Poetic City Winter Edition – Putting The ‘Try’ in Poetry

You can warm yourself by the fire of creativity this winter when the second Poetic City Festival rolls out a plethora of welcoming interactive events for established sonateers and the poetry-curious alike. BMA’s Anthony Plevey sharpened his quill and caught up with Festival Director Jacqui Malins to learn what literary delectables await us.

frost crisp ink distilled /echoing wintry city words / open secret thoughts

Winter activated by poetic activities

In the first two weeks of July, Poetic City Winter Edition, the second iteration of Canberra’s Poetic City Festival, will combine the themes of winter and urban life to thrillingly activate the City West precinct. These themes will be driven by the key focus of engagement and outreach, with a raft of opportunities for creative interaction and participation via a wide-reaching and deliciously varied program that welcomes all. 

2023 Program Launch

Supported by a place-making grant from the City Renewal Authority (CRA) and the ACT Government, the festival will enliven connections between the CBD and the City West area, with a number of the festival’s installations and activities happening in the area between Civic Square, the Australian National University, The Street Theatre, and the Food Co-op.

The festival warms-up in June with a program of workshops, providing accessible, supportive, encouraging, and fun environments for people who might be, as Festival Director Jacqui Malins puts it, “poetry curious”. 

“The Festival welcomes anyone who has ever been interested in having a bit of a go, giving them many opportunities to do just that,” Malins says. “There is a real joy in creating something.” 

Creative output from these workshops will feed into the activities, installations, and artworks which will enhance the City West environment for the festival.

“Canberra already has a vibrant and dynamic poetry community and it’s an art form that is open to anyone,” says self-declared poetry evangelist Malins. “It’s very portable. It’s very cheap. We all have the toolkit within us – words and language. All you need is a pen and paper or a phone and you’re away!”

This framing of poetry as an accessible artform is very deliberate.

“Poetic City Winter Edition aims to break down perceptions of poetry as lonely musing and silent reading,” Director Malins says. “There’ll be lots of exciting, interactive things happening, with performance and collaborative events showcasing what poetry is today.”

A poetic program with many highlights!

The main festival events are happening between 1 -10 July, cross-linking with the CRA’s Winter in The City events and school holidays activities, the Uncharted Territory Innovation Festival, and NAIDOC Week (2-9 July). The latter will bring the voices of Canberra’s First Nations poets, with Us Mob Writing presenting poetry on the theme of For Our Elders.

It’s a program with many highlights, one of which being The Secret Histories of City West.

“The event is facilitated by the fantastic Zoe Anderson and features seven commissioned poets,” Malins enthuses. “Artists choose a site in City West and create a new poem about the secret history, be it real or imagined, of these places. 

“Musical duo The Cashews will be using the poetry to deepen and enrich people’s relationship with the city environment.”

Poetic City audiences will be able to access these Secret Histories on a walking tour with the poets on Sunday, 9 July, with the poetry performed live at each site. A compilation booklet of the works will also be created, and QR code links on the pavement can be scanned to read the poems or listen to a recording.

Saturday, 8 July will be one of the big nights of the fest, courtesy of the SlamCity Showcase at The Street Theatre. 

“This fun poetry/party night will feature outstanding Canberra slam poets who have performed at, or won, a poetry slam,” Malins extols. “And we have a special performance by Melbourne based performance poet Waffle IronGirl.”

Poetic City Slam Showcase

What’s proving to be an excitingly busy day ‘n’ night, and to compliment the creme de la creme of the Slam Poetry scene, the Saturday, 8 July will play host and nurture the future voices of the form.

The Slam Shop on Friday, 7 July is an exciting collaboration with Canberra Slam,” Malins reveals. “It delivers a poetry slam workshop for 13 to 18 year-olds especially designed to help young people unpack their own stories, create a slam poem, and learn how to perform it confidently. 

The Fresh Voices showcase [also on 8 July] will give these newest voices in Canberra an opportunity to get up and strut their stuff.”

For those who might find performance a bit daunting, the Potluck Story Share will offer a welcoming story circle, a facilitated group that allows anyone to share a story or poem that says something about their history, ancestry, culture, and connection.

A festival built on poetic diversity.

Poetic City Winter Edition will reprise some popular events from the successful 2021 festival. These include the audience-led Haiku For You in which flyers adorn the city with takeaway poetry featuring submitted Haiku verse on a winter and/or urban themes.

Furthermore, the highly popular Poetry Paste-Up workshop is back, providing a place where people can create graphic text-based posters that will go up on Marcus Clarke Street.

Poetic City Poetry Paste-Up

The festival will build on existing and new partnerships to ensure an inclusive, diverse festival through events including Queer VoyagesJourneys in Poetry, Poetry Not Luxury Women’s Open Mic, Mother Tongue Multilingual Mic and Multilingual Poetry Workshop, and Poetry in Colour: Reading & Writing Anti-Racist Poetry with COAR.

Poetic City will also intersect with the visual arts, music, innovative thinking and the natural world.

There’s A Flock of Words!, which is poetry and art for children inspired by Sidney Nolan’s Birds,” Malins explains. “The Poetry Paste-Up, Songs are Poems songwriting workshop, Poetry as Innovation Machine symposium, and The London Planes of Odgers Lane.”

Centred on interactivity, creativity and connection, the Poetic City Festival invites people of all ages to enjoy good company, creative guidance, and sharing with the Canberra poetry community across a program of 30 entertaining, engaging and thought provoking activities. The time has come to slake that poetry curiosity.

Most Poetic City Winter Edition events and workshops are low fee or no charge but bookings are essential. Full program details at: poeticcitycbr.com

Poetic City 2021 Transporting Words

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