Arts & Culture

On the quiet Far South Coast, local poets are fully engrossed

Lottie Twyford24 July 2021
Linda Albertson, Kai Jensen and Chloe Spear standing outdoors

(From left) Linda Albertson, Kai Jensen and Chloe Spear are leading the poetry push on the NSW Far South Coast. Photo: Kai Jensen.

A group of dedicated locals on the NSW Far South Coast are encouraging residents to let out their inner Wordsworth, Plath or Yeats.

Their efforts have seen several workshops, poetry groups and poetry reading sessions spring up in the past few years, and local poets have performed on stages big and small.

According to local editor and poet Kai Jensen, writing poetry can be a daunting experience at first.

“Venturing out into the blank page with no maps, that’s frightening,” he says.

Kai says people tend to stick with what they think a poem should be – whether that’s the need to rhyme, stick to a set meter, or restrict themselves to writing about a personal experience with some kind of moral reckoning emerging.

So while he’s unlikely to be impressed with the rhyme that made its way into the headline of this article, he is impressed with the diverse range of people who are unafraid to have a go and venture into the unknown.

Many of the poetry workshops Kai has been involved with have seen locals undertake the somewhat “gruelling but worthwhile” task of responding to events such as the Black Summer bushfires or the Christchurch terrorist attack.

However, he does say he’s often a bit hesitant about using poetry or poetry readings to help people ‘process’ trauma.

“The fires sort of threw us all a bit so we did an event to raise money for wildlife refuges on the theme of nature,” says Kai.

“Then we did another event at Sculpture Bermagui where we put up a big white painted door and asked people to write us a line of poetry about anything, really, but hopefully their reaction to the art,” he said.

Coming from a bookish family in New Zealand, Kai started writing poetry as a young man, and says he did so “probably in the way that young men do, you know, to be a pretentious, soulful person”.

When he went to university in Dunedin he found himself enchanted with the reaction his work could get from the audience when he performed for the live poetry scene.

So he began writing for the page again and eventually got several poems published in illustrious Australasian journals.

“But I felt, personally, that it wasn’t working and I wasn’t getting a book published,” says Kai.

“I felt I wasn’t writing works that hung together in a satisfying interaction for the reader.”

After working in Melbourne for many years, it was after relocating to the NSW Far South Coast, next to Wallaga Lake and the surrounding trees, that Kai rekindled his desire to write poetry once more.

He’s currently offering a review/advice service to aspiring poets on the coast to help improve the quality of their work.

“Those who are taking up this service are, I think, reaching the standard of work published in leading Australian poetry journals,” he says.

According to Kai, while this makes up the bulk of his work to create a Far South Coast poetry scene, he was also one half of the founding duo of the Well Thumbed Poets which has been in operation since 2018, and he’s recently been running monthly contemporary workshops at Bermagui Library.

The Bermagui Poets was founded by Chloe Spear in 2019, and members from both groups have collaborated on Chookbook, a giveaway leaflet of poems about chickens.

Kai says the readings he and Chloe, along with Linda Albertson, did at the Four Winds Festival, was definitely a high point as the trio performed for 750 people.

They hope to organise more live poetry performances in the near future.

What's Your Opinion?

One Response to On the quiet Far South Coast, local poets are fully engrossed

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Phil McManus Phil McManus 8:51 am 26 Jul 21

Howdy Yes it is great to have people interested in poetry but Kai’s poetry is free verse or as he calls it MODERN, sorry but it leaves me cold as it lacks Rhythm, Meter and Rhyme. The best poets to learn from are LAwson and Patterson some of our own. I would have loved to be invited to perform at the Bermy 4 Winds Fest as I have done other Functions and Festivals.
Here is a Poem that I wrote Yesty for a radio programme today on 97.5 fm just some banter
Dogs Vs Dees

Keith was spruiking about his red, white and blue
An old die hard doggie through and through
About how his team are marching to the flag
And how they had the premiership in the bag
They were flying on top of the footy ladder
But have they the final petrol in the bladder

It came to round eleven with a top a the table clash
When men would stand up and show their dash
There was no white in sight, just the red and blue
Of the Demons Trakka, Gawen, Oliver and crew
Who jumped out of the box with a blistering quarter
And the Dees topped the Dogs in a glorious slaughter

Then came the rematch for the battle in round nineteen
An arm wrestle to and fro but then the Bont was seen
Then Weightman sat on Gawn and followed up with a goal
Was enough to dampen the fire in a Demon teams soul
Yea the Doggies came up trumps on that fateful day
But there are still a lot of rounds yet to finish play

Lets see you old Dog who will be marching on in September
For a premiership game being grand and true to remember
It will be a tough game, a rough game, with all heart on the line
The Hanger, The Mark, The Torpedo, The Goal, will all be fine
But at the end of the day there can only be one gloating winner
And that will come down to a Dog or a Demon to be the grinner

Footnote
Being an old Doggie player in the red, white and blue
I have a soft spot for the jumper but my heart beats true
Ever since a teacher hoodwinked his class to be this way
For his brother was a Demon and so he demanded us sway
But the footy gods are good as a team sport with your mates
Allows you to socialise and bullshit as your bond maturiates.

©Phil McManus 5.25pm Shed 25/7 /21

Cheers All

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