Sometimes I wonder whether I’ve slipped into some alternate reality of Philip K Dick’s, where things look similar to my home planet, but you then start to see some very subtle differences that end up wanting to crush the individuality out of you, or at least oppress everyone, or drop a giant pinball onto you. It all seems rather Ubik-uitious, this constant nepotism on behalf of the QPF inner circle; these close friends who are all reading this year at the festival, or applying for poetry competitions coordinated by their mates.
Nothing could be more discombobulating than my broken relationship with the QPF that has seen me blacklisted from poetry projects run by David Stavanger & co, to being overlooked for readings organised in Brisbane, to even participating in the Queensland Poetry Festival, particularly in an event like this year’s Puncher & Wattman reading from the Contemporary Australian Poetry 1990-2015 anthology. I did apply through the EOI process to do a reading this year, but alas didn’t get the nod. All I’m getting is the good ole heave ho.
So, to my latest bitterness. The Arts Queensland Val Vallis Award for Unpublished Poetry is one of the country’s most prestigious poetry awards for you guessed it – unpublished poems and has been around for years. I blogged earlier that I had reservations about one of this year’s judges – Stuart Barnes (oh he’s also on at the festival 3 times too) who was given this judging job after only publishing one collection of poetry. Call me old-fashioned maybe, but he’s only an emerging poet, so I thought that there might be some controversy over this year’s shortlist. And here it is.
Rebecca (Bec) Jessen has been on the programming committee of the Queensland Poetry Festival for a few years now and is currently a Programing Advisor for the 2017 Queensland Poetry Festival. ‘QPF now engages volunteer Program Advisors to independently assess all EOI’s, as well as making program and artist suggestions.’ Although there is no rule in the conditions of entry that technically prohibits anyone associated with the QPF from applying to the Val Vallis Award, (why Stavanger could even apply if he chose to), us ordinary poetry punters would hope that someone in such a close and official QPF position (like an unpaid employee of the organisation really) would be ethically disqualified from entering this competition considering they may have even had some role in appointing the two judges?
This just appears to be another continuation in the ethical breaches of Stavanger & co; they give their close friends regular gigs at poetry events and at the QPF year after year; anyone who criticises their ‘mates’ or their organisation are black banned or are gas lit – as racists; they continue to do things with a lack of transparency; they continue to program and pay lots of money to non-poets; they are cultivating a popularist aesthetic as opposed to a contemporary poetic aesthetic.
I’m looking forward to going to this year’s event and talking to local, interstate and even international poets about this state of affairs. Does anyone else see this as a problem or is it just me?
Have I slipped innocuously into that other stranger things dimension where nepotism and cronyism are the new gods? Or perhaps I now inhabit that story from Twilight Zone: the Movie where that little boy with god-like powers has scared everyone into obeying his every command, or else he seals their mouths or makes them disappear altogether.