Norfolk Island Central School, NSW
Toilet Doors, 2009
Norfolk Island Central School is a large campus that overlooks the Island's maritime views and historical buildings. In Year 8, students have the opportunity to study the unique dialect of Norfolk language. Teacher Ben Hazlett will be steering the Red Room Education unit at NICS.
NICS was visited by Australian poet Elizabeth Allen for an intensive residency of five days. Elizabeth worked with Years 5-6 primary students, and across Years 7-9 in the secondary school. With a week on the island, Elizabeth discussed her experiences as a poet, publisher and poetry workshop member, the importance of the Toilet Doors Poetry project in her work's development, and gave readings of her poetry to the students and wider community. She asked students to think about questions including: what is a poem; does it need to rhyme; what are some of the techniques you can use in poetry to convey an idea; where do you find poetry; who reads poetry; how might we expand the audience of people who read poetry on Norfolk Island?
The students undertook guerilla poetry exercises and others from the Toilet Doors learning resource, including chalking of public spaces on the island. Reflecting the interests and influences in her own poetry, Elizabeth focused on ekphrasis and the pairing of painting and poetry as an exercise across the classes. An old demountable classroom was occupied for displaying the students' work, and was showcased at the Island's annual festival in February 2010. The class created a blog to which they will added their works in progress. Elizabeth composed notes to new poems and prepared a poem for the school and the island's arts community.
Elizabeth Allen's poetry has been published in several Australian literary journals and magazines including HEAT, Hermes, Hobo and Southerly. A chapbook of her poetry, Forgetful Hands, was published by Vagabond Press, 2005. She has participated in the RED ROOM EDUCATION project and she is currently working towards a longer collection.
Elizabeth is studying for a Masters of Teaching at Sydney University so she might one day be a primary school teacher. She also works voluntarily for Vagabond Press as part of their production and launch team.