Spring Street isn’t usually my side of town. The suits are scary. The steps at Parliament (both the landmark and the station) are so steep I want to vomit on something. The venues all have dress-codes. Despite all of this, last night I made my way down the lane way of Meyers Place to Loop Bar for the launch of the Melbourne Poetry Map: Audio Graffiti. Impossible bar to find. We stood outside for a good few minutes trying to decide if we were at the right place – there’s a severe lack of signage here. Randall Stephens’ hat was the only thing to give it away.
Turns out that more people than the venue could comfortably fit had the same idea. We piled in on top of each other, spooning strangers. It was worth it. Partly for the opportunity to spoon people I didn’t know, but mostly for the amazing words that came through the PA.
The Mebourne Poetry Map project is a tour of Melbourne landmarks, each with its own poem delivered by well-known and respected Melbourne poets. There are six podcasts and maps available to download, and each tells a different story. As you take each route, Melbourne opens up as human and alive and very very touchable. This isn’t a tourist guide – this is the beating heart of Melbourne as told by our best.
While the podcasts feature 21 poets, the MPM:AG launch last night showcased 13 of those performers. Highlights included Randall Stephens’ “What are you looking at?” and Lia Incognita’s “Typography”. While these poems are wonderful in their recorded podcast form, they really had a sparkle at last night’s performances. Randall seems to feed on audience enthusiasm, and his yelling “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU LOOKING AT!?” at us was electric, it grabbed attention and didn’t let it go until the end. His yells were shoved right up against quiet, lovely, intimate explanations of exactly what you are looking at.
Lia used signs to demonstrate the typography she was exploring, as a Chinese-Australian, chinese Australian, Chinese/Australian poet.
These more serious pieces were performed along with pieces that made me laugh out loud – real, blurt-laughter. Maurice McNamara talked about the terror that book sellers feel at the prospect of selling actual books to actual people. Are you sure?
The blurt-laughter-est piece of the evening was definitely Meaghan Bell’s “Union Lane References Hunter S Thompson”, in which she channels HST’s utterly terrifying technicoloured menageries into a back-alley of our own city.
The performances were strong, the podcasts are enjoyable, and I plan on downloading them and taking a walk some time soon. Check it out, get to know your city from a different angle. Props to Eleanor Jackson for producing such an original and exciting project!