So here’s the first challenge for all of you– What does Australia Day mean to you? How can you express Australia Day through poetry?

Pop in next Monday 6th February to share your Australia Day poems with me – if you can’t make it in on Monday, why not email me or pop your poem into the Poetry Box at Sprouts with a note? Hope to see or hear from you!

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