Anyway – my father was at least 3rd generation Country Queensland and had grown up pre-television – and one of the requirements of being a child in his days was to be able to recite and tell a good yarn.
My mother was a City girl (although she grew up all over Queensland as her father was transferred regularly), but her family too had a strong story-telling tradition.
As a result – culturally, genetically and environmentally – my whole family are good for a yarn.
BTW – my father’s best renditions are Banjo Patterson verses like A Bush Christening and Clancy of the Overflow - and I am sure that his stirring articulation which made it alive to me meant that I carry a big love for poetry that many shy away from.
(Just discovered from that bout of googledrift something very pertinent: according to Holtie, the hut used in the filming of The Man from Snowy River has been affected by the annual bushfire event down South.)
During high school, I was what could be termed a phrase that is unladylike (and I would have linked it to the definition, although no begger in Australia has defined "smartarse", and the Canadian and North American terms are not quite right – well, not from my perspective) and as a result teachers were fairly wary of me, and distrusted me with positions of power or fame – like a role in the debating team. I used to surrepticiously assist in the speech-writing of the accredited members, and when I finally got a Guernsey (I think thanks to an epidemic of flu) I opened with a poem written for the occasion.
I branched out into standing in front of an audience for fun (Public Speaking) although I never won the prestigious events such as those held by Zonta and Rostrum - I think they were looking of more marketable commodities in the Cultural Circuit than “What’s In a Kiss” – but I got the popular vote.
When I was a young adult and ventured into larger communities, I remember being amazed that, when people were discussing multiculturalism, they would lament the "lack of “culture” in Australia.
I find you are always most aware of the community you are in and their little ways and manners (and EVERY community has this) when you are from the outside.
Not that I am knocking in any way international culture – I really enjoy celebrating every new option and experience that comes into my life. My palate, auditory canals and friendship circles has always been diverse.
Anyhow – when I was going through my early-twenties crisis, launching myself off the career trajectory into free-falling living of life – I discovered performance poetry, and a love affair was born. (Nice segue cough, cough )
My very first venture onto a stage with the sole intention of inflicting my poetry onto members of the public (who had paid to see poetry, it must be said) was the Poetry Slam at the Harold Park Hotel (which I have just googled and discovered is closed! Merde – what is the world coming to when there is no Harold Park Hotel!Another part of my history defunct!) – I came second!! I was so stoked – the lady who won had an absolute rip-snorter of a second poem that sent shivers down your spine.
From then, a large part of my life was being a poet – I don’t care that you don’t make pots of money from it – that is what other jobs are for – being a performance poet made me alive…
Until – well, until I returned to Brisbane (after a few adventures – there are a few years between “from” and “until”) and found that the people who chose to be in Poetry Politics was static and not proportional to the total Poetry Community – and small pond big politics did not make it “fun” any more. I supported a few venues, but felt my love get pruned…
Until – well, until at a reading I met someone who I fell in love with and who I made a baby with and I sort of got busy with that for a while…
Until other factors became more complicated and before you know it 7 years have passed and you have been to only as many readings as fingers on one hand in that time…
Until you are in a new part of the world and again you are the outsider looking in and trying to find your own path and you remember, while yarning to a friend (who is an insert appropriate swearword here AWESOME performance poet) that you always had that dream…
(Stay tuned – if we EVER get our acts together, maybe we will put on a show with our yarns!)
But in the meantime I am a poet in search of a stage (already have many muses and the buds of new words). And I realise that I am excited, wary and scared - excited because I am fairly well a virgin in this neck of the woods - which means that all my old are new again, so I can be working on editing the new for a while yet; wary because it is even a smaller pond and you never know who's toes you accidentally step on when trying to find your footing, especially in the heady world of poetry, and scared as I also hope that the I don't get shot down for not rhyming and rhythming to a regional formula (which can happen in whatever size pond) or they won't "get me".
Better actually give you a poem after all that, I suppose. I only have ever had one published to the net (without my knowledge at the time - hmm) but here is one of my more recent ones, and was about similar concerns that I have now overcome. (As has my long-distance darling in so many ways - congratulations darling!)
You know why these walls exist, don’t you?
The barricade of white brick encircle me
High in this tower
Where only the portal-side whisper of wind
Breaks the calm.
I know in my youth
Launching myself into maelstroms of love.
No sooner had I seen a tangent of passion
I alighted that path
Believing its flight to be true
Then these rays of refraction would shatter
the mirror of lust
And enshadowed my soul.
Injured but brazen I would dust myself down
Ignoring the shards that promised more wounds
Again I would cross over that moat
And make for my tower…
But though I would seek for
The friends I wished true
I would ultimately find a companion who
Only too fast
Would step to the edge of this friend road I sought
And dive overboard with fey delusion
Of making us whole
Foolishly I’d dive also and down we would fly
And swoop over our lives
Laugh with relief
Those mirrors of camraderie belied
Cracks in the bond
And hands that entwined once
Became fists of frustration and of rage and of hate
So again I took that late ferry home
And stepped through threshold
Of my kingdom
So I have made a new nest
My needs and wants few
And although it is quiet it does have a view
The white brick a blanket
O’er cliffs just below
The wind a reminder
The wind a warning
The wind a whispering
Such words I shan’t hear
© Sophie Jean 7/5/05