Melbourne Speaks Poetry - bridging the divide.

There are advantages to living in the country; fresh air, quiet (except around harvest or seeding) and inspiration, if you lean toward the bucolic.

And there are disadvantages; a 24 km round-trip to drop off your bin, a 100 km round-trip to do your shopping, a day trip to go to the closest poetry gig.

You'd think that in a country with such distance challenging us, all manner of organisations would be taking advantage of recording and broadcasting by way of podcast.  But I don't get the sense that Australian organisations have really taken it up.

As an aside, a friend who lives much closer to the locus of power and attention (ie the lower east coast of Australia) was apparently laughed at by staff at a national institution for suggesting that a lecture should/could be recorded and proffered to the public over the internet.

For all our apparent technological means we still have centralised small town thinking at the heart of many of our supposedly great centres of art and learning.

Which is why I applaud the work of the crew behind Melbourne Speaks Poetry - the committee and volunteers of  Melbourne Spoken Word.

Melbourne Speaks Poetry is produced to investigate and showcase the Melbourne Spoken Word community, its history and current events.  It is important for a number of reasons; it celebrates a facet of poetry that is vibrant and alive, it records and celebrates the history of a community, it is one of a literal handful of Australian poetry podcasts that have picked up the slack in the disgusting absence of any interest from our major so called cultural institutions.

But for me, its greatest importance is that it reaches out beyond the boundaries of the City of Melbourne, beyond the state.  It brings the voices of my country women and men to my ears. To be honest I think I'd know more English and Scots poets, I'd be more familiar with their poetry than many contemporary Australian poets and that's down to long running poetry podcasts, most of which, incidentally are partially funded by government.

What I particularly enjoyed about Episode 00 was the diversity in voices and gender, the welcoming approach that the speakers had toward poetry in general, the accepting definition of what Spoken Word could be.

What heartened me is the growing tendency for communities to foster and grow new poets.  If there's anything that I think leashes the power of poetry, it's restricting its study and its practice to the university educated and trained.

Don't get me wrong, I'm university educated (though not in poetry) but a sure way to kill off the vibrancy of an art form is to put a price tag on its development as a form of personal expression that far exceeds the poet's ability to pay off.

I have no time for flame wars or breaking communities down into Slammers and Page Poets, we are all f*cking poets, and I want to hear the whole gamut. So thank you Melbourne Speaks Poetry, bring on Episode 1.


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