Why I’m organising a poetry festival—and why you should come along | HerCanberra

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Why I’m organising a poetry festival—and why you should come along

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I loved creative writing as a kid, making up stories and poems. Then in high school, writing meant essays.

We studied poetry, but never wrote any of our own. At work and uni, writing was reports, correspondence, briefings and still more essays. Technically satisfying, but I thought any creative spark had been snuffed out. Every now and then a friend would show me a poem they loved, but beyond that I had no relationship with poetry.

Then in 2014, at the National Folk Festival, a friend dragged me along to see Candy Royalle. She was with a band, but Candy was a poet—and her strong words delivered with such heart and power blew me away. I had to try it! I wrote a poem and got up, trembling, at the next open mic I could find. I survived—and was hooked.

I started exploring Canberra’s warm and encouraging poetry scene, going to poetry slams, readings, writing groups, and festivals. I met other poets, went to workshops to learn more, and started reading poetry too. Soon I was involved in organising poetry events too.

I love how accessible poetry is. It has a reputation for being elite or difficult, but we all have the raw material—language! Any language. And with a notebook and pen, or a device (even just a phone) you have what you need to write poetry.

In short chunks of time, you can create something beautiful, make a point, explore your feelings and thoughts or discover new connections. Poetry doesn’t have to rhyme (though it can) and it can be serious, fanciful, sly, fun, witty, elaborate, blunt, silly entertaining, dark and hilarious.

Sharing poetry connects people, and this doesn’t require formal publication—you can go to readings and slams, share on social media and there are fun DIY publishing options like pamphlets and zines.

Poetic City 2023 program launch.

So now I have created Poetic City, along with many wonderful collaborators. A poetry festival taking place from Sunday 11 June until Friday 14 July, Poetic City will encompass a wide variety of poetry-centric events and I invite you to come along and find out what poetry might mean for you.

Poetry balloons at Poetic City program launch 2023.

Join one of our workshops or drop-in writing sessions and give poetry a go, with guidance and encouragement.

Come and listen to a performance or slam, browse the zine fair, and perhaps get up at the open mic to share your own poetry. Or get your kids or teens excited about their creativity and the power of words, at our school holiday workshops and activities.

Poetic City kids pop-up.


What: Poetic City
When: 11 June ­– 14 July
Where: Various locations
Website: poeticcitycbr.com

Poetic City – Winter Edition is made possible through the support of an ACT Government City Renewal Authority Placemaking Grant.

Candy Royalle, who inspired Jacqui’s start in poetry, sadly passed away in 2018, but her impact lives on in her writing, recordings and the community she gathered around her.

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