Poetry in Motion

Saturday 12 September 2015 – 4pm -5pm

Omar Musa, Sarah Holland-Batt, and Brent MacLaine with Cameron Hindrum

In a room full of green chairs and black carpet with a pattern like sprigs of bridal veil a full room watched the Poetry in Motion session with Omar Musa, Sarah Holland-Batt, and Brent MacLaine facilitated by Cameron Hindrum. The poets read from their work and spoke about why they write poetry, what it means and how to engage young people in the art form.

Cameron Hindrum, Director of the Tasmanian Poetry Festival facilitated the discussion in a bright red shirt. Omar Musa began the readings in white sneakers pacing along the front of stage with a microphone in hand. Musa is the recipient of the Australian Poetry Slam and the Indian Ocean Poetry Slam. He has a recently published poetic novel Here Come the Dogs, which he said is the first poetry novel his publisher has released in 30 years. Musa read his poem “To Hard to Say” about the tension between culture and religion in his Malaysian-Australian-Muslim upbringing, and the beauty of the sound of the Karan in Arabic even though he couldn’t understand the words. Musa sang some of the lines, repeated over and over, and said that poetry and lyrics are, “different branches of the same river.” He described the poem as one that he never wanted to write because it was what everyone expected him to write, but eventually it came out. He spoke about the importance of being “fearless” and the power of being on stage as a Malaysian-Australian and the power of the voice that poetry gives to young people.

Sarah Holland-Batt is author of Aria and recipient of the Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize and the ACT Judith Wright Poetry Prize. Holland-Batt read her poem “Hazards. She was seated comfortably in her chair, a glass of water by her feet that were crossed at the ankles in sparkly, gold slippers. “Hazards” is a love poem that draws on the Tasmanian east coast landscape, “humpback rocks”, and develops to describe the emotion of a long distance relationship. Holland-Batt claimed Elizabeth Bishop and her “painterly technique” as a strong influence on her writing. Trained for 18 years as a classical pianist, Holland-Batt came to poetry as a teenager. This was thanks to an amazing English teacher while at school in the United States who exposed her to T.S. Eliot, Walt Whitman, and Elizabeth Bishop. Holland-Batt said she found the “sense of intoxication” she only knew from classical music was in language as well, and this became her chosen form of expression that has shaped the direction of her life.

All the way from Canada, Brent MacLaine read a poem from 1999 called, “Boat People.” MacLaine said that it is “the process of making” that keeps him going. With a deep appreciation of the aesthetic value of poetry MacLaine said, “there are a limited number of themes to draw on.” But that what is important is the way those themes are expressed and how they are communicated to the reader. MacLaine sold out of his books on the morning of the first day, but readers were encouraged to contact him directly to order more.

By Claire Jansen