Today during our library meeting, I received a less than positive reaction to a suggestion that poetry be the subject of a display or activity in a boys’ secondary school. Eyebrows were raised sceptically and scornfully, and ‘you must be kidding’ was all over everyone’s faces. Boys would never be coerced into read poetry; they preferred sport, war or anything that made you want to beat your chest and shout ‘Oi’. OK, I may be using some of my own poetic license in describing people’s reaction, but that’s just to set the scene.
By some poetic miracle, or perhaps the gods of Poesie were smiling down upon me, but later today I read about the Red Room Company’s mission to create, promote and publish Australian poetry in unusual ways.
‘Eight pigeons will race along the New South Wales south coast on Sunday – in a time trial the organisers liken to the Tour de France – with a piece of original, Australian poetry strapped to the ankle of each bird’. The day’s events began with live poetry readings at Stanwell Park, after which the pigeons flew to the breeders’ HQ in Mt Ousley, transmitting pigeon-cam video back to the launch site.
And just when you thought gambling and poetry didn’t go together, they do! You could put a (free) wager on whichever pigeon and poem you thought would win, and the winners would get a single poem as their prize, and also go into the draw for the grand prize: a “Pigeon Poetry Sculpture and poetry books from all states and territories”.
The website proclaims the success of the strange union of sport and poetry, as it occurred on 3 August this year. You can view a picture of each pidgeon, and read each pidgeon’s poem. Don’t forget to read about the pidgeon and the poet, especially since the write-up is so creatively metaphorical, that you’re not sure if the poet is a bird or if the bird is a poet. For example, reading about the pidgeon ‘Real Radio’, you not only get its weight and wingspan, but you also find out about its reading habits, and the languages it speaks (Hebrew and Wave, in this case).
When everything is presented in such a wondrously confusing way, young people won’t even realise what they’re doing, and before they know it, they’ll have read some great poetry without meaning to. I think this approach is fantastic: distract with strange coupling of poetry and sport (you could come up with your own version), blur the lines between the two, then confuse everyone, throw the poetry in while they’re blinking in confusion, and there you have it! This has given me food for thought…