19 November 2021

'That Poetry Thing...' returns to Smith's Alternative, where Canberrans can share their work onstage

| Chris Huet
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Man onstage reciting poetry

‘That Poetry Thing That is on at Smith’s Every Monday’ is a poetry event held weekly at Smith’s Alternative in Civic. Photo: Dylan Jones.

Was poetry one of your COVID-19 lockdown distractions? Or perhaps you’ve always written poems? If so, share the joys of poetry in a welcoming environment with other poets.

‘That Poetry Thing That is on at Smith’s Every Monday’ is exactly what it says – a poetry event held weekly at Smith’s Alternative in the Canberra CBD.

Local poet and artist Jacqui Malins is one of the event’s organisers. She describes ‘That Poetry Thing…’ as “a chance to hear exciting new work at the open mic, as well as features by more established and experienced poets”.

The event welcomes people who are new to poetry, long-time lovers of verse, and everyone between.

Sarah St Vincent Welch, another organiser and poet, finds ‘That Poetry Thing…’ to be “wonderful because of its regularity and ease of joining the community”.

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She has a particular love of the open mic section – where anyone can share their work – for being “surprising, egalitarian, wondrous and adventurous”.

‘That Poetry Thing…’ is part of a strong poetry scene in the ACT.

“While writing can be a solitary pursuit, Canberra’s poetry community is really welcoming, encouraging and supportive,” says Jacqui.

Sarah describes it as a “community reaching more people, with many possibilities to be explored”.

“Voices of intelligent and passionate dissent… engines of hope and wonder,” she says.

Man reciting poetry onstage at Smith's Alternative

The poetry event at Smith’s Alternative is an opportunity for Canberrans to share their work with others. Photo: Sarah St Vincent Welch.

Hope and wonder are two of the gifts poetry has given people in these challenging times, as they seek a place of reflection and consolation.

For Sarah, poetry is “psychologically necessary”.

Jacqui describes it as “a great way to get to grips with what is going on, or escape it altogether”.

She encourages others to consider taking up the artform.

“You need so little to write poetry, just a pen and paper,” she says. “You don’t need a special place, or even big chunks of time.”

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The team behind ‘That Poetry Thing…’ kept the event going through the ACT’s lockdowns, jumping to Zoom when restrictions barred the usual in-person show.

“Online events have been a great way to share work and get to know, and even work with, different poets across the country and world,” says Jacqui.

Sarah agrees: “I have also connected more with poets across Australia and internationally through Zoom during the past two years.”

As ‘That Poetry Thing…’ thrived, another two regular Canberra poetry events dropped off the scene.

“The long-running ‘Bad Slam’ and ‘Canberra Slamboree’ finished up in 2019-2020,” says Jacqui.

Woman reciting poetry onstage at Smith's Alternative

The first in-person ‘That Poetry Thing…’ event post-lockdown will be held on Monday, 22 November, at Smith’s Alternative. Photo: Dylan Jones.

“The shutdowns have so far made it difficult for new events to get their steam up. Fingers crossed 2022 makes this possible.”

Did you hear that, emerging poets and event organisers? There is a gap in the scene for energetic newcomers to add to the strong history of live poetry in the ACT.

‘That Poetry Thing…’ will soon be switching back to in-person gigs.

“Our first live event at Smith’s Alternative post-lockdown is on Monday, 22 November,” says Jacqui.

“[The event will feature] the two ACT finalists in the Australian Poetry Slam, Audrey McCormick and Oli, aka Sophie Meredith, before they head to Sydney to represent Canberra in the grand final.”

Girl reciting poetry onstage at Smith's Alternative

‘That Poetry Thing…’ is held at 7 pm every Monday at Smith’s Alternative. Photo: Sarah St Vincent Welch.

For those who are not yet confident to read their work in public, Jacqui is holding a performance workshop on Sunday, 21 November.

She will lead “fun activities to build confidence, read our poetry clearly and expressively, and start exploring some more dramatic performance”.

Participants will then have the opportunity to share their work at ‘That Poetry Thing…’ on Monday, 29 November.

‘That Poetry Thing That is on at Smith’s Every Monday’ is held at 7 pm every Monday at Smith’s Alternative, on Alinga Street in Civic.

Chris Huet is a Canberra-based keynote speaker and communications coach. He performs spoken word as CJ Bowerbird and was the winner of the 2012 Australian Poetry Slam Championship.

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