(Brisbane) A place where poetry could never occur ’
From David Malouf’s central character, Dante, in the seminal Brisbane novel Johnno (1975)
Many years ago, Brisbane had a reputation as a cultural wasteland. Now, this vibrant multicultural metropolis thrives with culture in diverse forms.
For me Brisbane will always be a writer’s city and its due to one remarkable woman, Lee Finn, the organiser of the Brisbane Writer’s Group on Meetup. Lee is one of those rare souls who love to see others flourish in their creativity. She loves to encourage others and share useful information. At her prompting I started to take writing seriously. The fact that members of the group have enjoyed success in their writing (I won first prize in the Reader’s Digest Australia competition and Kay Lynn, another member, came second) is due in no small part to Lee’s generosity and acceptance of all types of people.
Then there’s the river. There’s something about a river city which lends itself to the creative flow. Looking at it from the terrace of the Cultural Centre, I feel open to letting ideas whisper to me. The libraries, both State and City, are really writing centres, that is there’s sufficient quiet to hear those whispers and enough stimulation at the attached cafes-can’t write
without caffeine-to overhear conversations or share stories with other writers. But it’s the characters which make any story and Brisbane has a few . Not as many as Canberra, granted, but sufficient to spark the muse as you observe people from the bus or train and wonder
‘What’s your story?’
By way of example I recall on my last visit a passenger who left on the bus at the last minute. Wearing filthy jeans and a blue theatre gown tied at the top of his bare, sweaty back, there was a wild look in his dilated eyes and with shaking hands, he counted out his fare for the driver. Brisbaners can be warm and tolerant people, and on this occasion so much so that no one appeared interested in this character in blue-except me. Two stops later the sandy haired man who looked like he had just escaped from some hospital pressed the bell hard, leapt from his seat and jumped off the bus. He ripped off the theatre gown, stuffed it in the litter bin and walked quickly back in the opposite direction.
What was his story I wonder? The great thing about fiction writing is that you have permission to create any possibleanswer to that question.