Poetry Festival at Goolwa

Jut got back from an amazing four day immersion in poetry.  The Australian Poetry Centre held a conference at Goolwa in South Australia over the weekend of 22-26 April.  I had a fantastic time and got really inspired.  Poets I discovered: Glenn Colquhoun, Elizabeth Smither (both NZ poets), Robert Mihinnick (from Wales), IQ (poetIQ), Joe Dolce (yes, thet guy who did Shaddup-you face in the eighties is a poet too and a fine one), Andy Jackson.  Poets I finally got to meet: Jude Aquilina, Louise Nicholas, Andrew Landsdown. A very special event.

During the festival I attended one of Glenn Colquhoun’s ‘Masterclasses’ (fancy word for workshop).  The 7 or 8 people who came to the one I attended brought the most wonderful poems along and we ran at least 90 minutes over time working on them all to make them even better.  Glenn was a really inspiring and eloquent tutor and very generous with his time and energy in responding to our poems.

Some of the other people that class were kind enough to ask to see a finished version of the poem I was working on.  See below.  I’m not sure if this is the final final version, but I’ve sent it off to something now so I’ll await the result of that before continuing to tweak it.   For those who were there: I have played around with the form to make the repetition less boring – while hopefully maintaining the feeling of relentlessness which is central to what the poem is trying to explore (thanks for that comment Rob). I have also made more of the positive change at the end (thanks Megan and others for this suggestion).


Here goes.

autistic child with acute auditory processing disorder

in the foetal position in the museum toilets, hands clamped over my ears, shrieking
trying to say there’s a dryer, there’s a dryer, any second now someone will set it off
the sound will be a faceful of boiling water

 I’m sorry, your patient explanations are not getting through.  It’s a very bad line.

at the indoor swimming pool, crouched behind the waterslide, poo-ing into my damp trunks
trying to say I have to get out, the echoes are attacking me in four dimensions, I’m on a bad trip and I can’t come down

at the backyard washing line, moaning and trying to burrow under the grass
trying to say there’s a bird, there’s a bird, it’s going to swoop down and screech in my ear
the sound will feel like an ice pick in my skull

 Your cognitive behaviour therapy is not getting through at all.  It is a very bad line.

at my cousin’s birthday party, buried under the lounge cushions and wailing like a siren
trying to say I can’t stand it, the music and the voices are tearing at me, pecking me apart like vultures

in my bedroom after school, kicking my three-year-old sister in the face
trying to say go away, go away, you’re noisy, you’re unpredictable
I’ve been clinging to a cliff face for six hours and you’re dangling yourself from my ankles
running across a six-lane road, terrified of a toy poodle on the footpath
trying to say there’s a dog, there’s a dog, it’s going to bark
the sound will slam into me like a sandpaper boxing glove

 Your elaborate reward and punishment system, your guilt trips, your lectures, your bellowing and tears aren’t getting through either.  This is a very bad line.

I’m on my first school excursion, going through the bus-wash and laughing with the other kids
I’m trying to say I can cope with this, I can even enjoy it
because you made me a schedule with lovely safe pictures and let me look at it all day

 I am
 a calm buzzy feeling of happy
 the stuff I need seems to be getting through –
 just not on the very bad line.

 (c)  Melinda Smith 2010


4 thoughts on “Poetry Festival at Goolwa

  1. Pingback: Autism poem wins national competition « Melinda Smith’s Mull and Fiddle

  2. Pingback: Autism poem wins national competition « Melinda Smith’s Mull and Fiddle

  3. Pingback: Poems in Quadrant and the Canberra Times « Melinda Smith’s Mull and Fiddle

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