Poetic Preface: Brendan Bonsack

Brendan Bonsack is often seen behind a camera, taking photos that inspired people describing being photographed by him at poetry gigs in his classic black and white as being ‘Bonsacked.’ He’s also a fine poet and musician. He even wrote a poem predicting the Bulldogs would win the AFL Grand Final last year.

Can you think of a moment, like from your childhood, that was probably a dead giveaway you’d become a poet?

Apparently, when I was born, a nurse remarked to my mother: “look at him, he already has the weight of the world on his shoulders.” Maybe that qualifies? I have always been drawn to melancholy in poetry.

How’d you discover spoken word?

I think it was by accident, at the Dan O’Connell. I was walking past on my way to somewhere else, and got curious about the goings on through the glass doors. There were blank spots on the Open blackboard, so I scribbled my name in and did one of my songs as a spoken word piece. I must have trimmed a couple of choruses out of it because there were no shouts of “get on with it!” from the bar. The thing about the Dan is that people are very warm to newcomers, so I was inspired to come again.

If you only had one poetry book to take with you in the bunker when the end of the world comes, what would it be?

It would be tempting to take Nathan Curnow’s “The Apocalypse Awards”, but it might scare my fellow bunkermates! Perhaps a large anthology of Emily Dickinson. All those compact gems could be good first seeds in the new world.

When you write a brand new poem that you just have to read, which open mic do you first think to take it to?

Whichever is coming up next! I think every open mic gig I’ve seen in Melbourne is a good place to try new poems. Audiences love to hear new stuff. I have the most rousing audience chanting of “New Shit!!” at Girls on Key.

Which legend of the Melbourne poetry scene do you wanna become when you grow up?

Hmm, the person I would choose would probably be embarrassed to be called a legend, so I’ll hold onto that one.

What’s one spoken word artist or performing poet you wish more people knew about. Do you have a favourite poem or video of them?

Can I cheat and give two? I think Sigrun Mikula and Rania Ahmed are great at combining really original written material with enthralling performance styles, which is where the art of “spoken word” hits its peak.

What are you working on now?

It’s April, so like all those other hapless souls who thought it would be a good idea to sign up for National Poetry Writing Month, I’m writing a poem a day, and letting them loose into the ether on Twitter, as well as a poem a day for “The Dirty Thirty”, a prompt-based poetry challenge curated by Abdulrahman Hammoud. In the background, a new book is taking shape, and my band, Accidental Bedfellows, are putting the final touches on our first album.

When you’re not performing poetry, what else are you up to?

Photographing other people performing poetry! I spend a lot of time at music and poetry gigs observing it all through a camera lense. I also write and perform music, in the band Accidental Bedfellows, as well as solo. There is a great gig at the Lomond Hotel on every third Thursday of the month, which features six local songwriters in a round. I usually kick off the second set with a poem on the night’s theme, and am occasionally invited to sing some songs.

You can catch Brendan featuring at The Dan Poets next Saturday and in May, at La Mama Poetica.

Annie Solah