Meeting the regulars: The Dan Poets

This post in our series on regular poetry gigs looks at the Dan O’Connell weekly poetry readings, one of the veterans of the Melbourne poetry scene. We encourage everyone to share around these posts and perhaps visit a gig you wouldn’t otherwise to immerse yourself in the diversity of the Melbourne poetry scene.

Words by Steve Smart

Photo by Michael Reynolds

Dan Poets has been running every Saturday afternoon since the beginning of time! Well, ok that’s not entirely true, but it has been running for many years. Since January 1st, 1994 to be exact. Some of you weren’t even born then. I was still in high school with no idea of any kind of poetry scene in Melbourne. Little did I know…

So there’s Grant McCracken sitting in the public bar of Carlton’s Dan O’Connell Hotel on a summer Saturday afternoon chatting with legendary Melbourne publican Kevin Webb. Hmm, nothing much going on in here eh Kevin? Should have a poetry reading. And so it began.

Now Grant ran it for about a year until he went off on the Oz poets tour of Texas and other far-flung places. Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe Kevin ran the poetry for the next year until Ted Lord took it over. Now Lord Ted ran it for 16,000 years with the able assistance of Amanda Britton, Michelle Lehane, Justin Godden and Cam Black, until Cam took it over officially at the time of Ted’s passing in 2007. Then Cam ran it until he decided that poets smell funny, at which time he elected a group to take it over. That raggle-taggle bunch consisted of Anne Bowman, Fiona Stuart, Libby Charlton, Norman Jensen and myself.

Currently the organising group is Anne, Libby, Norman and Uncle Smarty.

So what is it, this Dan Poets? The format is pretty simple – open mic / feature poet’s 1st set / break / open mic / 2nd feature set / end of open mic / drinks / drinks. Lately we’ve been playing a little fast and loose with the format but that’s the basic gist. With the kind assistance of the pub we are able to pay the featured poets, who are also encouraged to sell there wares in order to keep them in the style to which they have (*choke*) become accustomed.

The gig is 2-5pm every Saturday, featuring an eclectic range of poets and sometimes singers, musos and people we can’t quite define but we love nonetheless. We try hard to book quality features that cover as much of the wide spectrum of poetry as possible, and often have interstate and overseas artists.

What else can I tell you? Come down and check it out for yourself, we’re a welcoming bunch. And the Guinness has won awards. No shit, it’s that good.

The Dan Poets happens every Saturday, at the Dan O’Connell Hotel, 225 Canning Street, Carlton from 2pm, basically all year round, unless the Dan is closed on public holidays (but sometimes even then). The next features are Loran Steinberg and Olly Armstrong (April 20), Matt Hetherington (April 27) and Fleassy Malay (May 4). Melbourne Spoken Word regularly lists the upcoming features at the Dan. Keep checking the site for regular updates.

Annie Solah