What Drives A Poet

Recurring debates on important poetry topics.
Post Reply
Vic Jefferies
Posts: 1041
Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2010 8:21 am

Re: What Drives A Poet

Post by Vic Jefferies » Mon May 09, 2011 5:01 pm

It isn't a matter of anyone being made to choose between reading and reciting or even suggesting that our best poetry events should be one or the other. As I said reading and reciting are two distinct skills and the difference is something like an actor reading his part in a play or performing his part from memory. No contest!
We are concerned about the lack of new talent coming through the ABPA and the bush poetry scene in general and perhaps a way to encourage newcomers is to have a SEPERATE section in competitions where they can read if they wish rather than discouraging them from taking part altogether by penalising them for reading. They are not going to win the competition though a prize in that particular section and their experience may lead them to better efforts.
I started by reading my work and I can name (though I wont without their permission) several if not more other now respected bush poetry performers who also started by reading their work to audiences. In fact I encourage people to stand up and read if they are unable to recite and this suggestion has produced a number of prize winning performers.
I see this suggestion as purely and simply a way to encourage newcomers and allow those who cannot recite to participate in APPROPRIATE events.

Neville Briggs
Posts: 6946
Joined: Sun Oct 31, 2010 12:08 pm
Location: Here

Re: What Drives A Poet

Post by Neville Briggs » Mon May 09, 2011 5:40 pm

I am mightily impressed by your dedication Neil.

I hope that we can find some way to keep interest alive in the bush poetry, Manfred wants us to be still going strong in 50 years time .

It's a hard thing to figure out. I was at a big country fair last year and they had a bush poet perform. He's very well known locally, recites off by heart, no problems, has a patter for audience participation, he had a good spot, advertised on the program, big stage, good sound system. An audience of ONE..me. I don't know . I just don't know the answer.

Just as an aside, as far as I can tell from my limited knowledge , public support for the
" other " kind of poetry is very very small. Our local library is required to purchase contemporary literary journals that publish contemporary poetry and they end up selling them for 10c each or throwing them out because nobody reads them. ( I don't know what significance that observation is, but it sort of came to me )

You seem to be a good bloke Neil, I hope you don't get disheartened.
" Prose is description, poetry is presence " Les Murray.

User avatar
Maureen K Clifford
Posts: 7793
Joined: Tue Nov 09, 2010 10:31 am
Location: Ipswich - Paul Pisasale country and home of the Ipswich Poetry Feast

Re: What Drives A Poet

Post by Maureen K Clifford » Mon May 09, 2011 6:04 pm

As in life one has to crawl before one can walk and then run and as one gets older like it or lump it eventually one goes from a run, to a walk, to a crawl and then Elvis leaves the room. Que sera, sera
Check out The Scribbly Bark Poets blog site here -

I may not always succeed in making a difference, but I will go to my grave knowing I at least tried.

User avatar
Posts: 2292
Joined: Sun Oct 31, 2010 9:04 am
Location: Illawarra

Re: What Drives A Poet

Post by Zondrae » Mon May 09, 2011 6:45 pm

Yes but,

Those running years with the wind in your hair..
Ahh you wouldn't miss em for quids.
Zondrae King
a woman of words

User avatar
David Campbell
Posts: 1232
Joined: Sun Nov 28, 2010 10:27 am
Location: Melbourne

Re: What Drives A Poet

Post by David Campbell » Mon May 09, 2011 7:12 pm

Your comments are significant, Neil, because you’ve illustrated the essence of the problem under discussion. I have to challenge some of the things you've written.

“If people pay to see Poetry, they expect to see a high degree of Professionalism.”

In other words, you equate reciting to professionalism, so anyone reading in public is presumably just a rank amateur, probably not even a poet. You mightn’t like the idea of reading, but it’s most unfair to dismiss it like this. I don’t know Jeff Gaffigan, but Billy Connolly isn’t a good example because he doesn’t exactly work to a script (or the lines of a poem)…he’s simply a comic genius (like Robin Williams) who can riff at length on any number of topics. Anyway, in return I’ll give you an English poet named Les Barker (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5oAAgv7ktE). He’s hugely successful, attracts big crowds, is much-published, is very funny…and (as you can see from the clips) he reads from his books. Nobody seems to accuse him of being unprofessional. He was one of the paid guest artists at last year’s NFF.

I don’t understand why you suddenly come up with the scenario where all of the leading performance poets “up and left” the ABPA. The work that has been done by you and other top performers in promoting bush poetry and attracting crowds has been absolutely magnificent, and nobody will argue with that. All I’m saying is that we shouldn’t assume that reciting suits everyone, and nor should we automatically denigrate those who, for whatever reason, choose to read.

You refer to poets whose performances have nosedived because they’ve chosen to read, and then say it’s because: “You lose eye contact, audience interaction, you can’t gesture properly and your pauses are stiff and sterile.” I can understand this comment in the context of active comic presentations (although gestures are limited if you’re holding a microphone), but I’m not so sure about serious poems. As I said in my original post, I wouldn’t mind the audience closing their eyes and concentrating on the words for some of my poems…and I reckon that could work no matter how many were in the audience.

Then you write: “But now it seems that poets would rather utilise these venues just as reading venues and in some cases try to drag it down from what it has grown to.” Drag it down? There’s that assumption again. In your world, it seems that anyone who recites is automatically more talented and more entertaining than anyone who reads. Presumably the word-perfect, but deadly dull reciter doesn’t exist. Besides, there’s no indication that readers are threatening to take over at walk-ups. At the NFF very few people read although, tellingly, those who did felt obliged to offer an excuse for doing so. That shouldn’t be necessary. I’m not trying to promote reading over reciting, I’m merely suggesting that it has a place, it has value, and it should not be automatically dismissed in the sort of terms that you’re using. By all means keep doing what you’re doing, because you and Greg and the others at the top will continue to inspire others to aim for similar levels of performance. But don’t assume that your way is the only way to gain satisfaction from presenting poetry.

And then there’s that final little dagger of yours, the comment that you’ll “…maybe spend that time I dedicate to other poet’s advancement purely on my own career”. Where on earth does that come from? You seem to think that a simple suggestion that reading be given some consideration as a means of presentation represents an almighty attack on reciters, some weird attempt to kill off reciting and undo all the hard work that has been done by great performers over many years. Nobody’s trying to take that away, and it puzzles me that it would even cross your mind.

What if I took a similar approach and started rubbishing those writers who don’t “get” metre and announced that they were mere amateurs, they were dragging poetry down and should stop entering competitions, and I wasn’t going to help them any more? Would you consider that to be reasonable?

Just a little bit of respect and understanding, Neil, that’s all. Surely not too much to ask?


User avatar
Posts: 1044
Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2010 11:43 pm

Re: What Drives A Poet

Post by keats » Mon May 09, 2011 7:51 pm

You seem to think that a simple suggestion that reading be given some consideration as a means of presentation represents an almighty attack on reciters, some weird attempt to kill off reciting and undo all the hard work that has been done by great performers over many years.

David, what I am trying to say, in my own befuddled way, is that from what I read here, writers want to read/recite in front of the same audiences that have been built on hard work by poets such as Bob Miller, Marco, Jim Haynes and co. They are a ready made audience and to read and not involve them in the performances is only going to damage the crowds we attract. You failed to pick up on my comment that Performance Poetry shows (and yes, people pay with no complaints, as we have to travel all over the country to fullfil commitments) are a vehicle to give reciters and serious presenters the opportunity to perform in front of and be appreciated by these audiences. You keep mentioning the NFF, but folk festivals are a different matter in my opinion. I stopped performing at most Folk festivals some years ago, even though I was in demand. But those reasons are my business. My comment also was 'What WOULD happen ' if the top performing poets abandoned the ABPA, I didn't say they have.

I don't want a fight, I am simply saying that performing poets are very important to the Bush Poetry Climate, as they are out amongst so many people, so often, to spread the word about up coming events around the country, to organise events in areas they are working in so that reciters get opportunities to perform and improve. But for some reason, they are not seen as serious contributors to our craft from a lot of the comments I read here.
So many of the written comps that poets consistently enter were started as part of Poetry festivals kicked off by Performance Poets. And as for their metre, etc. I would challenge any poet to out write Murray Hartin or Marco Gliori on a serious poem, and yet most here could not come up with much more than that Muz wrote Turbulence, certainly nowhere near his best poem, but a phenomenon that has done more for the face of Bush Poetry than any other poem I have come across in my time in the circle.

And sorry about Les Barker, (I simply don't like him, but I know he has his audiences, and he probably doesn't like me. lol)

So just my thoughts on what appears to be a lack of respect for what we apparent 'clowns' have actually been doing over the past 20 years.

No more from me on this subject.


william williams

Re: What Drives A Poet

Post by william williams » Mon May 09, 2011 8:16 pm

Pew a tin of worms have been opened Thank You Neil and Thank You David
Both of you have given a very open answers to a ticklish problem

We have the Have Nots in one corner and the Haves in another both have made honest statements
Myself I am one of the many unfortunates that HAVE NOT the ability of memorizing through health reason’s along with many other people. Is there is no reason why we should not able to entertain others.
You are fortunate Neil that you can memorize your work, and other people like your self. I along with many other would welcome the ability to do just that years ago I counted out onto the road 1000 head of cattle every morning and the same each night as we bedded them down surprisingly I knew most of those cattle by sight now that is my memory but I wish that I could do just that today. But remembering today or several day or weeks before forget it.
Am I now left with a life that is useless because I cannot remember the lines of a poem or story, I think not.
Have you ever been in a TV station and seen the (Idiot sheets that the presenter often read) just to make sure that he or she remembers. If I and others could just see a screen in large print above the audience that they could not see that would be heaven. Yes you have seen Male or Female standing in front of a lectern before an audience talking to them looking at them with eye contact gesturing
to aceturate what they are saying and they look down while gathering a breath do you think that they are looking at a copy of the woman’s weekly. Reading can be done with decorum possible with the same viewers appreciation as a person with a memorized presentation.
There it a place for both in this world let us use it.
Now there is a audio piece that I placed in the forum called That Little Kelpie Pup. It has been viewed 92 times I believe now.
Even though I wrote it and recorded it and it was not done in a studio.
I read it out now who says reading is not good enough.

Bill Williams

Posts: 3011
Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2010 6:53 pm

Re: What Drives A Poet

Post by Terry » Mon May 09, 2011 8:38 pm

I think you're right Vic the only way to get more people participating is to encourage them and if that means allowing them to read so be it. I also agree with David, if you're going to read you should learn to do it well but we mustn't expect people to be experts over night.
I can also understand what Keats is saying, where people are paying for their entertainment you have to have a degree of professionalism no mater how you go about it. We must also understand that some people are professional and get paid to preform, but the vast majority of us are amateurs and have no real wish to be anything else and would only like to perhaps read or recite a poem or two at our musters or at the odd poets breakfast and I think this should be encouraged.
I was pleased to read David's points on reading and just how good some people are at it. I'm still relatively new to the game and so far I haven't seen a lot of real top shelf read poetry, but have seen some very good reciters.
Reading it's now tolerated over here at musters so It's probably just me, but I do feel a sort of second class citizen if I read a poem.


PS Wow A heap of post came in while I was laboring away with my puny offering

Bob Pacey
Posts: 7463
Joined: Thu Dec 02, 2010 9:18 am
Location: Yeppoon

Re: What Drives A Poet

Post by Bob Pacey » Mon May 09, 2011 9:07 pm

I have got to say that I myself would have never become involved in performance poetry if it were not for attending shows where seasoned performers like John Major, Melanie Hall, Murray Hartin and Milton Taylor plied their trade. I know it would not have had the same effect on me if they had simply read poems on stage.

One dose and I was hooked and I'm still learning. Not the best writer by a long shot as many of you no doubt will agree after reading some of my offerings but have now done some big shows and feedback has been good.

The main reason that I'm heading off to Bundy in July is to see Keats perform and learn a bit more about how to improve what I do.

Is there a place for reading well I think it depends on the time, place and event.

The purpose in life is to have fun.
After you grasp that everything else seems insignificant !!!

User avatar
Posts: 657
Joined: Sun Oct 31, 2010 8:44 pm
Location: Jurien Bay. WA

Re: What Drives A Poet

Post by Irene » Mon May 09, 2011 9:31 pm

Yes Bill - a can of worms indeed!!! ;)

I think that everyone posting has voiced very valid comments, that all have merit.
Now, I may be wrong, but I feel that perhaps we are mis-interpreting Keats comments about the festivals. The way I read his words is that yes, there certainly is a place for reading in festivals, poets breakfasts, but the ones he is talking about are the larger, entertainment shows where the audience pay more than a token entry fee, and are there to be entertained - not saying that others who perform at other shows are not professionals, but that the expectations from the audience are different for the different events.
When I went to Tamworth, I attended the poetry shows held each morning, and these were designed to be pure entertainment by experienced poets who did more than just 'recite' - in my mind, they were as much about acting as reciting in most cases. I agree that in a situation like that, reading a poem would not be appropriate. However, at most of the other events through out the festival, reading a poem would have been much more appropriate. At these other events, I also was entertained by experienced poets, but in a different manner - and that difference was what made the different events so enjoyable.
Again, at Boyup Brook, we allow reading of poems at all the events except the sunday show. At the sunday morning breakfast, the first hour is filled with local poets, but the final couple of hours is filled with poets who provide the type of show that Neil is talking about. As a local poet, I would never feel that I was not as good as the poets who perform as 'entertainers' (no probs with that, seeing reciting is definitely not my strong point!!!) but recognise that it is a different style of entertainment that I could not offer. The audiences that attend the shows throughout the festival enjoy the less 'show style' events just as much as the main event on the sunday - but do recognise the different styles and come to expect that difference to be apparent on the sunday morning.

My understanding is that Keats is saying - where the audience expectations, and the marketing of an event promote that style of show, then that is what they should receive. Often, you will find people who would attend this type of show that have never had an interest in poetry. This then opens their minds to the possibility that poetry can be fun, and highly entertaining - hopefully then pulling them to the different styles of reading/reciting of poetry and finding that they are just as entertaining. These style of shows do an absolutely wonderful job of attracting new listeners to the world of bush poetry, and are as essential as the poets that do such a wonderful job of entertaining through reading, etc.
If an audience is expecting a more flexible style of event, then reading is just as acceptable as reciting. A reader should not be upset because they are not included in a show that is marketed in a different style to theirs, nor feel they are being unfairly excluded.
It's a little like the old argument of free verse v's rhyming verse - you target your work to the platform that most suits your work/style, not expect that platform to change to suit you.
I have been moved to tears by a poet who has read his poem, but I believe that it is much harder to put across a comedy poem as well when reading it, and lets face it, most of the 'big entertainment' style shows use comedy as their main drawing card - with some serious stuff interspersed.
I think that providing we, as an organisation ensure that there are ample opportunities for all different styles of getting our work out to a larger audience, we should not expect that every event held is suitable for every poet.
Let's focus on marketing all styles of bush poetry, because each style will suit different people.
Personally, I like the reciting of serious works, although I enjoy humour as well, whereas I have a friend who doesn't like poetry per se, but always goes to listen to a poet in our area that recites pre-dominantly humorous work. Each to their own - every one of us have our own unique style, and we should not be so hung up on whether or not we can perform at every event, irrespective of whether it suits our styles - but should be finding our own niche and focusing on doing what we do best!!!
What goes around, comes around.

Post Reply