untitled121…white feathers suffocating…
…my heart is a breath only…

Throughout the 2009 Overload Poetry Festival, poems have been broadcast at Federation Square as scrolling text. The ticker wall on the corner of Flinders and Swanston Streets became a giant poetry board with a selection of poetry edited by Matt Hetherington and Luis Gonzalez Serrano. The big screens in the main square and atrium also displayed a selection of concrete/visual/animated poems curated by Sjaak de Jong.

To be perfectly honest, I’d completely forgotton about this Overload project. On Saturday, as I sat on the paved steps of Federation Square sipping strong coffee and psyching myself up for the last few events of Overload 09, I stared at the neon orange word-train scrolling vertically down the fragmented wall and did a double take.

…fallen from the sky together…
…dumb minuteness can shake the earth…

The poems were alternated with the general announcements scrolling horizontally, vertically and diagonally across the enormous, triangular-fragmented wall. My eyes flew everywhere, never staying on one text-scroll enough to get a whole poem, but darting from fanta green text to G.I. green text, to neon blue and then on to words in bright split-lip red. Sometimes the announcements: about parking, events on at the square, ticketing enquiries, seemed almost to be part of the moving poetic installation. Several people around me stared at me gawking up at the scrolling text, and turned to find my puzzled frown’s protagonist.

…two Bonnies / no clyde…
…i love you to bits / she said / gathering the pieces together…
The poems: short in the first instance then fragmented in their delivery, seemed not meant to be pondered and examined, but to form part of the consciousness of the everyman on the street. The poems intruded upon the minds of members of the public unaware of the poetic rumblings that have been raging in Melbourne’s bars, pubs and streets over the past ten days. They slyly climbed into the eyeballs of women not on their way to two hours of head-to-head-haiku at Dante`s, appealed to people not hoarse from too much slamming, or tripped out from seeing the Bristol Poetry Festival’s hairy and aggressive slam Badger at ACMI on Saturday night during the Skype slam. The Federation Square scrolling text poetry was what Overload, in it’s original and current conception, was all about. It brought poetry to the people – unavoidably, publicly, proudly, but somehow also cheekily and on the sly: planting poem-seeds in the cracks between closed-minded concrete slabs.

…do bananas taste better in summer?…
…when he left he said goodbye to them politely / in the proper English way…

 – Maxine Clarke

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  1. wow, sound kinda cool to me! hehheh. STILL haven’t seen yet, but will make a damn good point of going down there n having a look after this review, maxine. interesting that it should be having that kind of effect…let it floweth!

    big thanks, and for the whole effort you’ve been going to with getting to so many events and co-ordinating this blog. woulda loved to have been able to stay for the final reading…but BIGUPS N BOOMBOOMFROMDABACKADAROOM!

  2. Thanks Matt. You know, I’m actually fascinated to know how you went about selecting poems for this project. Did you go and look at the scrolling text wall and see how many characters scrolled at any given time, or anything like that? There were so many sharp one-liners that seemed just perfectly lengthed for the exercise. Were you given specs by Fed square as to what length would work best etc?

  3. Hey Maxine, thanks for the write-up. We had a certain idea of how big the poems should be but really had no specifics as to how many characters the ticker would take. I told people in my original call out to send very short poems thinking about the medium. Inevitably we got a few subs of more than 5 lines or 50 words which we didn’t bother reading, but that was about it.

    We actually did have some tech problems at the beginning which I’m still in the dark as to how they happened (did the asterisks I used to separate poems not agree with the software? were they too many in one go? does the computer not appreciate poetry?). It was quite surreal meeting with people at Fed Square who said yes to pretty much everything we proposed and when something didn’t work they gave us an infinitely better option. Sjaak’s selection of visual poetry was intended as a projection on that same wall, but when Fed Square realised it wouldn’t look right, we were offered the big screen instead.

    You know, one can actually SMS text onto the tickers. Something to keep in mind for an ‘open mic’ night…?

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