Monday musings on Australian literature: Story and Poetry Readings

I’ve written several posts in the past about festivals and awards – national and regional – but I haven’t written about ongoing lower-key literary events, sometimes called Readings, sometimes Salons, so today I’m going to highlight this aspect of Australia’s literary culture. I first planned this post a year ago when I read about the Whispers Salon (more anon), but left it in the background until I had time to research other events. Then, last week, author-blogger Dina Ross emailed me about a new Melbourne event, Shorts@45, which finally spurred me into action. As usual with these sorts of posts, I am not presenting an exhaustive list – how could I know what’s going on all over Australia’s nooks and crannies – but giving a taste of what’s happening.

So, here goes, in alphabetical order by name of event:

  • Outspoken occurs in the gorgeous Maleny area of southeast Queensland. It describes itself as “an extended literary festival taking the form of occasional conversations with writers”. It started in November 2010, and they charge $15 for the events. Last year they had authors as diverse as ex-treasurer Wayne Swan and Karen Joy Fowler (whose We are completely beside ourselves was shortlisted for last year’s Man Booker Prize), historical Henry Reynolds and debut novelist Ellen van Neerven. This event is more of a “conversation” than a “readings” event, but I’m including it because it is an ongoing event rather than an annual festival – and I’m sure the authors would read from their works during the conversation! (Website, Podcasts page)
  • Poetry at the Gods is the event I know best. I have written about it at least once before (most recently last year in a post about hearing Les Murray at the event). The event takes its title from the venue, The Gods Cafe/Bar on the ANU (Australian National University) Campus. It is run by poet Geoff Page (whose verse novel, The scarring, I have reviewed here). It’s a monthly event and involves readings by, usually, a couple of poets, sometimes one, sometimes more, starting at 8pm (with meals available for purchase earlier). The cost for the event itself is $20. Page manages to organise many of Australia’s top poets to read (including local poet and winner of last year’s Prime Minister’s Literary Award for poetry, Melinda Smith). I only wish the evening didn’t clash with other commitments because I’d love to attend more often than I do. (Facebook Page)
  • SHORTS@45 is the event Dina Ross emailed me about. It is a new bimonthly series, curated by Ross. Its name, too, comes from its venue, fortyfivedownstairs, in Melbourne. It will comprise readings by authors and actors, and aims to celebrate “the best short story writing at home and overseas”. The event is supported by fortyfivedownstairs, Reader’s Feast Bookstore and Allen & Unwin’s Faber Writing Academy. It costs $20, including a glass of wine. (I like the sound of that!). The first event of the year will be February 9, and is themed Love and Loss, with contributions by Carrie Tiffany, Arnold Zable and Toni Jordan (all of whom I’ve reviewed here). There will also be a reading by actor Paul English, of a short story by Liam Davison who died in the MH17 crash last year. (Webpage)
  • Sunday Poetry (or, Sydney Poetry, or, Poetry Readings at the Brett Whitely Studio) is a free, monthly poetry reading event – held, yes, on Sundays – that seems to be supported by the Art Gallery of New South Wales. “Most months”, they say, “feature a poet from our curated program. At other times there are special open-mic readings”. I can’t locate the 2015 program, but it seems for have been running for at least 3 years, so I am assuming it will run again this year. Last year they had single poet readings (such as Omar Musa), multiple poet readings (Harbour City Poets), and open mic days (Aural Anthology).
  • Whispers Salon is organised by the Queensland Writers Centre (QWC) and is a bimonthly event. It’s free, and the QWC describes it as follows: “Whispers cuts across genre and style – short and long form – to showcase exciting new voices alongside some of Australia’s best-loved authors in a series of dynamic reading events.” The first events were, I believe, held at the State Library of Queensland, but in 2015 the event, they say, will be hosted throughout Queensland. The first event for the year, to be held on February 7, will be at the Fox Hotel in Brisbane, and is titled “A New Day” but it’s not clear exactly who will be reading.

These are just five events but I think they all sound pretty interesting. For an excellent list of Australian literary events, you might like to check Jason Nahrung’s blog page, 2015 Australian Literary Festival Calendar.

Have you been to any of the events I’ve listed – or to similar ongoing literary events like them?

4 thoughts on “Monday musings on Australian literature: Story and Poetry Readings

  1. How fun there are so many literary events to attend! I must admit I got excited about Whispers Salon because I thought it was something you were doing! It sounds like something you could be doing 🙂

  2. Thanks so much for mentioning The Gods and singling out yours truly ! I hate to be picky, but i did not have to share the PM’s Literary Award for Poetry, I got one all to myself. It was the fiction, non fiction and history categories that were shared. Makes me count myself all the luckier…

    • Hi Melinda … so sorry. I didn’t realise I’d left that in! I had a feeling yours was shared, then checked and found it wasn’t but clearly forgot to correct my text. Will do so now!

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