What a joy it's been to get down to Smith's Alternative in Canberra these last two Mondays for "That Poetry Thing" and "Recent Work Readings." To think of all the great poets gathered together in that wonderful space is a treat in itself. It was a gift to hear the likes of Dimitra Harvey, Hester, Damen O'Brien, Theodore Ell, and Anita Patel read their sets. (Left: Dimitra Harvey reads some of her new work, and from her chapbook A Fistful of Hail, Vagabond 2018. I'll get an establishing shot of the room, or the front of house next time, but it's nice to have the focus on the poets!)
Each time the room was full with open mic enthusiast or family that had gathered for the special launches. A smattering of people from around the state, and even Damen's travelling from Brisbane made each night feel like the cosmos of contemporary Australian poetry had gathered together to celebrate in the space.
Close by, for each of the evenings, was the sensational Shane Strange (of Recent Work Press) and Sarah St. Vincent Welch. And what a lot of s's in that sentence—very alliterative and sibilant. Their enthusiasm (Sarah) and generous wit (Shane) were an every-guiding presence behind the mics. They warmed the crowd and the crowd warmed to them—what else is there to do when it's 4 degrees outside?
It was lovely to bump into the ever bright Kate Lines and meet some masters in Martin Dolan and John Foulcher. I even had the chance to get up and read a poem, on that was written close by, Stuart's Crossing Under Lights. Although, I'd had too much caffeine by that stage, so my fingers were shaking like all those similes you're thinking of.
There was a wonderful spirit about the place, in a love for poetry in its many forms, and in appreciation of the work that goes into making them fine—the craft, the hours of edits, the sharing of work.
Next time you're in Canberra and you're looking for the beating pulse of the arts, you won't find drumming any clearer than on that small stage at Smiths—where I hope you'll find a poet, or a musician, and a crowd in tune with their rhythms. Monday night, for goodness sake! Everything in Robbo is shut at 6:00pm! The place was full until almost 10!
In two nights, more than half the authors of these books (pictured below) read from them at Smith's. In Canberra! On a Monday! You can see why people go! I'm thankful for the friendships begun, and the ones enriched. I've shared a few words on some of the books below in the previous post.