To be a poet one needs the six P’s – the pencil, the paper, the perception, the passion, the persistence and the unshakable persuasion that the poem is in fact possible and attainable. - Grace Perry

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Southern Highlands Writers Festival

Saturday the 21st of July I headed off to the inaugural Southern Highlands Writers' Festival. It was a great day, with the highlight being Paula McLean's conversation with Mark Tredinnick titled 'Poetry in Motion'.

Paula began the chat describing poetry as like a window to the world, which Mark responded, "well a window is the obvious place for one to observe the world from". Tredinnick then read out his poem 'Catching Fire; or, The Art of Sitting', which is coming out in Meanjin in December. Mark pointed out the squarish, window-like shape of the poem. Mark told us that there is a stillness to 'Catching Fire...', not just in what the speaker says:

And I watch her steal her own silent show, doing
Nothing, immaculately, among the silver leaves.
 but also in the language. You will have to keep an eye out for his poem to find out what was meant by that.

Mark said "poetry can return us to the world by allowing us to remember... return us to the larger than human world by seeing but not judging...". Although he did point out that of course there is always a level of judgement in the language used in the poem.

Mark believes that poetry is 'speech music'; "poetry is an architecture of sound and visual design... You can't write a poem without thinking about the form". Mark quoted Picasso: "the work of art is never finished, it's just abandoned". In other words, Mark said, "there comes a time where you walk away from a poem, when you are over it, and it is time for the next poem".

Mark told us that: "a poem practices in language what meditation practices in silence. A poem is language awake to its connections... language is usually functional, but in poetry it goes beyond this...".

Mark described poets as 'anchorite', "a poet is outside of society and place... a poet is critic and loving observer...".

"Poetry allows a poet to remember belonging and hopefully assists the reader to also remember". By this Mark is talking about theories of belonging going back to Thoreau and Heidegger's ideas that by belonging to a place people will want to preserve that place.

"A poem is never more finished than a window, so you just draw the blind at the end of the day and re-open it the next day, and then one day you just leave it open. We are given the world and it's through poetry that we give it back".

Please note that all quotes are transcribed and may not be exactly what was said on the day.