2016 marks the 20th year of the Queensland Poetry Festival and the festival has created an award to celebrate this huge achievement. Paul Sherman was an English teacher, poet, playwright, performer, actor and mentor who lived and breathed literature and poetry as much as anyone could have in one life. Paul was an inspiring classroom teacher and his students benefited from his passion for, and deep knowledge of literature. In addition, he was able to bring to bear on his classroom work with students the special perspectives of being both an accomplished and experienced actor and a published poet and playwright. Students who had Paul Sherman as an English teacher were very fortunate indeed. He was awarded the Peter Botsman Award in 2010 for his outstanding contribution to English teaching.
While I’ve been nominated for the inaugural 2016 Paul Sherman Community Poetry Award along with Matt Foley, the former Queensland Minister for The Arts and local poet Angela Pieta, there are a host of other people who will also be nominated in the future for their contribution to the development of poetry in Queensland over the years.
These include; Robert Hughes and Eluned Lloyd, who managed the Queensland Poetry Association in the 1990s, an organisation that gave a base to poetry at the Metro Arts Centre, and valuable support to new poets through publication and readings in Brisbane; Francis Boyle, who is probably the most dedicated poetry committee member the world has ever seen; Rob Morris, poet, editor and publisher of Small Packages; Ross Clark, who as an English teacher, poet, and workshop facilitator, has since the 1980s mentored more poets than probably anyone else in the state; the late Dr John Knight, who as an educator, poet, academic, and publisher gave many Queensland poets their first taste of publication either through the journal Social Alternatives or his press Post Pressed; Dr Philip Neilsen and Helen Horton, who edited the journal Imago (1989-2001), which encouraged a new generation of Queensland poets; Uncle Herb Wharton, who led the way for Indigenous writers to have their stories told; Bronwyn Lea, who as a poet, arts administrator, editor, UQP publisher, academic, critic and reviewer, continues to represent Queensland on a national scale as the new poetry editor of Meanjin; Brentley Frazer and Adam Pettet, who have for the past 20 years contributed to the advancement of Queensland poetry as arts administrators, poets, influential editors (Retort and now Bareknuckle Poets) publishers, poetry reading coordinators (think QPF, speedpoets), academics and are the front men of the poetry avant-garde in this state; Sam Wagan Watson, probably the most significant Indigenous poet writing in Australia today; and lastly Graham Nunn, who for all of his controversial status as a poet, still contributed significantly as a teacher, director, event coordinator, publisher, editor and mentor to poets in Queensland.