I recently returned from my first ever poetry tour. Working as a poet in regional Australia is fantastic: I have a strong creative community and a great work-life balance, with all the benefits of a laid-back lifestyle. Unfortunately though, regional artists often need to engage with the cities to bring our creative work to a wider audience, and that’s what I decided to do at the end of this year.
The tour saw me doing a different gig every day in Sydney, Newcastle, and Wollongong. I featured or facilitated at six poetry events, met the most inspiring people, and got to see how poetry communities are evolving in different cities. Interestingly, most of the poetry events had a fairly small attendance – around 30-40 people – but this number was comprised of such dedicated and engaged individuals that it was immensely valuable to connect with them. I really was surprised by the positive response to the tour. People were excited and interested even if they hadn’t heard of me, and they showed their support in many generous ways: offering accommodation or drinks, buying books, starting conversations.
Most of the poetry nights were arranged with a feature and open mic, so that I did a feature set of around 15-30 minutes at each. This is great for building up performance skills because I was able to try out different combinations of pieces. It was enormously rewarding to then hear poems from the attendees, some of whom were accomplished poets and others nervous newbies, all embraced in the welcoming community of spoken-word. This is something I love about live poetry, it always feels like an exchange between equals.
The hosts of these nights were a truly extraordinary bunch of women, all very professional and passionate about supporting poets. Many were happy to host me not just at their event but at their homes as well, giving me a bed for the night so I didn’t have to stay in hotels. Getting to know each other, trading stories and book recommendations, made it the very best kind of travel.
A few people have been curious about how to organise a tour like this, so I’ll aim to give you the run-down soon. It’s really not that hard, but it’s also not glamorous or financially rewarding. Fortunately I have a day job too, and the ‘reward’ I seek in creative work is the opportunity to do more poetry. Even if work doesn’t often translate to income, it’s always a privilege to be doing what I love.
A big shout out to everyone who supported the tour. Thank you for supporting an independent working poet. I can’t wait to see you all again soon!
*Photo credit: Top 3 images by Alpha Sierra studios, Newcastle.