Image courtesy of Incendium Radical Library Press

Melbourne Art Book Fair performs poetry

3 March 2022

In 2022, the Melbourne Art Book Fair brings together ideas and practices that explore the connections between art, design, publishing and language in the program Performing Poetics. It coalesces some of Australia’s most exciting and radical poetic voices across MABF’s opening weekend. This program will explore several genres of poetry and performance, and features sessions curated by Rosa Press, Bella Li, Elena Gomez, no more poetry, and Incendium Radical Library Press. The varied program features reading groups to site-based works taking places within NGV galleries, which respond to the centuries-old work hanging on the gallery walls.

A site-specific work as part of the program is ‘Modern Woman’ curated by poet and author Bella Li. This collaborative work features Bella Li, LK Holt, Ursula Robinson-Shaw and Lucy Van, and integrates different genres of performance including poetry and theatre. Taking cues from Jean Genet’s ‘The Maids’, ‘Modern Woman’ centres on the representation and performance of gender by responding to the compositions of objects on display in the 17th and 18th Century European Gallery. “I wanted the reading to be closely integrated with the space itself,” explains Li. “I was thinking about gender and performance and knew I wanted to showcase female poets. I walked through all of the galleries, and this one was immediately suggestive because of its slightly domestic feel – with its ornate mantlepiece, mirrors and furniture.”

The 17th and 18th Century European Gallery. Image courtesy of NGV.

Labour and Misery is another event in Performing Poetics, which is the second instalment of an occasional reading series by Rosa Press, a publishing collective interested in communism and its poetics. The readings will feature Rosa Press editors Andrew Brooks and Astrid Lorange, and Chelsea Hart, Chi Tran, and Ella O’Keefe. “The readings will include poems and essays on work, alienation, and the value-form, as well as the good things that work against them like friendship, solidarity, and hospitality,” explains Astrid Lorange. They will be held in the Britain & Europe 16th–18th Century galleries on Level 2 of NGV International.

Working as a lecturer at UNSW, writer, editor, researcher and poet, Lorange’s approach to poetry is social, cultural, academic and literary and believes poetry is a form for everyone. “All you need to enjoy poetry is curiosity, to let go of any anxieties about what poetry is or is supposed to mean or do,” explains Lorange. “Poetry is a social relation – an invitation to be together, to study language, to reimagine our world.”

Performing Poetics happens on the first weekend of the Melbourne Art Book Fair. More information about the poetry program is here.