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Friday, 28 December 2012


Liz Hall-Downs: Thom, you're a very well-known figure in Australia, especially on the Melbourne scene, after 20 years spent running Street Poetry venues. Can you comment on the philosophy behind 'Street Poetry', and say a little about its beginnings and how the movement has impacted (or not) on OzLit? 

Thom: Street Poetry is premised upon the idea that poetry belongs to EVERYBODY-that poetry is a living, breathing art form and not just a museum of antiquities - and that access to poetry can and should be universal and a positive experience for all who choose it. In terms of impact-open mikes still flourish in Melbourne more than in any other Australian city - and independent publishing is acknowledged as a solution to the impasse of publishers who spend time NOT publishing poetry! Certain Street Poets are still active - Bridh Hancock, Ken Smeaton, Pamela Sidney - and a new generation of feral poets are simmering in Melbourne coffee shops and even inner city pubs. Street Poetry had theatres (Living Room Theatre, Carringbush Theatre), Coffee Shops (e.g. Parachute, Raglan Cafe, New Commune, Cafe Jammin), and even pubs (e.g. Rochester Castle, Provincial, Albion), although we were always more an ALL AGES, ALL SEXES, ALL COMERS phenomenon - with outreach to Bendigo, Daylesford, New England (Tamworth), Sydney, Adelaide , Geelong and anywhere Street Poetry was possible. Certain heroes are remembered: Zonk! (who joined the Krishnas - "better food, more money"); Dr Rod Bretherton (RU486 advocate), Stuart MacDonald (Geelong Street Poets); Alicia Stammers (Women's Street Poetry), Anita Sinclair (Workhouse Theatre). Some have died or moved on to other pursuits-poetry was always a joy rather than a crusade-and Street Poetry remains largely a memory for the participants (and those touched by their work!) Those sheets of Street Poetry in the LaTrobe library (Victoria) under Ephemeralia (500 sheets of poetry distributed daily at the corner of Swanston and Flinders) and later 3000 at lunchtime in the Bourke Street Mall - and many many given out at rock concerts - all remembered by those who choose to. 

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