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 the coastline, harbours and beaches.
In Sea Things, four commissioned four poets, Graeme Miles (TAS), Petra White (VIC), Luke Beesley (QLD) and Sandra Thibodeaux (NT) wrote 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 poetic cargo, sketches, poems and literary souvenirs to the duffle bags. A logbook was kept by 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 public with readings from our 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.
Want to see the poetic cargo we collected? Check out the Online Exhibition of poems and paraphernalia collected during the project.
Sea Things in stories: the exhibition, documentary and ABC Radio Broadcast
The Sea Things 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.
Sea Things also featured on Radio National's 360documentaries. Listen to readings of commissioned poems and poetic cargo contributed by the public on the voyage to Thursday Island. Readings by Rhys Muldoon, Lucy Bell, Lucy Browning, and interviews with poets and the Red Room.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call (02) 9319 5090.
Making Things Happen
The Red Room Poetry 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.
Recently, Italian translator Lucia Cupertino was inspired by the Sea Things project and wrote a piece titled "Un messaggio nella bottiglia" (A Message In A Bottle) in Fili d'aquilone, an Italian literary journal. Here's an extract of her translation of Petra White's (VIC) poem "St. Kilda":
Sleepless seagulls fleer under floodlights,
they are caught like souls in light as in a net,
thoroughly winging their ways
around and through a day-dreamt freedom.
Insonni gabbiani sogghignano sotto i fari,
come anime catturate dalla luce così in una rete,
volteggiano caricando tutta sulle ali la direzione
attorno e attraverso una libertà sognata ad occhi aperti.
Read the whole poem in Italian here.
Visit our online store to purchase publications and materials from this project. Red Room Poetry is a not-for-profit organisation. All funds raised support the ongoing work of Red Room Poetry.