Open Letter to Live Poets

Paul Sherman Award

Queensland Poetry Festival

Level 2, State Library of Queensland Cultural Centre

Stanley Place South Brisbane 4101, Queensland.

03/02/2017

 

Dear QPF Programming Committee,

Firstly, please forgive this rather old-fashioned manner that I am using to communicate with you, the members of the QPF programming committee, but it seems to me that there is no other official access to your ears alone except by letter.

You may or may not be aware of the great Queensland poetry Facebook debate that raged over the 2016 Christmas period for about three weeks, instigated by an article I wrote for my WordPress webpage entitled, “Notorious Q.P.F.”. In that article I spoke about some reservations I have about certain aspects of the Queensland Poetry Festival programming over the last two years, and where the festival is headed under the leadership of the current co-directors.

After more than 230 comments by 30+ poets from both Queensland and interstate, it seems that I am not alone in my concerns that the QPF has some programming challenges. Here are some of those concerns from the thread summarised for your benefit.

  1. There is concern from some poets that the QPF is becoming too performance based in its programming to the detriment of page poetry.
  2. There is concern that the quality and balance of the programming is suffering from this overbalance in aesthetics towards performance poetry and music, which prioritises poetry as ‘entertainment’ rather than poetry as a profound form of social capital.
  3. There is concern that aspects of the QPF programming aim to be sensationalist and appear to be included for the sake of the festival’s publicity. An example of this type of sensationalism would be Clive Palmer’s inclusion in the 2015 festival.
  4. There is concern that there is a lack of serious intellectual/academic engagement with poetry as an art form, because of a lack of programmed panel discussions.
  5. There is also concern that not enough poetry book launches are programmed in the festival, which should be a priority for the distribution and celebration of new poetry collections both from Queensland and interstate poets, but isn’t.
  6. Added to that point, some local Queensland poetry publishers feel that they have been excluded from the festival for some time.
  7. Regional poets expressed concern over a lack of representation in a festival that seems to program most of its Queensland poets from South-East Queensland.
  8. There is concern from established and older Queensland poets, including older women poets about a lack of representation in the festival.
  9. There is concern that talented and successful Queensland page poets, some, winners of major national literary awards are being under-utilised in the festival program, when they are included.
  10. There is concern that a group of Brisbane-based performance poets (who are mostly friends of each other) regularly receive more opportunities with QPF’s poetry projects, readings programs and QPF festival programming, than other Queensland poets, who are not part of this Brisbane performance/slam coterie.
  11. On that point, finally there is concern about the closed membership of the QPF, that is, legally confined to the two co-directors, the QPF programming committee and the QPF board, and that this apparent lack of openness and democracy is a problem.

I hope these concerns might go some way to influencing future programming decisions by the QPF over the foreseeable future. There are plenty of good things that the festival is currently engaged in, like increasing the exposure of Indigenous poetry through the 2016 focus on First Nations’ writing, however, there are other concerns that need to be addressed if the festival is to maintain its status as the premier poetry festival in Australia.

Happy programming for 2017!

Kind regards,

 

B.R. Dionysius

 

 

 

 

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