Australian Poetry’s Cafe Poet Program (2009-2014) and contributing Café Poet bios (curated by Zalehah Turner)

Australian Poetry Cafe Poet Program bannerAustralian Poetry’s Cafe Poet Program placed ‘poets in residence’ at cafes across the country from early 2009 to mid-2014. The program created a national network of poets who were given the space to write, showcase their poetry and engage with the community as part of their six month residencies. While having space to write is essential, many Café Poets also negotiated with the owners to create mutually beneficial programs which included poetry readings, book launches, poetry installations and innovative concepts which directly engaged the café patrons.

Laurie May at Page 27, Alice Springs with her Poet Tree
Laurie May with her Poet Tree at Page 27, Alice Springs.

Indigo Eli arranged for poetic fortunes from herself and other café poets across the country to be served with coffee at her café. Laurie May created salt and pepper shakers covered in short poems from café poets for her coffee shop, created a poet-tree with poetic offerings for all, and wrote poems across the glass windows of the shop to attract passers-by. Mark Niehus offered to write poems on any subject for a small donation on his 1954 Oliver typewriter. Since his residency, he has created amazing Street Art out of some these poems for coffee shop patrons, engaging an even greater community in the ‘power of words.’ Janette Dadd in Moruya, NSW Peter Langston in Tamworth and Robin Archbold in Maleny were just some of the Café Poets to organise regular poetry readings in their cafes. Janette Dadd also launched Ron Pretty’s What the Afternoon Knows (Pitt Street Poetry, 2013) and Brook Emery’s Collusion (John Leonard Press, 2012) in Moruya from her café.

Mark Neihus's poetry on any subject at Zedz Cafe, Adelaide 'Give me a subject and I will give you a little piece of soul'
Mark Niehus’s poetry on any subject at Zedz Cafe, Adelaide. “Give me a subject and I will give you a little piece of soul,” Mark Niehus.

While the program was originally an initiative of the Australian Poetry Centre (APC), the Café Poet Program was maintained by Australian Poetry, after the APC and NSW Poets Union merged in 2010. In late 2013, Australian Poetry changed the program by altering the residencies from coffee shops to libraries, museums and art galleries with the newly named Poet@YourLocal Program. While several Café Poets had already taken up residencies in the coffee shops of libraries and art galleries, the idea was to move them into the actual arts organisations. According to Australian Poetry at the time, they were aiming for residencies for poets in local public libraries. However, the idea didn’t completely take off. Many Café Poets preferred their café residencies and public libraries weren’t expressing at great deal of interest in the program.AP Cafe Poet logo

In January 2014, Australian Poetry notified Café Poets that they had to contact the café or space to arrange a residency themselves. Australian Poetry kept the selection process; approving applications and arranging for the successful applicants to have access to the Australian Poetry Café Poet logo and poster for the walls of the coffee shop but the rest was up to the poets. The program relied heavily on the initiative of the selected poets however, that was also its strength.

Unfortunately, the program was closed late 2014 and Australian Poetry CEO has confirmed that it will not be running again. While it is often the case that arts programs in the community are difficult to maintain over the long term, it is unfortunate given the incredible network of Café Poets and the obvious ‘power of words’ which engaged the wider community and drew poets, readers and lovers of coffee and poetry together. Issue 19 of Rochford Street Review showcases some of the wonderful work from past Café Poets.

Past Café Poets contributing to Rochford Street Review:

Mark Niehus is a multi-talented, multidisciplinary poet. He published his first book of poems How Do You Want the Fire to Leave You? in 2008 and has a second forthcoming, later this year. Mark developed his ‘Street Poetry’ process, using a typewriter to compose spontaneous poems for the public on a subject of their choice, followed by an intimate reading. He performed his ‘Street Poetry’ at Zedz Café in the Adelaide Central Market as part of Australian Poetry’s Café Poet Program from April 2013 to May 2014. He recently completed a series of Street Art hand painted murals in Adelaide and Prospect Memorial Gardens. The murals are a combination of visual art and poetry. The poem for ‘QUIETUDE,’ in the city of Prospect, was originally composed using Mark’s Street Poetry process as part of his Australian Poetry Café Poet residency at Zedz Café. Mark Niehus was also a Café Poet in 2012 at Zuma Café through the AP program.

‘QUIETUDE’ by Mark Niehus

Skye Loneragan is creator of the ongoing project, Q-POETICS which installs the poet and poetry in places and spaces of waiting, working with WordTravels and the Sydney Writers’ Festival 2013 and then the 2014 Commonwealth Games Glasgow, supported by Creative Scotland’s Cultural Programme. Her residency work in includes the ongoing public engagement project, Making a Map of My Mistakes, inviting people in places and spaces of waiting to transform the mistakes offered up (macro-photographic mistakes) into what they’d like to see. Skye was also the Artistic Director of Toonspeak Young People’s Theatre in Glasgow, directing large-scale, site specific work.
Her theatre works include six solo shows, her first (Cracked) winning an Edinburgh Fringe First and adapted for radio with ABC Radio National, and Mish Gorecki Goes Missing. Skye has been published in Buying into The Property Market (GRIST Anthology, UK), The Grin of Our Choices, (Abridged Magazine, UK) and Award Winning Australian Writing(Melbourne Books, 2012). Skye was online featured poet with the Sydney Morning Herald online app & Sydney Poetry Prize winner, 2012. Skye Loneragan was an Australian Poetry Café Poet from 2011-12 at both the Ampersand Cafe and Bookstore in Paddington and in Surry Hills, Sydney.

‘CONTRAST II’ by Skye Loneragan

Rachael Mead is a South Australian writer and the author of three collections of poetry: Sliding Down the Belly of the World (Wakefield Press 2012), The Sixth Creek (Picaro Press 2013) and The Quiet Blue World (Garron Publishing 2015). The Sixth Creek won Varuna’s Dorothy Hewett Flagship Fellowship for Poetry in 2011, a Varuna Publisher Fellowship with Picaro Press in 2012 and was shortlisted for the Adelaide Festival Literature Awards Unpublished Manuscript Prize in 2012. Her latest unpublished manuscript was awarded Varuna’s Dorothy Hewett Fellowship for Poetry in 2015 and was shortlisted in the 2016 Adelaide Festival Literature Awards. Rachael was the Australian Poetry Café Poet in residence at the State Library of South Australia from 2012-2013.

‘Swimming in the Southern Ocean’ by Rachael Mead

Angela Gardener’s first poetry collection, Parts of Speech (UQP, 2007) won the Thomas Shapcott Arts Queensland Poetry Prize in 2006. Her most recent collections are The Told World (selected poetry) Shearsman Books UK and Thing & Unthing, Vagabond Press, Sydney both 2014. She is also a visual artist and edits at Angela Gardner was an Australian Poetry Cafe Poet in Residence at QAG/GOMA (Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art) in 2013.

‘Not Thinking About the Circus, at the Circus’ by Angela Gardner

Kate Rees has a Masters in Writing from the University of Sydney. In 2013 Kate was Poet in Residence at the State Library of NSW where she tweeted a series of ‘coaster poems’ to go with library patrons morning cups of coffee. She also produced a journal of her time at the library, available here. Kate is currently working on a novel length project and she continues to write poetry and short stories. Her poems have been published in Sotto and The Red Room Company’s The Disappearing.

‘Amsterdam towards winter’ by Kate Rees

Claine Keily is a poet, video artist, performance poet, and author of six prose novellas, including, Minus Minus (2016). Her prose novellas are all available through Amazon. Her poems and selections of her prose novellas have been published in journals in the USA, Ireland, China and Australia. Claine Keily’s limited edition artist books form a part of the rare book collections at National, State and University libraries across Australia. She currently works as a teacher of English Literature. Claine Keily was a Café Poet at Four Birds in Darwin in 2013.

‘Minus Minus’ (extract) by Claine Keily

Daniel H. Dugas is a bilingual, Canadian poet, videographer and musician. He has participated in festivals, literary events, exhibitions, and performances internationally. His ninth book of poetry L’esprit du temps / The Spirit of the Time was published in December 2015 by Les Éditions Prise de parole. The Spirit of the Time (2015) is a collection of photography and poetry in French and English that Daniel created during his residency as a Café Poet at the Blackwattle Café, Sydney in 2013. Daniel’s work has also been published, in French and English literary magazines in New York, Ontario, New Brunswick, Belgium and France.

‘Transparent City’/ ‘Ville filigrane’, ‘Snapshot’/ ‘Instantané’ and ‘Powder Puff’ by Daniel H. Dugas

Mark Philip Liston’s poetry and short fiction has been widely published. He won the 2013 All Poetry Prize and 2014 Australian Poetry, Poem of the Year Award. Mark was Australian Poetry Newcastle Café Poet in Residence at Sprockets from 2011 to 2013. His first collection of poetry, Fragile Diamonds was published by Picaro Press in 2013. He now lives in Tasmania.

‘The glass table’ by Mark Liston

Alysha Herrmann is a proud parent, regional artist and advocate working across disciplines in the arts, education, community development, social justice and social enterprise. She is a writer, theatre-maker, cultural organizer, and the current Creative Producer of Carclew’s ExpressWay Arts. Alysha has won numerous awards for her work using the arts to interrogate and explore community concerns and aspirations including, the 2015 Australia Council Kirk Robson Award and the 2014 Channel 9 Young Achiever Arts Award. Alysha was named as one of SA’s fastest rising stars under 30 by SA Life in 2014. Alysha tweets tiny poems as @lylyee and blogs about living a creative life at Alysha was the Australian Poetry Café Poet in residence at Sprouts Café, Berri, South Australia in 2012.

‘Adopted’ by Alysha Herrmann

Janette Dadd has had two books of poetry published with Ginninderra Press. The first Eve’s Tears was published in 2000 and the second Early Frosts in 2013. Janette also reviews verse novels and poetry collections. Her reviews have been published in Spineless Wonder, Global Poetry and Mascara Literary Review. Janette is the convener of the poetry slam, held annually as part of the Eurobodalla River of Art Festival. Janette was the Café Poet in residence at the Air Raid Tavern, Moruya, NSW from 2011- 2013 through the Australian Poetry program.

‘Convergence’ by Janette Dadd

Indigo Eli is a multi-form poetic artist based in South Australia. Her work weaves between writing, spoken word, performance, visual art, installation and everyday encounters. She is a three-time Australian Poetry Slam national finalist and was an Australian Poetry Café Poet at two venues: Conniption Café in Paper String Plastic Gallery in 2011 and The Croydon Store in 2013. At her first, as part of ‘the nameless project’, she dropped poetry bombs during an exhibition opening. At her second, she delivered hundreds of poetic fortunes under coffee cups.

‘waiting at the stop.’ by Indigo Eli

Geoffrey Prince is a poet with an impressive history of publications and a long-term sufferer of mental illness whose poetry turned a negative into a fulfilling positive. He lives in the Dandenong foothills of Melbourne with his wife and Australian cattle dog. Geoffrey has several books of poetry published through Papyrus Publishing including, The glass asylum and other poems (2005) and Anthems of artspace (1998). His first book was Highly Commended for the FAW Anne Elder Award for poetry in 1994. Geoffrey was the Australian Poetry Café Poet in residence at Abitza Café, Upwey in 2010.

A gnome by Geoffrey Prince

Diane Caney was the café poet at Chado – The Way of Tea from 2011 to 2013 which was run by Dr Varuni Kulasekera and her husband, Brian Ritchie (Violent Femmes/MONA FOMA). Diane Caney’s poems are influenced by the live music played at the café, her anger about child abuse, and her PhD thesis on intertextuality. Diane has written a book for children who have suffered abuse entitled, The Time Virus which will be launched on 11 November 2016 at Baha’i Centre of Learning for Tasmania, in Hobart. More of Diane Caney’s poems and short stories can be read at ‘over there’.

‘All the galaxies’ by Diane Caney

Miriam Dale is a blue-haired, MMA-fighting, theology-loving poet who lives and works in Melbourne. In between writing and working she enjoys reading Terry Pratchett, Henri Nouwen, and Vogue. Miriam Dale was an Australian Poetry Café Poet at the Brunswick Flour Mill, Melbourne from 2013 to 2014. After a successful Pozible campaign, Miriam published her first poetry collection, The Common Condition: poems and prose in January, 2014. She launched The Common Condition at the Brunswick Flour Mill during her residency as a Café Poet.

‘Lap, lap.’ by Miriam Dale

Laurie May’s poetry and spoken word challenges societal norms and explores the concept and construction of identity in notions of self, family and the cultural identity of Australia. Based in Alice Springs, Laurie performs around the country as well as, running youth poetry and performance workshops. Laurie is the Director of The Dirty Word and the Red Dirt Poetry Festival in Alice Springs. Laurie May was the Australian Poetry Café Poet at Page 27 Cafe in Alice Springs in 2013.

‘Lovers Once’ by Laurie May

Please note: poems from past Café Poets will be published in Rochford Street Review Issue 19 until, late September. Bios from the contributing poets will be added here when their work is published. The work of the past Australian Poetry Café Poets showcased in this issue is by no means comprehensive.

Rochford Street Review would like to thank all the Café Poets for their amazing work in cafes throughout Australia, the Australian Poetry Centre for creating the program and Australian Poetry for supporting it.

-Zalehah Turner


Zalehah Turner is a Sydney based critic, writer and poet currently completing her Bachelor of Arts in Communications majoring in writing and cultural studies at the University of Technology, Sydney. Zalehah is an Associate Editor of Rochford Street Review:

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