It’s November but the warm weather has bypassed the Highlands on this Sunday afternoon in Ward Lane, Mittagong. Around 50 of us are here to launch the Treelines exhibition, part of the Southern Highlands Arts Festival. But rather than the interior of a building, the street is our gallery. Curator, Monica Markovina reminds us that art has the power to produce a state of mindfulness that brings us to the present where we create our own meaning. What better place than the street for those of us less likely to frequent galleries, to discover this by accident.
A tireless cold wind might be blowing but the wine is flowing and the walls on both sides of the lane are glowing with the nocturnal landscapes of local photographers, Paul Harmon and Mim Stirling. And it is about to rain poetry. As if performing a holy ritual, water is poured onto the dry pavement. Our heads bowed to the ground and eyes squinting to witness the miracle of an invisible poem becoming visible, we resemble a group gathered in prayer and perhaps we are for we are silently waiting for the revelation that poetry can bring, that ability to say the unsayable.
As the script of the first poem emerges before our eyes one of the featured poets, Lorne Johnson is there to read us another of his poems:
We clambered through
Vaulted emerald domes
And spirals of light and insects.
Everything around us
Buzzed and ticked.
The air tasted of mint and salt.
Monica is right. We are mindful. Time stops as we silently interpret the words through our individual filters.
As water and wine continue to be poured another of the featured poets, Mark Tredinnick is there to perform one of his poems:
MID-AFTERNOON, I LOOK UP FROM MY DESK TO SEE
A KINGFISHER ALIGHT IN THE WATER POPLAR.
FOR TEN BLUE MINUTES SHE SITS WRAPPED IN
HER SACERDOTAL SELF, MURDER ON HER MIND
(To view the complete versions of either of these poems or other work by these poets please contact Pitt Street Publishing)
The exhibition includes another poet; Phillip Hall who will be the featured guest at the next Mittagong poetry event, Little Mountain Readings, scheduled for Saturday 3 December at the Sturt Gallery.
So where did this amazing idea of raining poetry come from? Monica tells us she got the idea from Mass Poetry, a community arts project based in Boston. They are enthusiastic to have their idea spread globally, making this not just a local community art event but a global one as well. Monica recounts that they had planned to hand cut stencils of the poems which would have been painstakingly difficult. However, a local business, Bowral Signs came to the rescue with the latest laser cutting technology. The completed stencils were then placed on the pavement and sprayed using a biodegradable spray, leaving the invisible impression of the poem waiting for water like dormant seeds.
As part of the launch Monica acknowledges a long list of other local businesses and individuals that have been involved in the project. This is community art at its best. Today we witness the end product but we are reminded of the multiple community connections that have been forged in the process that led up to today. In an era of on-line connection, face to face connection is even more precious.
The exhibition will be on display until November 30 and if you visit make sure you pop into the adjoining Shaggy Cow Café. If the catering at the launch is an indication, the food is fantastic and they just won Most Outstanding Café in the Southern Highlands, Business Award.