Nobody was more surprised than me when I was asked to be the guest poet at the monthly gathering of Tas Poets Performing. I’ve never seriously considered myself a poet, and still struggle to do so despite having had several poems published over the year. So I really did think Marilyn was joking when she said would I be September’s guest poet. She wasn’t joking, and persuaded me to agree.
I’m an occasional attendee at these poetry nights, which are held in a local pub and attract an audience of anywhere between five and twenty. They’re usually a chance to catch up with fellow writers – and those I consider ‘real’ poets like my friend Marilyn – and I generally take one or two of my political poems to read in the open mic set. And they do seem to be well received, which is lovely.
But having to select poems to fill a 10 to 15 minute slot was a different matter altogether. What to choose when the bulk of them are undeniably political and often less than flattering to politicians and governments of the day. They are also of the moment; a snapshot in time. I wasn’t really aware of that aspect until I pulled out the folders and realised just how many poems I’d written over the last 15 years ago.
I’m an accidental poet. In the early days of the pulp mill campaign I was invited to join a word game by New Zealand writer, Yvonne. I didn’t know her really, but her name often cropped up as the author of a story or essay published in the same UK small press magazine I was also beginning to have some success with. After spotting an item in a writing magazine about her first novel being published, I emailed my congratulations as a fellow southern hemisphere writer who was also achieving success. To may astonishment she replied and invited me to join Word Expo, a weekly online word game that was seeking some new players.
Because it was described as a game, not a writing exercise, I decided to give it a go and for reasons that remain a mystery to me what emerges from the disparate list of words submitted by that week’s players, is often poetry. And they are usually political. During the campaign years that meant many of them were about the pulp mill.
For my guest poet gig therefore the mill was one of the three issues I focussed on. The others being refugees, and climate change. It was a fun evening and it’s crystallised a decision to put together a book of these poems that are a poetic social and political history. Although quite when I shall have time to do this is unclear!
I’ve decided it’s also time I officially ‘come out’ as a poet, and added Tas Poet Performer to my writer CV!