Dianne Firth: Poetry and Place (2017)
Poetry and Place
Belconnen Arts Centre
26 August - 17 September 2017
Dianne Firth: Poetry and Place (2017)
So, a couple of days ago I received a very interesting email from textile artist Dianne Firth, in Australia. In it she said (among other things):
Dear Jack,I haven't yet received the catalogue - I'm looking forward to that very much - but I have managed to learn quite a lot about the exhibition by doing a bit of trawling around the internet.
At the 2016 Poetry on the Move festival, at Paul [Munden]'s request, you wrote a poem about Canberra. For the 2017 festival I created a textile work in response to that poem and I would like to send you a catalogue book from the resulting exhibition 'Poetry and Place'.
Could you please send me your mail address.
It's not as if this came as a complete surprise. I remember the original request, and doing quite a lot of scrabbling around to put together something which might be construed as a poem about the Canberra landscape (quite unfamiliar to me until my visit to the 2016 Poetry on the Move Festival, as one of the judges of the University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor's Poetry Prize).
I did duly send off the poem, "Canberra Tales" (which you can read here, if you're curious) before the deadline in December last year, but then after that I don't think I heard any more about it. I assumed that it was a bit too weird and/or insufficiently concerned with landscape to be of much use, and so - instead - I received the lovely present last year of an art piece by Bronwyn based on the first part of the it!
Bronwyn Lloyd: 1942 (2016)
I have to say that I love art-poetry collaborations. It's always so exciting to see what an artist has made of your own crazy musings, and I do seem to have clocked up quite a few of them over the years (check it out here, if you don't believe me).
This one was a bit different, though: this one was international. For a start, Dianne Firth is pretty eminent among Australian artists. In fact, she was honoured with an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in the 2017 Queen’s Birthday awards, which is no mean feat, and her work is clearly highly valued both in Australia and abroad. The brief for the show was as follows:
Inspired by her love of Canberra’s landscape and by contact with poets at the university’s Centre for Creative and Cultural Research, Firth invited poets from Australia and overseas who were in town for the summit to write about the beauty of our environment.I can't help wondering if I was the principal culprit among those 'who got carried away and came up with many poems' - as you can see from the list below, I seem to have been the only one whose poem got four separate works allotted to it!
Some of them got carried away and came up with many poems. One British poet declined, Canberra was too far from the hedgerows of England.
The 14 poets in question, then, were:
From Canberra ... Jen Webb, Merlinda Bobis, Paul Hetherington, Subhash Jaireth, Penelope Layland, Paul Munden, Jen Crawford and Wiradjuri poet Jeanine Leane. From overseas ... Pamela Beasant (Scotland), Katharine Coles (US), Philip Gross (UK), Alvin Pang (Singapore) and Jack Ross and Elizabeth Smither (NZ).And here are a few of the 34 works included in the exhibition:
Dianne Firth: Pamela Beasant’s “Canberra”
Dianne Firth: Philip Gross's "Canberra Rising"
Dianne Firth: Jeanine Leane’s “Kamberra a Hundred Years On”
Dianne Firth: Alvin Pang's "Icarus"
Dianne Firth: Jack Ross's "Canberra Tales"
Dianne Firth: Elizabeth Smither's "Pink trees surprised by blossom" (detail)
Dianne Firth: Jen Webb's "Attunga Point"
Dianne Firth: Subhash Jaireth & Elizabeth Smither's works in situ
Dianne Firth: Jeanine Leane & Penelope Layland's works in situ
So there's the show (or the closest I can get to reconstructing it at present). Unfortunately I was too late to buy the works based on my poem, but Jen Crawford and Jen Webb were both kind enough to take photos of it, and no doubt there will be more about it in the catalogue.
So, all in all, I think I'd have to rate this as one of the nicest surprises I've ever had: entirely out of left field, but one of those serendipitous events which sometimes light up one's day. Thanks, above all, Dianne Firth - but thanks, too, to Paul Munden, for facilitating the choice of poems in the first place, and thanks to Jen Crawford, for reading out my poem at the end-of-exhibition event, and thanks to Jen Webb, for posting about it on facebook, and thus putting me on the right track!
Dianne Firth: Jen Crawford's "Call"