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Grand read at Grand

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By Michelle Pini

Published in Warrandyte Diary

In an upstairs room, more like a comfy living room than a hotel function space, around fifty people gathered at the Grand Hotel for the official finale of the Warrandyte Festival. The occasion was the Grand Read, now in its 17th year, and the line up of guest readers was impressive.

Those who expected a conservative literary evening, however, may have been surprised as the mood resembled an intimate and relaxed night with friends – albeit extremely creative and scholarly friends. 

Apart from special guest and Brunswick resident, Kevin Brophy, all the readers were accomplished and celebrated writers from the greater Warrandyte area, with Warrandyte’s entertaining Jock Macneish as MC.

The readers delivered excerpts of their work covering as diverse topics as death, love, politics, sex, current affairs, madness and even the post-natal musings of the Virgin Mary.

Softly spoken Kevin Brophy was the first reader. Choosing to read from Walking, as well as Radar (a book he co-authored with Nathan Curnow), Kevin shared amusing and thought-provoking aphorisms such as, “Conversations are for filling in time while we consider what we want to say” and, “All we see and know is dreamed”. Kevin’s prose poetry selections offered delicate observations about the mundane and the remarkable such as when his eleven-year-old son asked for a pay-rise, tulips, the Jamieson River and a love of Gauci.

Award-winning Lisa Jacobson’s verses explored topics such as catching a train at Eltham station alongside “The Virgin Mary Gets Post Natal Depression” – a satirical and edgy exposé of a common condition seen through the eyes of an extraordinary figure. Lisa introduced the subtly observed poem, “On Teaching My Daughter to Ride a Horse”, with a self-deprecating admission that, since her daughter “disagrees” with Lisa’s observations, “It was clearly all about me”.

The Diary’s own Scott Podmore elicited intrigue with the intro to his latest book, Conversations with Mediums. Scott explained that he approached this contentious topic with an open mind and came away with his own views “changed forever”. Describing himself as “the black sheep of the evening”, he summed up the curiosity factor for his book, which delves headfirst into psychic phenomena, thus: “A friend and fellow journalist said, ‘Poddy, I think all this is frog*#*t – but I can’t wait to read it … just in case it isn’t”.

Sandy Jeffs drew uproarious laughter with her hilarious commentary on the minutiae of everyday life. Flinging sheets of her poetry onto the floor for added emphasis, she shared acerbic political observations as well as satirical thoughts on reality TV shows, sexual orientation and even her own battle with mental illness – all with a clever and very funny touch.

John Jenkins’s delivery of “The Man Who Lost Himself” and “The Man Who Found Himself”, brought the room somewhat back to earth: “He found a note he had written to himself … ‘Just in case you forget the place
where you hid yourself, you will find me in the garden’ ”. Enchanting and whimsical, the poem explores the question of identity with humour, melancholy and wonder in a Luenig-like setting.

Acclaimed writer and editor, Lyn Hatherly delivered a wide selection of verse exploring sex, parenthood, love and death with disarming honesty and mischief both in her poems and their introductions: “Now some more serious stuff – death,” she announced, and giggled.

Local talent and the Diary’s resident poet Karen Throssell chose topical issues such as union corruption and bushfires. From the book, Chain of Hearts, her first person poems were intimate, edgy and moving.

The night finished on an upbeat note with the delightfully Australian and wistful bush poetry of Laurie Webb. Laurie recited two pieces of his verse without the assistance of notes – the final piece, about the closure of the Rupanyup country pub, put together from a story told to him only that morning. It was a rare, modern example of this traditional poetry style, made famous by writers such as Banjo Patterson, which helped shape the Australian identity.

Each recitation provided an insight into the fascinating and very personal creative process of its author, and the audience was treated to a welcoming and moving journey into often-intimate territory. Organised with care by Warrandyte Neighbourhood House and lacking only in publicity, this is a night to mark on your calendar for next year.

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