Associate Professor Cassandra Atherton – Poetry on the Move: Boundary Crossings

Associate Professor Cassandra Atherton shares her recent activities and appearances including the third annual Poetry on the Move Festival:

Poetry on the Move: Boundary Crossings

A Festival of Poetry, 14–21 September 2017

It’s no secret that I love the Poetry on the Move festivals, hosted by the International Poetry Studies Institute at The University of Canberra. I recently attended the third annual Poetry on the Move festival which was spread out over eight days, featuring 75 poets and other contributors. It’s not a small festival, over 1500 people attended events that took place at a range of locations, including the University of Canberra’s Bruce campus, city locations, the Belconnen Arts Centre, and the National Portrait Gallery. Also, the events are free which means that you get a hugely diverse audience at each session and meet a range of people – not just other poets.

One of the things I love about the festival is its passion for poetry. Everyone who attends is excited by and incredibly supportive of poetry. Conversations about poetry extend from the sessions and poetry readings to breaks between events, lunch and dinner. In this environment you can take risks and edge into new territory without fear of aggressive point scoring in question time, but with important constructive feedback offered from a variety of viewpoints.

I was involved in a Japanese translation workshop, after translating a Japanese poem into English earlier this year.  I was hugely excited to see it included in this marvelous book, prioritizing women poets by Recent Work Press.

In addition to this, I spoke at the National Portrait gallery as part of a panel on ekphrastic poetry with Tony Barnstone, Ravi Shankar, Susan Feely, Luke Fischer, chaired by CHRG’s own associate member, Paul Hetherington. This session led to a brilliant discussion of aurasis (a term coined by Shankar) to describe poetry and music in the same way that ekphrasis showcases poetry and art.  I also gave a paper on prose poetry with Paul Hetherington on American and Australian neo-surrealist prose poetry, which forms part of a chapter in our book on prose poetry for Princeton University Press.  It’s great to be able to test out these ideas with an engaged audience before publication. 

I was a bit nervous to be chairing a panel of editors from prestigious journals, anthologies and publishing houses on poetry editing. The panel included Bonny Cassidy, Sarah Holland-Batt, Ivor Indyk, John Knight and Catherine Noske and ranged across pertinent issues such as ethics, selection and funding.  It was a popular session and the discussion was lively and provided the audience with information and viewpoints on a variety of issues – indeed one audience member emailed me to say that she loved the panel and had a greater idea of why her poetry kept getting rejected after hearing the panel speak!

Finally, spending time with the amazing Writers in Residence was a huge highlight of the festival. Poet and playwright, Glyn Maxwell from the UK gave a smashing keynote paper on Derek Walcott and some brilliant readings of his publications. Vahni Capildeo, winner of last year’s prestigious Forward Prize for Poetry wowed crowds with her discussions of expatriation and her witty poetry readings. They both launched chapbooks published by IPSI and produced by Recent Works Press, along with the two of the judges of the numerous poetry prizes (Jennifer Harrison and Philip Hall). I doubt I’ll ever forget discussing shoes with Vahni and drinking Long Island Iced teas with Glyn!

A huge thank you to Paul Munden from UC who puts his heart and soul into organizing this event each year and to Shane Strange who organizes wonderful events and produces beautiful books. I look forward to seeing what events they will come up with for Poetry on the Move, 2018.




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