Tongues of Flame: Mark Roberts Previews the 2012 Queensland Poetry Festival

One should perhaps suggest to Campbell Newman that he keeps well clear of the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts between 24th and the 26th August – though I would image the prospect of Mr Newman, or any of his cabinet, venturing anywhere near a Contemporary Arts Centre named after a poet would be remote under any circumstance. I somehow suspect that Premier Newman is not the sort of person that appreciates poetry or poets and that he would feel very uncomfortable surrounded by some of Queensland’s and Australia’s best poets at the 16th Annual Queensland Poetry Festival.

The 2012 festival kicks off on 24 August with the Official Opening at 6pm followed by “the opening night event”, Tongues of Flame featuring ‘national treasure’ Robert Adamson (NSW), African-American jazz poet L.E. Scott (NZ), ‘brilliant interdisciplinarian’ a.rawlings (Canada) and singer-songwriter Holly Throsby (NSW).

The Festival includes two paid workshops: ‘The Art of Reading a Poem’ with Robert Adamson on 24 August and ‘The Poetry of Politics’ with L.E. Scott on 25 August. Other poets appearing at various events over the three days of the festival include Kathryn Lomer, Ray Liversidge, Nathan Curnow, Paul Summers, Jean Kent, Marty Smith, David Stavanger, Steve Smart, L.E. Scott, Michelle Dicinoski, Carmen Leigh Keates, Philip Hammial, Brenda Saunders, Charmaine Papertalk-Green, Misbah Khokhar, Cameron Hindrum, Geoff Lemon, Jill Jones, Nicola Easthope, Robert Adamson and angela rawlings among others.

There are also a number of awards being announced during the festival, including the 2012 Arts Queensland Val Vallis Award for Unpublished Poetry which this year is being judged by Robert Adamson, Sue Abbey and Kent MacCarter, and the 2012 Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize for an unpublished manuscript with 2012 judges Thomas Shapcott, Felicity Plunkett, Justin Clemens.

Interestingly for a poetry festival there is also a ‘film festival/challenge’ with the Queensland Poetry Festival Filmmakers Challenge exploring “the arena where poetic expression and audio-visual technology collide”. Filmmakers, video artists, poets, and all multimedia practitioners were asked to create a short work which could include a record of poetry performance, a video text manipulation or their own interpretation of the challenge. The winner, along with a selection of shortlisted entries, will be screened at the festival.

In addition to the Brisbane program the festival for the first time while be going bush….or at least to Bundaberg, Gladstone, and Rockhampton to host workshops, readings, and performances as part of the inaugural QPF Regional Roadshow.

Of particular interest this year is a collaboration the Festival and Cordite Poetry Review which has seen the on-line publication of ‘Gibberbird: Of Birds and Other Strings’.(Special Issue 39.1). Gibberbird consists of a ‘source’ poem, written by Canadian poet (and 2012 Arts Queensland Poet in Residence) angela rawlings, together with ten poems responding to the source poem by a number of Queensland poets. As the title suggests the project is centred around birds and, as Cordite suggests in their introduction, the source poem represents “a foreigner’s first tenuous steps into Queensland’s ornithological lexicon via unorthodox categorization and linguistic sorting methods’. While Rochford Street Review will attempt a more in-depth review of this intriguing poetic collaboration in the new future, an initial reading suggests that this is a work that will repay multiple careful readings.

All in all the 2012 Queensland Poetry Festival promises to be an exciting few days for anyone who finds themselves north of the Treed River between the 24 and 26 August. Above everything else the Festival takes occurs at a critical time for artists and poets in Queensland after the new LNP Government declared their hand earlier this year by scrapping the Premier’s Literary Awards and then cutting a swath through government funding of arts organizations. Lets hoped that the QPF have their funding locked in for the next few years!

– Mark Roberts


Mark Roberts is a Sydney based writer and critic. He currently edits Rochford Street Review.

Queensland Poetry Festival

‘Gibberbird: Of Birds and Other Strings’

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