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Melbourne’s Poetic Epicenter
Melbourne has a long and lively history of performance poetry and a vibrant reading scene. My partner, poet Tracy Ryan, whose father was from Victoria and whose connections with the city go back to her third year of life, can still recite from memory the first poems she read aloud at the Lord Newry Hotel readings in 1990. I can remember early readings myself in Fitzroy and elsewhere, and readings by poets whose emphasis on speaking and reading, as well as the way words worked visually on the page for implied sonic and thematic impact, changed my perceptions of what was possible in poetry. TT.O. was and is a poet whose radical politics and dedication to dialect changed the way I thought about poetry.
This isn’t just a case of hearing a poet reading in Melbourne as one might hear a poet reading in any city, but hearing a poet whose world view is shaped by the lens of Melbourne, particular suburbs of Melbourne, being part of the Greek community and other communities and collectives. There’s a sharing that goes on in the work that I think gets to the core of Melbourne as poetry epicentre.
Kinsella also highlights the vibrant world of poetry publishing, both big and small:
Pivotal to a ”healthy” poetry is publishing. Melbourne is home to big publishers and many small publishers. I recently heard of two new print poetry magazines I haven’t yet seen (ETZ and Rabbit), but I look forward to doing so. Though there are many electronic nodal points for poetry, there’s something exciting in the localism of a small-run print journal that finds its way around the traps. Therein is often found the most necessary poetry: poetry that is about change. It’s about sharing, about collectivity. If the local is happening, the broader picture is working as well.