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A Grand night out for a read and a poem or two

By Michelle Pini

Published in the Warrandyte Diary

Held at the Grand Hotel on the Tuesday evening following the festival, this year’s Grand Read event continued the 18-year old tradition in Warrandyte.

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Once again, those who expected a staid bookish evening may have been disappointed as the mood was high, the entertainment lively and the subjects often risqué.

Internationally acclaimed Alex Skovron’s multi-layered verse and mastery of language held the room enthralled, and examples of his Yet More Mutant Proverbs, which included such sage advice as: “The early bird slept in”, “The other man’s grass was much stronger” and “He who laughs last must be a bit slow”, lightened the mood. Guest recitals included the richly metaphorical work of Lisa Jacobson, a short story by John Jenkins in which formal language and etiquette collide with modern technology, and a presentation by the Diary’s own Scott Podmore on his book, Conversations with Mediums, in which he told of his personal journey to find his own “truth”.

Helen Lucas, who referred to herself as a “hipster spinster”, gave edgy and amusing excerpts of her work including a piece which attempted to redefine the ‘c’ word, as well as a poem about her mother who “knitted and sewed herself into history”.

Resident Diary poet Karen Throssell recited a piece about the month of January where “We can smell the roses, resolve to smell the roses, or, at least, see the roses”; and the beautiful poem, “Green”, dedicated to her mother, in which three generations of 21st celebrations illustrate the coming-of-age in diverse eras.

A hilarious and moving array of poetry was once again provided by Sandy Jeffs. She delivered a powerful and privileged glimpse into the world of mental illness through poems such as “Alice in Larundeland”, as well as a hilarious piece in which her poetic license gets revoked for, among other things, “failing to stop at a full stop” and getting her “monosyllabic foot caught in [her] mouth”.

Wendy Fleming took the audience on a wild emotional ride managing to induce uproarious laughter before reducing many in the room to tears, seemingly without pausing for breath. She recited the hilariously acerbic commentary on contemporary life, “Lycra Man” and followed with, “The Day I Decided to Sort My Sock Drawer” – a beautiful and poignant piece about love and excruciating personal loss underscored in the mundane tasks of ordinary experience.

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Another highlight was the wistful bush poetry of Eltham’s Laurie Webb, whose beautifully lyrical verse, performed from memory, transported the audience to days of yore while resonating contemporary relevance and warmth. Lawrie told the Diary, “Australian history is close and touchable – you can touch it, see it and talk to it.”

He considers his recitations, which usually communicate someone’s personal story, to be a serious business. “There’s a huge weight of responsibility to ensure that the personal feelings of the people in the stories, as well as the facts, are translated,” he said. Made famous by celebrated poets such as Banjo Patterson and Henry Lawson, bush poetry which helped shape the Australian identity, will hopefully continue to do so in the hands of story-tellers like Lawrie Webb.

The intimately thought-provoking and highly entertaining Grand Read, organized by the Neighbourhood House, is a must-do event on Warrandyte’s social calendar.

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