View the event video here.
On Tuesday 14 February 2012 the Japanese Gardens at the Perth Zoo filled with people and picnics for an evening filled with poetry. Dennis Haskell, Lucy Dougan, Andrew Burke, Kevin Gillam, Vivienne Glance, Amanda Joy, Danny Gunzburg, Jaya Penelope, Scott-Patrick Mitchell, Veronica Lake and Chris Arnold read their poetry by moonlight. MC was ABC Grandstand reporter Karen Tighe. Perth poets also featured in the dedicated Mulla Mulla Press publication ‘Love Poetry 2012 Fire in my head’, a limited edition only available on the night.
The event was supported by The Small Room and Mulla Mulla Press, and co-ordinated by Tineke Van der Eecken for WA Poets Inc.
Review in The West
This very slim volume from Mulla Mulla Press is rich in celebrating love and was published in conjunction with the recent St Valentine’s night poetry readings in South Perth. Included are 21 of WA’s finest living poets in a scant 30 pages. The cover illustration by Beba Hall is striking but the glittering prizes are whitin – in the love poems for lovers of poetry. Poets range from the venerable Andrew Burke (Apologia) to Dennis Haskell (Counting the Days) and through the whole panoply to Gail Williams (Once You Played Me). In his introduction, Shane McCauley reminds that love poets, in particular, wear their hearts on their sleeves.
(Published in The West Australian, 24.3.2012)
Feedback from the 2012 Event
Love Poetry – a personal response
“It (was) a beauteous evening, calm and free”, not at Wordsworth’s Grasmere but at the Perth Zoo. There were no sounds from the animals, who must have been either sleeping, or enjoying food, wine and music whilst listening to poetry like the rest of us. The poetry consisted of a selection of love poems – new and old – in celebration of Valentine’s Day. They were read, recited and performed by a number of poets, each giving voice to traditional poems or to recent compositions of their own. There was love lost, love remembered, love dancing and singing – and even love eaten – but always love sensualised, visualised and celebrated.
The traditional poems began with one from the little known John Clare (1793-1864), whose love for his childhood sweetheart, Mary Joyce, gave rise to such exquisite lyrics as these from his poem called Secret Love.
The lost breeze kissed her bright blue eye,
The bee kissed and went singing by,
A sunbeam found a passage there,
A gold chain round her neck so fair.
Traditional poems by Sappho, Shakespeare and Elizabeth Barrett-Browning were read, and of course Robert Burns’ luscious “Red, Red Rose” was included.
It isn’t possible to comment on all of the contemporary works read or performed, not because they don’t invite participation and response, but because time and space do not permit it. I will simply choose a few in order to demonstrate the diversity of forms, language and feelings expressed. I have chosen these from the publication given to audience members on the night – Love Poetry 2012: Fire in my head. This small but delightful publication begins with Apologia by Andrew Burke. In this Andrew recalls the self-conscious and self-confident exhibitionism of his youth when trying to impress a girl by revving up his red motorbike outside her house. Wistfully, he wonders if the girl would pay more attention to him now that he is older and has given up the posturing and pretending. Maybe, but as Andrew well knows, revisiting the past is just not possible.
Love by Kevin Gillam uses the simple but effective trope (or conceit) of catching a fish to evoke the fleeting moment of a loving encounter. The fish is caught, dropped into a bucket, but both the fish and the love are then described as jumping back into the river. The fish symbolises that idealisation of love which is always ‘beckoning’ but remains just out of reach.
Love Feast by Veronica Lake and Counting the Days by Dennis Haskell both use the techniques of Metaphysical poetry. In Love Feast love is represented as a Caliban sort of monster, both seductive and destructive at the same time. It is dangerous, crunching the bones of its victim with a ‘red, red mouth’, but the ‘victim’ admits to ‘luring him in’ so that it is ambiguous as to who has been seduced and who has submitted. “Dinner is served”, but who is to eat whom? I’ve sometimes wondered why sex and death so often go together in opera, drama and poetry – probably something to do with transcending human existence as it is experienced.
In Counting the Days Dennis Haskell focuses on the idea of counting until the numbers become both meaningless and absorbed into the poet’s body as veins. As the references to time (days, months and years) continue the idea of time, and of the body, become absorbed into natural phenomena such as waves and tides. From there the absorbing process moves out into the cosmos, as the speaker, through the grief brought on by the lover’s absence becomes a collapsing star, a black dwarf. Human feelings of loss and longing become one with the universe. Like Gillam’s fish, this love seems to be most fully realised and experienced in its absence.
From ancient to contemporary, and well into the future it seems certain that the words of John Clare will remain forever true: “Love’s a tie that can’t be parted,/ Though so often crossed and thwarted” (Still Unchangeable). As Shakespeare said ‘true love’ never did run smoothly, but (for the audience anyway) this evening of poetry and song certainly seemed to do so. The team who put t all together is to be congratulated. I heard several requests for more next year, and I certainly hope that this can be arranged.
I have had very appreciative feedback and news of people who feel inspired to join Wapi as a consequence of their experience of poetry on the night.
Many thanks to you and the WAPI folk for organising the poetry event
last night. I thought the planning and format for the readings was very
well organised. I also think having a venue close to the city and well
known to all really boosted the attendance numbers. Thanks,
What a great evening! I really appreciate all the work that you put into it. So heartening. Warm regards,
Glenn and I enjoyed our time at the LOVE POETRY event. Well done on all the organising and thank you very much for the beautiful flowers.
Glad it went well.(…) I hope you do it again next year, and
that I can attend.
It was indeed an enjoyable evening. I was waiting for some of the animals to join in, but they must have all gone to sleep! I can write a short review for you, but give me a couple of days to think of something suitably poetic. It must have been quite difficult to choose from the mountains of love poetry ‘out there’, so I liked the fact that the choices covered a variety of feelings and forms.
It was a fabulous evening. I am sorry, I don’t think I can perform without a band, and hope I didn’t make a tit of anyone but myself. Another event, I’ll come and do front of house for you, if you like. Or if you want specific feedback for another time, let me know. (My background is in arts and music events in Brighton and Northcliffe, as well as conferences from some long ago normal job.) When Jaya Penelope read my poem I nearly died of pleasure, she made it sound so enticing. Best moment of my life!!! I totally fell in love with Karen. Wow, isn’t she great? And I loved hearing the Brell piece. Sorry we had to leave without helping clear away–my boyfriend had totally had enough, poor thing! He did well but he prefers a quiet night on the river! I am lucky enough to have been able to stay in bed this morning reading Fire in my head. Isn’t Shane’s intro good?
What organization, what smooth running, what a wonderful hostess. You are to be congratulated and thanked for the creation and running of Love Poetry 2012.
It was, it was a fun-filled loving night – with a wide range of styles, much humour and tender words. The book ‘fire in my head’ by mulla mulla press is also a winner. The main statement from all involved was – Let’s do it again!
I’m with Andrew! … ~encore!!
‘It was a beautiful night. Very inspiring.’
I wish I could have been there. Well done to all WA Poets Inc for putting on this event! What a great idea!
‘It was fantastic. Thank you,’