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FEATURE - Jennifer Compton

Many Overloaded Thoughts

Overload Poetry Festival – Melbourne August 2005


My name is Jennifer Compton and I am a Festival Junkie.
I like them even when they are yuppie cringefests and the pampered clarity of accent, tone strolls across the sparkling waters of Sydney Harbour. And champagne costs $7 a flute.
There is still fun to be had.
I like them even if the sacred hush of the gathering chamber is barely ruffled by legions of timid women of a certain age genuflecting at the altar of the Booker.
Fun is to be had.
I like them even if the poet is Bulgarian or Icelandic and their work is simultaneously translated into Italian or Spanish and I do not understand one word in a thousand. Turn the volume up, turn the volume down, it is still poetry. A little bit of body language never hurt anyone. And if you stumble over a Louis Vuitton handbag in the Ladies loo, sitting by the washbasins on its lonesome, you can be sure that a fearsomely respected ancient female academic is not too far away.
It’s all good clean fun.
I especially like them if  – in spite of an apocalyptic hangover – you find yourself on the good ship Lollipop heading up the Shoalhaven River on a Sunday morning and you join forces with some hard-core coevals and buy more poetry juice by the bottle full. It’s cheaper that way. And I can guarantee as the boat pauses and we rock to and fro on the bosom of the river that NO MATTER WHAT POETRY IS READ TO YOU, YOU WILL FIND POINT AND PURPOSE TO IT. 
You may even shout – NOT ON MY WATCH, MATEY.
It’s too much fun.
Don’t panic if you unexpectedly like an innocent Antipodean think – Goodness gracious, those river banks look just like Arthur Boyds’!
Bundanon is just upstream and you have just had your first experience of  seeing something “already seen”.
Oh yes. I have been around the Festival block one or two times (I have eavesdropped on poets arguing with Festival Directors about whether they were promised their airfare from Moscow, or if it was only Business Class from Heathrow) and it occurred to me – like a bolt from the blue! or a very good idea! - that the Overload Poetry Festival might be perfectly poised to go off. 
I did my sums and I came up with –
People running the Festival times Kind Of Venues Available minus Mistakes Made In First Festival plus The Heartbeat Of Melbourne plus Everyone Seems To Know Each Other minus Everyone Seems To Know Each Other plus and minus So Many People I Never Met Seem To Have Dropped Off The Twig Lately squared by The Poetry Gods Can Guarantee Lightning Bolts Popping Down All About One AS! One Merely Struggles to Stay Upright, Buy Another Drink And Not Become Tired And Emotional And Start Abusing Innocent Bystanders EQUALS Festival Guaranteed To Surprise And Amaze.
 But I miscalculated. I think it will go off next year. 2006 will be the year to be there. There will be more money, and there is nothing wrong with money we all love money, but there will not be too much money. Too much money is when we start sitting on it so we can look taller than anyone else. Damn shame when that happens.


All I have to do is work out my kharmic grand convergence with the city of Melbourne.
Many years ago (back in 1971) I had a dream full of nameless dread. I was sitting in an empty, lighted up tram at the end of the line. On my very first trip to Melbourne we arrived after dark and I saw an empty, lighted up tram stopped at the end of the line.
My husband got a part in a play in Melbourne and in spite of my nameless dread of trams we packed up the family and relocated for the duration.
40 plus degree heat. Husband fell down sick. Public hospital sent him home at 5 am in a taxi because they did not have a bed. I knew no one. I had two little kids. (Did I mention the 40 plus degrees heat?) Husband in private hospital. No medical insurance.
We squeaked out of that one nearly as good as new, but it did not help allay my nameless dread.
So when daughter fell off a horse called Dual Purpose and broke her neck on the last day of the festival (no spinal or brain damage, locked into a halo brace for 12 weeks and she will be nearly as good as new, I don’t think she will still feel bulletproof but that is a good thing, right?) I felt as if all my nameless dread had come home to roost.
Okay! Where was I?
Oh yes. Festival? Great! Go for it.
Melbourne trying to destroy those I love?
I’m working on it. I am imagining standing up. Walking through the empty tram. That is stopped at the end of the line. I am imagining approaching the door. I am imagining stepping off and out into the street. I am imagining walking away from the tram.
Do you know that great zen thingo?
There is a goose and she is in a bottle. How does she get out?
There. (Clap hands!) She is out!



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