Dr Cassandra Atherton is a Senior Lecturer in Literary Studies and Professional & Creative Writing. She has recently returned from a 12 month appointment as a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University. Cassandra recaps her recent reading at the Poetry at the House series:
On 11 May I was thrilled to give a poetry reading as part of Geoff Page’s ‘Poetry at the House’ series. Held at the Australian National University, this is Canberra’s longest running literary event and host to an array of brilliant national and international poets. Two decades ago, Page – a prolific poet himself – started a monthly series of readings first called ‘Poetry at the Neruda’, then ‘ Poetry at the Gods’, as the event changed venues. The launch of the new venue at ANU was celebrated with a reading by Les Murray.
I was asked to read from my recently published book, Exhumed, for 35 minutes. I’ve done quite a few readings of 15 minutes, but I was excited – and a little terrified – at the prospect of such a long reading. Geoff introduced me as “one of the few Australian poets who focus on prose poetry…and who has written a lot in this area”, which I was delighted by as I’m secretly trying to become Australia’s foremost prose poetry critic and practitioner – to be fair, there aren’t very many prose poets who don’t also write lineated poetry, so I have a head start!
I decided to read a number of my more darkly comic pieces to warm up the crowd. Too often poetry readings can be really grave affairs (excuse the pun from a poet whose book is called Exhumed) and it was wonderful to hear lots of laughing and clapping (at the right times!) I also read a sequence of poems set in Tokyo and Hiroshima post-atomic bomb, which I thought showed a little more of my range. It was wonderful to think about my prose poems as aural vehicles and consider how I wanted to showcase them for a listener, in addition to a reader.