Monday, March 11, 2013

Nine Weeks Into Mapping Moorabool in Poetry ...

The map is in process of being designed by my brother Andi ( and bookings set up for several more gigs. The map will be printed in two halves on roll-up "blinds". The printer has given us a quote and Lerderderg Library/Moorabool Shire will fund it.

Meanwhile I'm recording mileage and other expenses as I am actually earning income from some of the gigs.

On a map of Moorabool, Balliang East is right down in the southeast corner, so I went to the school there last week. I was moved when told that some of the Grade 2 and 3 students writing so enthusiastically were actually "non-writers" up to this time at school. 

At Gordon Primary School, my first school gig, the very first topic I was offered was "mine turtle". This had to be explained by several students before I grasped that I was required to enter the world of exploding turtle videos on youtube, and I'm not sure I was a totally successful migrant!

We who belong to A-Choired Taste of Gospel choir normally rest our voices over January, once the carolling season is done, so our reunions are major events on the calendar. This year, at Pam's place, I brought out my clipboard and carbon paper, and began entertaining with instant poetry. One highlight was writing a poem for 3-year-old Dylan whose brother, Leroy, had died aged 7 months last year. When his mother and I asked him what he wanted me to put in the poem, he said, "Say how beautiful he was." Amazing.

At Providence, our local Aged Care facility, I had the privilege of spending time with eight women whose lives are certainly well worth remembering. Already, under the tutelage of their U3A volunteer, Robyn, they have produced an anthology of work, and I am sure they have enough material for several more! One of my mother's dear friends there, Helen, at 98 is as bright and alert as many of us who are much younger would love to be!

Commercial venues were not very fruitful for me 20 to 25 years ago, but I decided to peddle my wares at the Village Craft Day and set up a table just outside the Collins book store. The proprietor, Jan, is such a great champion of everything Community, and I am grateful for her generosity in both my recent projects (Stamp Out Measles being the other one). Because it was Valentine's Day, I created special paper with hearts on it, but people preferred plain papers. I wrote about family, art, goats, kittens, and positive thinking and of course there was love in them thar poems, we just didn't want to get sucked into the commercialised version.

Yesterday, sitting in the shade and writing at the While The Billy Boils Cafe in Gordon was great fun. Some friends came for moral support and people they knew turned up, so that accounted for 7 of the 16 poems I wrote in 4 hours. Another 7 were written for complete strangers. 

The interactions go thus: "Hi, I'm writing poems for customers today. Would you like one?"  "How interesting! Sure!" "Great. Thank you. What would you like your poem to be about?" "Oh! I don't really know .... could you write about ... well ..." Eventually, we come up with something together. Then I ask: "Do you want it to rhyme? Is there anything you want me to make sure I include?" By this time, I'm already writing. Finished, and having signed with a flourish, I read the poem out loud and invite them to tell me if there's anything to change. I hand over the paper with a logo on it, and file my carbon copy at the bottom of the pile. And off I go again.

The story of Pat's life took 2 pages, which is unusual for me. But we had to create the picture of her life of gardening, farming, raising children, and working as a tailoress at St John of God Hospital in Ballarat for 20 years, and I could not leave those vital ingredients out.

I become engaged in amazing conversations out of writing these pieces. A couple of women lunching together wanted two different poems about horses. Now I have written lots of poems on this topic for young people, but I was intrigued as to why these two women were keen on the topic. Well, it transpired they'd been involved in horse racing for years, one as a jockey, the other as a strapper in her spare time. When I asked why they were so passionate about horses, as I could tell from the energy and vitality they brought to the conversation, the ex-jockey said, "I just love watching them develop from young to adult and come to fruition. The confidence they get from the first win! Even the first race! How pleased they are with themselves, how proud. And to know I'm part of the team that helped them grow up like that." I love that phrase "come to fruition". 

The other 2 poems I wrote were for Triessia, the cafe owner. I believe this one is going on her facebook page:


You never know who
you'll meet
if you come into
the cafe
off the street -
persons of interest
celebrity or
as if they are books
in my hands
on loan.

I exchange good food
for the chance
to find
the next conversation
that expands
my mind.

In the next few weeks, I have Darley Market, Harvest Festival, Autumn Festival, a VCAL group and School Holiday Program as well as three more schools. I feel so privileged, because people share themselves so freely, and children respond so enthusiastically to my different perspective on writing and poetry. It is a life of fun and joy.

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