Horizon Festival - Online for 2020 // 28 Aug - 6 Sep 2020

The Bunker // Meet the Grand Finalists

Gil Douglas 

Can you take us through the first time you performed your poetry on stage? Where were you? Who was there? How did you feel?
I was in Grade Four (eight years old) and had written words to a melody for the annual concert run by the neighbourhood piano teacher, Miss Skelton. I know I was red in the face and my voice was high and lonely, but I struggled through it to receive surprising applause. My subsequent urges as a poet and lyricist only seem to flower when an occasion presents itself. For this reason, I call myself an occasional poet and look forward to The Bunker all year.

What is the number one piece of writing you think everyone needs to read?
A Cyborg Manifesto, Donna Haraway

Do you have any writing rituals?
Nervous blurts followed by unlimited drafting, which I call ironing.

What inspires your work?
Opportunities to flout conventions and expectations.

If you weren't a poet you would be…?
A flatulist, no a rock star, no a renegade hacker only I can’t code (yet), no an astrophysicist, no a triple agent, no a Shakespearean actor, no a hermit monk, no a crane driver, no a cryptologist, no a 

Damien Becker

Can you take us through the first time you performed your poetry on stage? Where were you? Who was there? How did you feel?
I had been going to spoken word nights in our area near the border of NSW & Queensland for around six months with my wife Sarah who has been a spoken word artist for many years. I thought if I was going to be seeing so much poetry I would set myself a goal to write one poem and perform it once only at Alternator Poetry in Currumbin. I had never written a single poem in my life! My first effort was a humbling mess but I had the very supportive Alternator community being enthusiastic and generous. A month or two later I entered the Byron heat of the Australian Poetry Slam and came dead last! I almost gave it away but Sarah and others kept encouraging me and eventually I started to feel a bit more comfortable up there on stage.

What is the number one piece of writing you think everyone needs to read?
I am not a voracious reader but for some bizarre and pretentious reason I have read War and Peace twice. The combination of intimacy and scope in Tolstoy is breathtaking. I felt a similar human kinship more recently when reading Lincoln in the Bardo, despite being quite a different novel. 

Do you have any writing rituals?
On Fridays when I am with my baby daughter all day I park at the lookout in Murwillumbah and write while she has her daily nap in the back seat. My Instagram @seasaltskin at which I throw poetic ideas has been a surprisingly useful discipline because it enforces a regular practice of creation and release.  

What inspires your work?
I survived as a terminally sick kid but lost many friends. I am genuinely interested in how humans endure and thrive despite hardship and cruelty. Stylistically, I grew up listening to a lot of hip hop and so rhythm and flow is important to my spoken word, though that’s not always obvious. 

If you weren't a poet you would be…?
A community development worker who enjoys watching other poets but is too timid to try it himself.

Ren Alessandra

Can you take us through the first time you performed your poetry on stage? Where were you? Who was there? How did you feel?
The first time I ever performed on stage was at Girl's on Key last year here in Melbourne. Honestly, I felt ready. The first time I performed any of my poetry was to my friends at a festival, I was going to perform on the open mic down in the village but was so nervous. Once I finally got up there I realised there was nothing to be scared of except myself. I've never felt so safe in my art than on stage, it's the vulnerability that gives you that power.

What is the number one piece of writing you think everyone needs to read?
My Family and Other Animals by Gerard Durrell. The entire book is nature goodness, delicious sunsets and hilarious anecdotes. Our world is so gruelling right now, read that book to bathe in beautiful words on every single page.

Do you have any writing rituals?
They are developing! I've only been writing consistently for a year now, and what I can honestly share, writer-2-writer, is that developing a practice takes practise! It's not easy. But one of my rituals is to use an artist's diary to brainstorm a poem and all its concepts before actually writing the piece. I find that once I hash all the colours that flash in my mind on a messy mind map, phrases come to my fingertips easier than trying to piece something together line at a time. 

What inspires your work? 
My mind goes to weird places, my dreams are wack and so I use a lot of what's in my dream journal to spark phrases. But ultimately, other spoken word evenings. I keep my journal open and write down lines of other poets I love, topics, metaphors. I find that flipping through and remembering someone's energy helps reignite my own.

If you weren't a poet you would be…?
The muse.

Lincoln Lally

Do you have any writing rituals?
Just generally getting weird.

If you weren't a poet you would be…?
Probably a lot more boring or prone to tears or teaching raggamuffins.

Caroline Reid

Can you take us through the first time you performed your poetry on stage? Where were you? Who was there? How did you feel?
In 2013 I was asked by one of the organisers to be the sacrificial poet for the SA State Slam final. I was surprised to be asked. I didn’t think of myself as a poeteven though I’d written poetry for years. I didn’t know anything about slams but I said yes. As the time drew close, I got so nervous. I wanted to pull out but didn’t. I read the poem and it got a positive response. I felt like I’d done something brave. Even so, it was another three years before I worked up the courage to compete. In 2016 I performed again in the first heat of the SA State final at the SA Writers Centre. There was standing room only. I didn’t place but I felt so good and had such a positive response that I knew I was doing something right for me. 

What is the number one piece of writing you think everyone needs to read?
Oh gosh, no way! There is no one piece of writing for everyone because tastes/cultures/experiences are so varied. I can’t go past Dr Seuss’ The Lorax, a story that’s still relevant today. I love Pablo Neruda’s ‘Ode to my Socks’, such a beautiful poem written about a commonplace thing.  Right now I’m in love with Hera Lindsay Bird’s self-titled collection of poetry and Alice Oswald’s Memorial.

Do you have any writing rituals?
I write semi-regularly in the mornings, 3 pages. It empties my head of worry or boredom. It’s the place where I problem solve. Later, I’ll mine these pages for inspiration for poems. There’s a whole lot of bad writing, but you’ve got to write the bad to get to the good.

What inspires your work? 
A whole lot of stuff - stories people tell me, other poets/writers/artists, writing exercises, the world around me.

If you weren't a poet you would be…? 
A tree in an old growth forest.

Ben Burns

Can you take us through the first time you performed your poetry on stage? Where were you? Who was there? How did you feel?
The first time I memorised and performed a poem of mine, was at ‘Bang said the Gun’ a really cool poetry night in London. The organisers would transform a dodgy pub with posters and lighting - they had a psychotic MC who yelled and jumped around as well as a sound guy dropping sound effects and samples at appropriate moments during the night. They really went to town to make poetry fun, chaotic and cool. The audience were given home made shakers made out of coke bottles to create noise and get involved and they attracted the coolest poets on the scene. The open-mic spot was a 1 minute time slot - so the pressure was pretty intense for my first go. I’d spent all week learning this poem I have about doing yoga while waiting for the bus - I thought it was hilarious, turns out the audience thought it was mildly interesting, getting one chuckle from a supportive person. I was crushed. It was terrible, I felt a little humiliated and didn’t perform again for ages. 

What is the number one piece of writing you think everyone needs to read?
It’s like the tides, ever changing. (No that’s not the title of a novel) At the risk of being seen as mainstream - I’ll say Rumi. Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī - the Persian mystic credited with inventing the whirling dervishes, anything by him will do the trick

Do you have any writing rituals?
I find middle-aged insomnia a useful tool for writing. 3am is an otherworldly time to write - however, these days I’m quite convinced that poems are a collaboration with reality. It’s as if they already exist and are waiting to be plucked, like an apple from a tree. They require much wrestling and don’t necessarily come off the tree easily, but they are gifted, more often than not. I need to be paying attention and ready. 

What inspires your work? 
My inspiration is often domestic. The mundane and ordinary intrigue me - I try not to miss what standing at yet another playground, mind-numbingly watching my toddler playing has to teach me. Unblocking toilets and doing the washing are great fodder. 

If you weren't a poet you would be…?
If I wasn’t a poet I’d be hermit or a monk. (Not a hermit crab - although, I used to have dreams of being the Man from Atlantis (look it up, it’s old), I loved the idea of being able to breath underwater and have fins so I could swim like a dolphin.) So, scrap the hermit idea, I’d be a dolphin. 

Dylan Barrett

Can you take us through the first time you performed your poetry on stage? Where were you? Who was there? How did you feel?
The first time I performed my poetry was at heat one of the Bunker Spoken Word this year. So my first “stage” was actually my bedroom. And my first audience was virtual. It was a lovely experience though. My friend Dani tuned in from Melbourne and my two housemates, Nadia and Eli, cheered me on from downstairs. The Bunker community was lovely with their support and feedback. 

 I was pretty nervous in the lead-up, but once I was performing I felt charged. Afterwards, I was euphoric, later that night though I crashed. I hadn’t realised how intense performing would be emotionally. That said, I definitely want to experience more of it. Having an audience, even a virtual one, really elevates a piece. I am looking forward to performing in person. 

 What is the number one piece of writing you think everyone needs to read?
My favourite novel is probably "Call Me By Your Name" by André Aciman. It is set in a small coastal village in the Italian Riviera and explores love, lust and language. It is romantic in every sense, from the food to the conversation, to the scenery. I finished it in a sunny square in Barcelona, tears streaming, wishing that the relationship I was in at the time was as perfect as Elio and Oliver’s. It was all very dramatic. I honestly don’t think that I will ever be the same after reading it. Even now I don’t know the name of emotion it evokes in me. It is somewhere between being in love and heartbreak. The movie is also fantastic.  

 Do you have any writing rituals?
 used to approach my writing in a more ritualistic way, only writing in a black notebook with a black pen, drinking a long black, preferably in the corner of some cosy café. As a result, however, I didn’t write as much as I should have. Now I will write anywhere, with anything and on anything. It has definitely made me more productive. That said, I think there is something transcendent about the experience of writing. Getting into the flow of creating, is a very particular and special energy. I would like to explore other writing rituals to help foster that energy and mental space.

What inspires your work?
Other art inspires my work. Reading a novel such as CMBYN, listening to a song that stirs the soul, watching a drag queen shine incandescent on stage, all of it pushes me to create. My biggest inspiration though and the person that led me on this path of writing and creating was the punk poet, Patti Smith. I used to watch a YouTube video of her performing “Because the Night” on the music show “Later with Jools Holland” over and over again. I would just sit there mesmerised. I knew nothing about Patti, other than this one video, but I was completely enamoured by her voice and energy. Then I read her book “Just Kids” which chronicles her relationship with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, as they grafted in New York in the 1970s.  It really opened me up to the potential of a creative life. I have been slowly nurturing that dimension of myself ever since.

Dave Knobel

Can you take us through the first time you performed your poetry on stage? Where were you? Who was there? How did you feel?
I have loved acting and performing since primary school but I didn't start performing my poetry until 2012 when I entered the Moreton Bay heat for the Australian Poetry Slam. Unfortunately for me that year Angela Peita (of Ruckus Slam fame) and Jonathan Sri were also in that heat with Jono going on to place second in the final Sydney. It was a great event that sparked a love of performance poetry that has burnt ever since.

What is the number one piece of writing you think everyone needs to read?
I still really love "The Prophet" by Khalil Gibran. It is a really accessible wisdom about life. It played such an important role in my understanding of how we can be good and kind and even spiritual without being overly moralistic or religious at a time when I was struggling with my rejection of my Christian upbringing. It's also a great example of prose poetry. 

Do you have any writing rituals?
I often write orally by speaking my work into existence and then recording it later. It really helps with remembering it to perform later. 

What inspires your work?
I mostly write about what's happening in my life at the time, how I'm feeling about that and how that affects other people. I also write a lot about politics and current affairs.

If you weren't a poet you would be…?
An author or an actor but that's just another kind of writer who performs right?

Scott-Patrick Mitchell

Can you take us through the first time you performed your poetry on stage? Where were you? Who was there? How did you feel?
It was 1998. I was 21, in my 1st year writing BA. My lecturer told me I should perform my poetry at a spoken word night. You see, I was the kid who was always the lead role throughout primary and high school, so the idea of connecting to that childhood joy by performing my own poetry on stage was thrilling. 

I took myself down to OpenMouth, this long-gone weird experimental poetry night here in Perth. I performed, the words ripping through me, connecting me to something beyond myself. I received so many compliments, but that’s not why I came back over and over again: it was that electricity, that moment of being in the moment, of feeling bigger than myself. The stage has now become the place where I feel the most comfortable, the most authentic. 

Fun fact: I came last in the first ever slam I competed in. That night I vowed to hone my slamcraft... and I haven’t looked back since. 

What is the number one piece of writing you think everyone needs to read? 
I truly believe that people should be reading a variety of BIPOC poets at this moment in history, especially Ali Cobby Eckermann, Evelyn Araluen, Joy Harjo, Jericho Brown, Morgan Park and Billy-Ray Belcourt. When I teach performance poetry classes, I always do recommend students read Lifting Belly by Gertrude Stein (1874-1946). It’s a duet that explores queer eroticism, love and being. The language, symbology and rhythm within it are driving and hypnotic. 

Do you have any writing rituals?
Open yourself to the ether. From the pulse of that universal current of creativity, capture a line. Roll it in your mind, on your tongue. Walk. Let the rhythm of your footfalls give that line feet of its own by which to grow. Feed it ideas, no matter how disparate. See what fits. See what sticks. Walk some more. Turn around and see the shadow the poem has cast inside your mind. Write it down. 

What inspires your work?
Those moments that make me gasp, my heart skip, my feet want to dance. Life is so incredibly rich with inspiration if only we open ourselves to that frequency. 

If you weren’t a poet you would be...?
A funeral celebrant. Which I have actually studied to become, and was about to embark on... until Covid-19 struck. Other than that, I think maybe either a fashion stylist or a dancer, both of which I have dabbled in professionally at one point or another.

Amy Geraghty

A bit about me, I’m 19 and I’ve never actually performed poetry. I’m a singer/ songwriter at heart and play piano, bass and guitar. If I were to suggest something people need to watch, because I’m a millennial of course, it’d be Hannah Gadsby’s comedy special ‘Nanette’ on Netflix; it’s hilarious but hard-hitting which I think can be very challenging to achieve.