QLD Poetry Festival 2017: Distant Voices

My favourite time of the year is almost upon us again! August and September in Brisbane are particularly fabulous, the weather is gorgeous and the festivals are aplenty! The Queensland Poetry Festival officially begins next Thursday 24th August and I’m beyond excited.

This year’s theme is Distant Voices and I think it couldn’t be more relevant, considering the current states of affairs, Australia and elsewhere. There is no other festival like QPF who so strongly and passionately champion the voices of the people in society who we most need to hear the voices of.

I had planned to write a post about this year’s highlights and I’ve been looking over the program and thinking about how impossible it is to mention only a few of the events at the festival. I know I say this every year, but this year’s QPF program really is the best I have seen, it is so good in fact that I am struggling to decide which sessions to go to, and seriously considering cloning myself so I can go to everything.

Annie and David (and now Carody too!) do a tremendous job of pulling it all together, and they do it with such genuine heart and passion for poetry. As a writer and reader of poetry it’s such a privilege to spend time in the company of so many likeminded people, and an opportunity to meet and catch up with poetry friends across borders. Everyone who I’ve spoken to who has been to QPF talks about the beautiful, welcoming vibe it has, it’s unlike any other writer’s festival. And, over 75% of the program is free!

I’m going to name a few personal highlights which are also must-sees, especially if, unlike me, you have a life (outside of poetry) and won’t be able to spend 4 whole days at QPF.

Thursday 24th August:
10am-5pm @ Brisbane Square Library
– A day of panels and readings by some brilliant poets sharing their experiences with mental health and chronic illness. I’m particularly looking forward to these sessions, especially those on mental health; it’s so rarely talked about in an open, honest way and yet nearly every artist I know deals with mental health issues on some level.

6-7.30pm @ Judith Wright Centre – The official opening night, including a keynote address by the QPF Indigenous Poet in Residence Ali Cobby Eckermann, the Arts Queensland Poetry Awards, the Phillip Bacon Ekphrasis Award and the Oodgeroo Indigenous Poetry Prize, as well as a feature reading by Arts Queensland Poet in Residence Courtney Sina Meredith (NZ).

Friday 25th August: @ Judith Wright Centre

11.30am-12.30pm What Even Is Contemporary OZPO? A Panel
Free event co-presented by Australian Poetry
What is the state of affairs in contemporary Australian poetry? What is a state? An affair? What is contemporary? What even is poetry? Join leading poets and editors Sarah Holland-Batt, David Musgrave and Michelle Cahill as they discuss the state of play with chair Toby Fitch.

4-5.30pm Avant Gaga Reading
Free event co-presented by Australian Poetry
Experience some of the latest experiments in poetry and performance by leading, emerging and unexpected practitioners: Lionel Fogarty, Pascalle Burton, Nathan ShepherdsonShastra Deo, Chloë Callistemon, Stuart Barnes and Vernon Ah Kee. Followed by a half-hour headline performance by Christian Bök showcasing his newest volume of poetry, The Xenotext (Book 1). Hosted by Toby Fitch.

8-10pm QPF2017 Literary Cabaret
Ticketed event $25/$15 BOOK HERE
Join an all-star cast of multi-award-winning voices from across the globe, featuring QPF2017 Indigenous Poet in Residence Ali Cobby Eckermann; acclaimed author, poet and rapper Omar Musa; National Book Award for Poetry winner and New York Times–bestselling memoirist Mark Doty (USA); one of Australia’s most innovative poets and Stella Prize–short-listed author Maxine Beneba Clarke; leading Queensland poet and recipient of the 2016 Prime Minister’s Award for Poetry Sarah Holland-Batt; viral poet and 2017 Sarah Broom Prize winner Hera Lindsay Bird (NZ); and world-renowned Tibetan musician Tenzin Choegyal.

Saturday 26th August: @ Judith Wright Centre
1-2pm Thomas Shapcott Book Launch: Shastra Deo
Free event
UQP launch Shastra Deo’s stunning debut collection, The Agonist, which won the 2016 Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize. Pretty damn excited about this one! Shasta is a friend in life and poetry and she was the runner-up of the SLQ Young Writers Award the year I won so I feel like a proud awards mum watching her go on to even greater successes. And I can tell you, you WANT to read this collection, AND come to the launch. I hear there are cupcakes too, as if you needed any convincing.

4-5pm Dog Years: Mark Doty
Ticketed event $15 BOOK HERE
‘Being human is most likely a much lonelier endeavor than being a dog.’
Mark Doty’s bestselling Dog Years is an intimate poetic memoir interwoven with profound reflections on our feelings for animals and the lessons they teach us about living, love, grief and loss. Join Mark in conversation with Felicity Plunkett as part of his QPF–exclusive first Australian visit.

10 pm-late QPF Queer Literary Salon @ Bloodhound Bar
Ticketed event $15 BOOK HERE
There are no words to express just how excited I am about this event!
Stay up late for QPF’s Queer Literary Salon, a sublime celebration of diverse and daring voices ready to take you deep into the heart of Saturday night’s fever. Join MC Ruth Gardner and a glittering line-up of poetry, prose, music and more, featuring Quinn EadesOmar SakrAdele Pickvance, Ellen van NeervenEleanor Jackson, Courtney Sina Meredith, Jackie Ryan, Betsy TurcotOfa Fanaika, Jarad Bruinstroop and Torrey Atkin.

Sunday 27th August: @ Judith Wright Centre
10-11am QPF New Voices
Free event
I love having the opportunity to listen to and watch some of the best upcoming poetry talent. Come and hear six of Queensland’s most exciting new voices: Vivienne Mohan, Grace Lucas-Pennington, Nic Addenbrooke, Rae White, Nick van Buuren and 2016 SlammED! winner Lucy Cottier.

2.30-3.30pm Losing the Plot: Poetry and Mental Health
Free event
This panel explores how mental health informs writing, the fine line between poetry and psychosis, and the power of reclaiming language from institutions. Songwriter, author (and closet poet) Justin Heazlewood aka The Bedroom Philosopher, memoirist Paula Keogh and local poet Anna Jacobson join QPF Co-Director David Stavanger to discuss the page and the pill. 

4.30-5.30pm Viral Verse
Ticketed event $15 BOOK HERE
Fusing writing, technology and pop culture, a new generation is taking poetry beyond the bookstore. Join three leading lights of the online and social media poetry revolution as they read for you live beyond the screen: Button Poetry’s Co-Founder Sierra De Mulder (USA), award-winning and bestselling NZ poet Hera Lindsay Bird, and acclaimed USA author Patricia Lockwood, dubbed ‘the poet Laureate of Twitter’.

Okay, so that’s a wrap of my very limited highlights/must-see suggestions for this year’s QPF. It’s almost painful to only mention a few sessions, but make sure you click through to the full program and see for yourself the amazing quality and variety of sessions on offer. See you at the festival!


Published by becjessen

Rebecca Jessen lives in Brisbane. She is the award-winning author of verse-novel Gap (UQP 2014). Rebecca is the winner of the 2015 QLD Premier’s Young Publishers and Writers Award. Her book Gap was shortlisted for the 2015 Sisters In Crime Davitt Award for Best Debut Book. In 2013 Rebecca won the Queensland Literary Award for Best Emerging Author. In 2012 she won the State Library of Queensland Young Writers Award. Rebecca’s writing has been published in Overland, Meanjin, Going Down Swinging, The Lifted Brow, Cordite Poetry Review, Mascara Literary Review, Tincture Journal, Verity La, Voiceworks and more. Rebecca is currently studying her Honours in Creative Writing at QUT.

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