Review: Ryan Van Winkle’s Red Like Our Room Used To Feel @ Melbourne Fringe

If I told you I visited a room where I was asked to sit/recline/curl up on a bed by a poet who offered me port/tea and read poems to me, you would think ‘What the…?’ Well, it’s not what you think! It is in fact Red Like Our Room Used To Feel, a one-man Fringe show by one Ryan Van Winkle. Upon entering the busy Melbourne Hub and hurrying downstairs to The Warren (I was two minutes late for my appointment – yes, you must make an appointment!), I was greeted by a nice sort of chap who gave me the following instructions: there will be four envelopes on a bed. Pick one – don’t look inside it – then give it to me.

I entered a red room. The walls were strewn with lights and pictures and the bedside with various objects. I was filled with the impression of memories revisited yet the people abandoned; the remnants of a life or a space once inhabited and now left untouched.

I picked my envelope and gave it to Ryan who then made me a tea, offered biscuits and once he was certain I was comfortable, sat at the edge of the bed and began reading poems from typed out sheets in his hands.

Having heard poets read for a few years now, I still see it as a vulnerable act to pull out a poem and read to strangers. Reading to one person often feels more confronting than reading to a full room. When one considers this, I imagine Red Like Our Room Used to Feel is intended as a confronting experience not only for the listener but for the poet himself. Ryan, throughout, delivers his poems in an assured calm voice, hence allowing his images and lines to absorb to the maximum. The lingering music of Ragland creates a meditative atmosphere.

I will not give details about the objects in the room or the poems themselves, as you really must go for yourself to experience them firsthand. What I will say is that the poems coupled with the surrounding knick-knacks and photographs give a feeling of something lost. I left with the not

Fringe Show Review: Emily Anderson's 'Love in the Key of Britpop'

Review by Randall Stephens

You know that problem you get with good performance poetry, you hear that killer line and think “yeah that’s fantastic, remember that one afterwards” then you get hit with another, and another, until by the end there’s simply been too many poignant moments for your memory to retain. Ultimately though, all that matters is that you saw something special, something original, something so bloody good you’ll finally sit down and actually write something for, hypothetically.

Emily Andersen’s “Love in the Key of Britpop” is an hour long spoken word narrative show, on at the Tuxedo Cat as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival. Some of us were lucky enough to see Emily recite a few sections from it at Sweetalkers early this year, so Steve Smart and I were really keen to get down there and see the whole thing, and were well rewarded. I’m reluctant to divulge too much about what the narrative is about for fear of unfair categorisation here, but here goes: it’s girl-meets-boy, girl lives in Australia, boy lives in London, girl and boy both have a passionate love for 1990s Britpop, and (incidentally) each other.

Where recently I’ve see any number of spoken word poets struggle to keep a coherent narrative interesting through the course of even a singular poem, it’s so refreshing to experience something really well structured and well paced, and stage-directed. Emily’s story hits the ground and running and never meanders into anything overly abstract or overly referential (all the more impressive given the show’s built around the idea of two people shared love of a currently/increasingly obscure music genre), and in spite or a very regular rhythm of delivery Emily’s discourse never stops moving the story forward. There’s a deft balance of biographical character, ironic humour, tragic pathos, wild romance that carries you all the way through the drama.

I still think (or at least wa

Book and CD review: These Wandering Feet by Joel McKerrow

Review by Amanda Anastasi

“Start with that place within you”

From the opening line of the first poem Water, you know that this collection is not merely an offering of poems but a spiritual offering. Good poetry is a thing of spirit and reflection by nature, however this collection has a focused intent from the outset. Subtitled “Reflections From A Travelling Pilgrim,” the author’s hope (as he states in his introduction) is that “your eyes become wider.”

The book is divided in four sections: The Water That Flows Between Us, The Wind That Blows Above Us, The Earth That Stands Below Us and The Fire That Burns Within Us. That is, as Joel explains in his introduction “our connection with each other, with the divine, with the earth and with ourselves”. The structuring of the book under these four elements adds to the pervading universality of the work, the four elements of nature being prevalent in hindu, Buddhist and pagan traditions. There is also no shortage of biblical imagery, but the focus is on the expansiveness of the travelling spirit, the richness of the present and the dropping away of the ego.

In Ayrshire Scotland and Hasten Ye Back, McKerrow explores the places and people of his ancestry. In poems such as Betty Winifred King he makes himself the mouthpiece for the stories of those that came before him. Although Joel on one hand urges the “tossing in the fire…this notion of ‘I’ ‘you’ ‘us’ and ‘them’” in Kindling, he holds strong to things of culture and ancestry, perhaps giving him a point of reference from which to move in new directions. I enjoyed the slightly grittier poems in this section, such as Broken Pavement and Lawrence Cook. Refugee was also strong.

Joel subverts the traditional gender of ‘God’ by using the pronoun ‘She’ and then later also ‘He’. In the section titled The Wind That Blows Above Us, Joel is incessantly looking toward God, finding him/

Randall Stephens: poet, idiot, cyclist

Words by Nicki Reed

Self-interest. It got me here. Self-interest isn’t only mine, you have it too. We are propelled by it; money, sex, art, sex, money. Self-interest has propelled me on a wet Wednesday afternoon to The Moat.

The Moat is a small café in the subterranean space of the State Library. As part of an Emerging Writer’s Festival and Australian Poetry collaboration, The Moet is involved in the Café Poets program. Randall Stephens is The Moat’s poet in residence.

I’m here to see Randall do his thing. He’s MCing a panel I’m on. We are to talk about erotic writing. Randall’s gonna life preserve me and you know, I’ve got to see if he’s up to it. Like I said, self interest.

I’ve met Randall. On his lunch hour at his day job. We met at the corner of Johnston and Smith, tram tracks, traffic, I stood on a corner and looked about for him. Is that him? What do poets wear? He probably wondered what does a novelist wear? This one wears jeans and a t-shirt and nerves around parking fines.

I guess I would have liked a cape. Maybe Randall would have like a Fedora.

And back to The Moat.

My poet turns from man in the street to Poet Superhero. He’s Clark Kent morphing into Superman. Randall might say I’m overstating it. I’m not. Pith helmet, big brown leather coat, he sweeps into the cafe his poem already begun, a man in loud conversation.

Randall holds that tiny, deep space.

Buddy Wakefield’s ‘Information Man’ is seven minutes of eloquence, and anger, and imagery and challenge. The whole thing is a challenge. I make notes in the dark, ‘It takes a long time to make love with someone who hates themselves’ and ‘If you’ve never been rocked back by the presence of purpose this poem is too soon for you’. The words are awesome, yep, but it is their delivery that amazes.

It’s not a recital, it’s an act, it’s not an act, it’s a performance. It’s a