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 lives in Sydney where she writes and works as a bookseller. Her poetry and short fiction has appeared in many major literary journals as well as in the Best Australian Poems 2012 and 2014. She is the author of a chapbook, Forgetful Hands (Vagabond Press, 2005), and a full-length collection, Body Language (Vagabond Press, 2012), which won the Anne Elder Award.
She was one of the judges of the inaugural Noel Rowe Poetry Award and carried out a writing residency at the Arteles Creative Centre in Finland during 2016. Her new poetry collection, Present, will be published by Vagabond Press later this year.