100 THOUSAND POETS FOR CHANGE:
SUNSHINE COAST, QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA.
In many ways a region like the Sunshine Coast would appear to be far removed from many of the troubles of the world, but it is a region vulnerable to climate change, poorly planned urban expansion (the population is expected to double in 30 years), the impact of mining (which is affecting much of Australia), economic imbalance, social fragmentation (most people who live here were born elsewhere in Australia or overseas), and governance (the region’s three local governments were forcibly amalgamated by the state government in 2008 in spite of massive community opposition). Queensland is also reverting into its historical tendency of pronounced conservatism, after 20 years of relative progress, which is likely to revive its previous nickname as the ‘Deep North’ of Australia, a notoriously corrupt and prohibitive period in its history between 1957 and 1989 under the Queensland Nationals regime of Premier Johannes Bjelke-Petersen. *
It was during late June / early July 2011 when I found out about a new poetry group and event called 100TPC I and posted a link on my Facebook page. I use the social media to network about poetry, literature and various issues of our times on a daily basis as well as to keep in contact with widely scattered family and friends around the world. I live on the Sunshine Coast, a scenic yet increasingly urbanized coastal area two hours north of Brisbane (the state capital of Queensland) where I live with and care for my elderly parents at their home in the seaside tourist destination of Noosa.
I was contacted by Michael Rothenberg by online chat and asked if I would co-ordinate a 100TPC event in Sydney, as several other Australian cities and regions had already registered. I explained that while I am from Sydney, I no longer live there, but gave him detailed listings of the various poetry groups currently active there – Miles Merrill, a Chicago born performance poet resident in Australia who is very active in Sydney poetry events, took up the reins of organizing 100TPC event there very promptly.
Anyway, Michael and I were soon engaged in regular online chats about the state of poetry in Australia, with which he was largely unfamiliar, as well as the kinds of issues with which Australians were concerned. I brought various online resources and websites and contacts to his attention, as well as liaised with him about other 100TPC matters as they arose. We got along easily from the very first contact and found that we have a similar outlook, as well as a sense of humour, and so really warmed to each-other. So I asked him if it was possible to register the Sunshine Coast in 100TPC, even though by then it was barely 2 months from the global event scheduled for 24 September. He readily agreed and set the links up that same day.
Being pressed for time, I concentrated on networking with various poets that I know in the region and in Brisbane, local community writing groups, local media outlets and the environmental sector. There was a mixed and yet generally positive response to the idea of the 100TPC, in particular from the Coolum Wave Writers, The Sunshine Coast Weekender (weekly magazine) and writers such as Annette Hughes and Geoffrey Datson, who organize the annual Reality Bites non-fiction festival in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. I generated some publicity including a feature article in the Weekender and listings in the online arts news of Sunshine Coast Council, Sunshine Coast Libraries and the Sunshine Coast Environment Council (the latter being an umbrella organization of local activist and conservation groups).
I also liaised with the Noosa Biosphere, as the northern third of the Sunshine Coast was designated as such by UNESCO in 2008, and participated in their annual public exhibition day held in early September, to help raise local awareness of 100TPC in the Sunshine Coast Region. Some individual poets also expressed interest and submitted online contributions of poetry, in particular Gemma Wright, the grand-daughter of eminent Australian poet Judith Wright McKinnon (1915-2000), who had had a long & close association with the Sunshine Coast from the 1940s onwards and who had been most active in issues of the environment, the indigenous people of Australia, and social justice throughout her life.
On a sultry and hazy Saturday 24 [in] September the local 100TPC event consisted of an intimate and small-scale outdoor poetry picnic at Peregian Beach Park, which has been the site of a popular & long running series of regular community concerts known as the Peregian Originals which has successfully resisted the attempts of the authorities to curtail it. The main participants reading poems for the occasion included local writers, poets and performers Coral Sturgess, Neil Gilchrist, Indie Adams, Annette Hughes, Geoffrey Datson and myself, and we shared readings (and a few songs) of poems and lyrics relevant to the cause. It was a modest event, and yet we all enjoyed it so much that we readily agreed to follow it up and to return for a bigger and better event in 2012. Preparations for ‘Greetings from the Sunshind-sighted Coast’ are already in train, and the 2012 100TPC event for this region will be launched in April.
* N.B. At the time of writing this article (26 March 2012, the new conservative coalition LNP has just resoundingly defeated the Labor Government by the biggest margin in Australian political history, and have claimed as many as 78 out of 89 seats in the one-chambered Queensland Parliament. The incoming LNP government has resolved to expand the mining sector and related infrastructure in spite of growing community resistance to the proliferation of CSG mining, and also to repeal legislation which permitted the civil union of gays and lesbians in Queensland, a right which had only recently been granted after many years.
A P O E T I C P R E S S R E L E A S E
Because we're here & now in a Prestidigital Age
on the cusp between the Holo-to-Anthropocene
while the world is rended by all types of trouble,
turmoil, conflict, terror, payback and strife
from famine to obesity to financial bubble
and brute force coupled with rank corruption
or disasters like tsunamis or new eruption
from volcanoes or nuclear power seepage
as 7 billion of us consume the blue and green
of this whole world and endanger all its life.
100 THOUSAND POETS FOR CHANGE will set up
a BIG BRIDGE of poetry scheduled to span
across this whole world in late September,
Saturday the 24th, 11.30am, to be exact,
in many countries and cities sans any let up
inviting all humanity outdoors for this act
of sharing apps & forms of poetry and verse
invoking peace & sustainability to traverse
on a local / global /virtual scale - that's our plan.
Now tag it in your diaries and please remember!
So here on this Sunshine Coast of Queensland,
as with hundreds of other places connected,
local and travelling poets will gather outside
at a standout location that's yet to be selected
and we will do so with or without permission
because our poetic licence is granted like the tide,
or sunshine, moonshine, or seasons of the land,
then relayed worldwide on livestream transmission:
all poetry clips / recordings / texts will be collected
online by Stanford Uni - a history for the future guide!
The Sunshine Coast of QLD is no more or less
special than anywhere around this whole globe.
We've all got issues with what's going on now
as well as worries about how it will turn out.
So write, tell, recite, record, activate your lobe,
be thrilled in your heart, & inspired to express
what we are and why and who with and how
we can and will do to at least try to sort it out!
Every place has their own ideas about change
Lots of people want to make it all better.
Some visions may at first seem very strange
Yet all sources come from each & every letter.
So are you interested in getting involved
in this rapidly growing global 'eventity'
that's being both created and evolved
and feels rather like it is meant to be?
Let's change into a poetic force of thunder
knowing that the sunshine will soon return
to this coast, yet with some brighter shine,
on where we now live or have come from!
Please contact one Hamish Danks Brown
(a.k.a. performing poet Danksta Downunder)
who dwells in the Junction of Noosa town
via Facebook or email email@example.com
I will respond ASAP to each of you in turn
on daily networking basis in the cyber-churn.