August 01, 1987

Friendy reminder

Filed under: Archive,Books

Friendly Street Poetry Reader No.11.
Edited by Elaine Golding and
Peter McFarlane
Friendly St Poets, P.O. Box 79, Unley SA 5061

The Friendly St Reader is the official record of the Friendly St readings held at the Box Factory on the first Tuesday of every month. This is now the eleventh year of the readings, and the Reader, and it is further proof of the durability of this Adelaide phenomenon.

The first readings took place back in 1975 at the very apt location of Gordon Choon’s Fireworks Factory in Union Street. Apt, because despite Kris Hemensley’s soubriquet, Friendly St has had its share of incendiaries, verbal and otherwise, as practitioners and fellow travellers have met to love; hate, and be excruciated by, the most extraordinary variety of talents, both real and imagined.

The readings have a traditional format. They open with a guest reading from an established writer, often. A visiting fireperson on parole from either of the universities, and then, after an interval long enough for drinking, intriguing, plumage display and the flogging of slim vols at special-one-night-only prices, all is in readiness for what is known as the open reading.

At that-point the night is on for young and old. At the open reading everything opens – hearts, sesame, slather and the crisp bindings of journals and- folders – as poets read one, and never more than two, of their works. Part therapy, part colosseum and wholly unpredictable, the Friendly St readings are proof that everyone has at least one poem in them – even if you never really wanted to hear it.

The Reader is a gathering of the best thought and said in the. year’s trading. Democratically alphabetical, it is a mix of vanity publication and literary vitality which has engaged and retained the allegiance of some of this city’s most active writers.

Number II is no exception. 58 poets are represented, of whom seventeen are new names and seven, foundation listings from Richard Tipping’s first anthology. London-based Fleur Adcock opens the bidding strongly with her testimony to the cruel theatrics of legal process in “Witnesses”. Among familiar names Jan Owen’s “Digging Potatoes” has an eye for detail and John Griffin, also on a rural theme, gives a vivid account of hard times in “My Father’s Anger”: My father’s anger is up and down the road like a sheep gone crazy with thorns.”

Elaine Golding’s “Vases” and PeterMcFarlane’s “Backstroke” deserve their editors’ guernseys as do Peter Goldsworthy’s acerbic piece, “The Nice”, John Bray’s “More Adaptations from Theognis” and Andrew Taylor’s “After Reading 77 Books of Poetry for a Poetry Prize.”

Which brings us to the genre familiar to poetry readings – the poetry reading poem. Jill Golden has one, as does Heather Brook and Jenny Boult even has a plug for her latest book in hers. Other poems, like Donna McSkimming’s “Ululation for a Red Headed Woman” were said to be Show-stoppers on the night. I think you probably had to be there; Ania Walwicz’s “boat” is a strong prose poem from the erstwhile artist in residence at the EAF. Lousie Crisp, another visitor, contributes “The Man Next Door” while locals, Jeff Guess, Graham Rowlands and Mike Ladd cover the waterfront from black tulips to krill to sea heroes.

The Friendly Street Reader is, once again, both eminently and amateurishly readable, capturing the goodwill and enterprise of a forum which has produced and nurtured some of Adelaide’s best writing.

“Friendy reminder” The Adelaide Review, No.41, August, 1987, p.20.

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