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Ahoy!...what's that yonder?
The sea has always offered an inspirational and imaginative context for Australian poets and poetry; not just the sea itself but also the coastline, harbours and beaches. Sea Things extended the national scope and appeal of Red Room’s work, including remote communities and a broad public audience in its journey. The project aimed to build on Australia's maritime poetry tradition in a contemporary context, imagining our sea history through new work that can be shared nationally and internationally through print, audio, film, exhibition and web forms.
How did Sea Things work?
Four poets - Graeme Miles (TAS), Petra White (VIC), Luke Beesley (QLD) and Sandra Thibodeaux (NT) - were commissioned to write about the seas, beaches and ports that inspired them. The poems were then carried in two duffle bags, journeying in private, commercial and naval vessels during October and November 2009, travelling by five different ports to Thursday Island in the Torres Strait. Along the way, members of the public, writers' groups and schools added incidental sketches, poems and literary souvenirs. A logbook was kept by the ship captains to record weather and marine sightings along the way. The bags were met on Thursday Island by the local community, and The Red Room Company was there to hold a school poetry workshop and to film the reception.
At the final event in Sydney, Sea Things was revealed to the with public readings from the four commissioned poets, the first exhibition of the bags and their cargo, a screening of the Thursday Island arrival, and a discussion of the journey by "Skipper" David Jordan. Michael West of the Metropolitan Aboriginal Land Council provided a thoughtful and engaging Welcome to Country.
The finale was followed in early 2010 by a touring exhibition to selected maritime museums. The collection was returned to its origins in Hobart via the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. See the profile of the Royal Australian Navy's Adventure of Hornet which sped the poems south.
The Sea Things Documentary is a ten-minute film of the project's journeys, produced with Development Funding provided by the Shark Island Documentary Fund. The Online Exhibition of poems and paraphernalia collected during the project is also available for perusal.
The Sea Things learning resource
The Sea Things learning resource was piloted in 2011, designed for both primary and secondary students. The resource makes use of the play on words 'Sea Things/See Things', by encouraging students to reflect not just on their relationship with the sea, but also with different ways of seeing things. They learn to use poetry to see the familiar in new ways, as well as reimagining their view of poetry through exposure to new poetic forms.
To book a Red Room Education workshop using the Sea Things learning resource, contact our Education Manager, Tamryn Bennett, at email@example.com or on (02) 9319 5090.
Making things happen
The Red Room crew would like to thank our Skipper, David Jordan, for his logistical advice and coordination of the unprecedented scale of this project. Our media partner for the project was ABC Radio National, providing coast to coast coverage of the project. We would also like to thank the maritime groups who accommodated Sea Things on their vessels during October and November, and to acknowledge that this project was assisted through Arts Tasmania by the Minister for Tourism and the Arts. Development Funding provided by Shark Island Documentary Fund.