They Are Us

I’ve just had the most amazing poetry experience with the They Are Us ekphrastic poetry project. It was the second project between Words out Loud and the Soldiers Hill Artists Collective, the first one being the Weathering the Future exhibition that I was also involved with.

We Are One, Abigail Robertson, 2019

This time around things were a little bit different. The poets wrote their pieces first – they needed to be 12 lines and on the theme ‘They are Us’. At the time I was battling through the PhD, my mind was in the 1940s and 1970s, and initially I had no idea what to write about. Eventually a few seeds grew. I was interested in the idea of the force of weather and how, in the face of storm and fire, humans are no more able to control nature than animals are (climate change aside of course, just from a day to day perspective). I ended up trying to capture the moment of an eye catch, between a human mother and a kangaroo mother as they try to protect an offspring in a bushfire. At the heart of it is essentially the fight for survival. But the work, titled Mother’s Day also plays to themes of motherhood and the physical elements of ‘They are Us’ between mother and child. I wrote my 12 lines and sent the work off in May, 2019.

We then found out that the exhibition wouldn’t launch until February 2020, and I do recall scoffing at the idea that the artists were given months to produce a work, while the poets were given a few weeks. I usually like to sit on my poems for a while, take a break from them and come back with fresh eyes but the timeline didn’t allow this and I was nervous about the quality of the poem without the chance to rest it. (There are actually a few things I’d change if I had my time again)

What I also didn’t take into account was that an Australian summer would fall between the writing and the public reading of the poem. Of course the summer of bushfires that occurred over 2019/2020 was horrific, and with my mind focusing on that I’d really forgotten all about my 12 lines of fictional poetry. To be honest I didn’t even re-read the poem until I was at the opening night of the exhibition, and I was blown away by the art work that had been created.

We Are One, Abigail Robertson, 2019

Abigail Robertson had crafted an amazing bronze sculpture from her interpretation of my words. My quickly swept lines, easily forgotten, had been modelled into bronze. And after the summer that had been, the loss of life, of homes, of livelihood and of wildlife the sculpture and the poem together created such an impact. I cried when I saw Abigail’s work, and she cried when she saw me crying. We discussed motherhood, which was how she connected with the work. She explained to me how she had made the sculpture, the detail that was involved and I nodded along pretending that I hadn’t had a tantrum about the level of time the artists had taken to create their work. She introduced me to her best friend and they told me a story – her friend had seen the statue and decided that it looked like a trophy that a mother would get for Mother’s Day. Abigail had been amazed, because her friend had not read the poem, and didn’t know that it was called Mother’s Day. I love that idea. And that night I bought the sculpture, and every year on Mother’s Day I plan to hold it high over my head!

We Are One, Abigail Robertson, 2019

I was really blown away with the process and the idea of another creative soul taking the time with my words (longer than I had) to create something so beautiful and so lasting. Words are ephemeral in many ways, and seeing them interpreted into bronze was an amazing experience and one that I will treasure. My kids didn’t really like my poem but they think that the sculpture is amazing.

The exhibition ended early due to Covid19 restrictions. When I went along to collect the piece I bought home the nameplate and I now have the mounted poem as well. So for a little bit of isolation fun I’ve arranged them in my house like they are still on display (I won’t be leaving them like this but I needed something fun to do!)

We Are One, Abigail Robertson, 2019
Mother’s Day, Melissa Watts, 2019
Abigail Robertson (Left) and I at the launch.

Southern Cross Literary Competition

Old habits die hard.

I’m no longer the Publicity Office at Ballarat Writers but I still feel the need to remind everyone of the upcoming Southern Cross Literary Prize because it’s a great prize.

The competition is open for short stories to 3000 words, and has an open theme. This year’s judge is Tony Birch. The prize is $1,500 AUD plus there will be two highly commended stories.

Entry is $20 per story. The winning stories will be announced and read at an award presentation in Ballarat in November 2015. The full results and judge’s report will be published on this website in December 2015.

See Ballarat Writers for more information.

Poetry Performances at Ballarat Bergonia Festival.

Ballarat Writers has once again teamed up with Federation Uni to create a wonderful ekphrastic poetry event. This time the Ballarat Council and Writers Victoria have also joined the group and have invited a group of poets to write and perform poetry this long weekend (March 7 – 9) at the Ballarat Bergonia Festival.

Writers have been asked to select an item in the Ballarat Botanic Gardens to write an ekphrastic poem about. I’ve selected the beautiful Eucalypt in the sensory garden.

I love these projects for a few reasons. Ekphrasis is such a rewarding style of writing. I enjoy focusing on the work of others and trying to capture that in a new light, then articulating it clear enough for an audience to understand my interpretation as well as the original work of art. In my case this year I am interested in the design of the gardens, in particular the sensory garden.

The poetry will be compiled into a book available for sale over the weekend, or at the visitor information centre after the weekend.

The readings will take place on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday at 11am and 3pm. I’ll be reading my work on the Monday.

You can read more about the other ekphrastic projects here and here.

Writers Festival in July

death-in-july-web-header

I’m pleased to announce that while I have resigned from my duties at Ballarat Writers this year, I’ve agreed to help out with publicity for the fantastic upcoming Death in July Festival.

Ballarat Writers have a strong reputation for informative and industry specific writers festivals. This year is a break from the CYA and is focused on Australian Women’s Crime Writing. The event is partnered with Sisters in Crime and M.A.D.EContinue reading →

2013 Southern Cross Literary Comp

I’ve been working hard over the last few months to promote the Southern Cross Literary Comp. Please see the details below and share with anyone you think may be interested. It’s a fantastic competition that Ballarat Writers Inc is administering (I am Chair and Publicity Officer)  Continue reading →

I’m talking at the Melbourne Writers Festival

I am very pleased to announce that I will be a panellist and an interviewer at the 2013 Melbourne Writers Festival.

I spent some time helping the team from MWF as part of my role at Ballarat Writers and now I can announce that I’ll be involved in 2 events.

My first event is on Saturday as part of the M.A.D.E. by Writers Panel. I will be discussing how my life as a writer interacts with the ideas of freedom, power and democracy. I’ll be sharing the panel with some great writers and must confess to having what singer/songwriter Paul Kelly calls ‘the pretendies’.

On Sunday I’ll be hosting, In Conversation with M.J. Hyland. I’ve written about her work before and a few years ago participated in a workshop that she was running.  I’m looking forward to this event as it closes out the weekend of events and I’m hoping will have some great audience participation.

So let me know if you’ve got any advice, or any questions you’d like me to ask.

If you’re in Ballarat please come along to some of the events. It’s a great chance to encourage Melbourne arts groups to run regional events.

There are heaps of workshops and panel discussions so please book in.

Tim Pegler

Over the last few months I have been helping Ballarat Writers to prepare for the Ballarat Writers and Illustrators Festival for 2011. As part of this I have prepared by reading  the novels of young adult author, Tim Pegler. Continue reading →

Workshopping

A few weeks ago I attended a Ballarat Writers workshop run by Alison Arnold from Text Publishing and Cath Crowley, young adult author. The day previous Cath Crowley had won the Prime Ministers Literary Award for Young Adult writing, for her novel Graffiti Moon. The class was instantly excited when Alison told us about Cath’s success, and I have to give her credit for turning up so bright eyed the day after the announcement (if that was me I would have had a champagne headache to say the least.) Continue reading →