In the olden days, every wee town like Lightning Ridge had a local paper. It’d come out once, maybe twice, a week. There’d be a husband-and-wife team who ran it, they might even set it with hot metal and print it in a shed out the back. I’ve got a collection of such newspapers from outback towns but these things are, sadly, falling victim to the zombie apocalypse of social media.
I only learnt about the poetry slam workshop on the morning that it was due to take place. A Facebook post from North West News (which was probably once such a newspaper) announced the tour to Big Sky Libraries of Philip Wilcox, the 2015/16 Australian poetry slam champion. Bloody hell!
I dashed off to the library after school to get there for the 3.30 start. Apart from a couple of kids looking at picture books and and a bearded old geezer picking through True Crime it was deserted. Had I got the wrong day?
Just as I was about to give up a furtive-looking hipster emerged from Biography. Philip Wilcox, poetry slam champion? He swallowed nervously and, realising there was no easily accessible exit, agreed that he was indeed Philip Wilcox, poetry slam champion. We both looked around at the deserted library. I said, “This is probably worse than no-one turning up! Now you’ve got to do a workshop just for me!” He smiled wanly and indicated the couches next to the Barbara Cartlands.
He performed a really good poem about his father’s death. I didn’t have any poems to perform. But, in the awkward silence that followed, some people came in. Philip Wilcox, poetry slam champion, looked giddy with relief.
The other people were Marie, Amanda and David. Marie was really hoping that Philip Wilcox, poetry slam champion, would come and speak to her reading group next day, but sadly he had a date in Moree. Obviously disappointed, Marie decided to stay anyway. She asked him what he did. He said, “This. I’m a poet”. We were too polite to ask what he really did.
Amanda read her poems, about crazy things like the time she found a frog in a mousetrap, or the time she and David nearly perished in the Great Sandy Desert. We were certainly a diverse bunch.
Philip Wilcox, poetry slam champion, used the time while Amanda read her poems to recover his equilibrium. He gave us tasks to do and we read out the resulting poems. They were all quite wild and nutty. It was good fun! At the end, Philip Wilcox, poetry slam champion, recited another of his poems. I took a photo on my phone that isn’t very flattering.
He has a book out soon, called Beatle Prayers. You can get it from his website. He’s very good and, even though he’ll probably remember Lightning Ridge Library as his own personal Wake In Fright moment, I’ll remember it with warmth and fondness. Good luck in Moree and beyond, Philip Wilcox, poetry slam champion.