Every now and again I’m stopped in my tracks! Last Monday evening in Broken Hill, Australia, we went along to the ‘Black Lion Pub’ to experience a night of poetry by a group of three rather different but amazing blokes. George Cole, Dallas Hunt and Ray Cook to be precise…the three men meet to chat, read and discuss poetry, oh and to have a beer as well!
This group ‘Poets at the Pub’ have been meeting since 1974, not bad is it? There have been other members along the way and even a break away group (I wondered if they were the women poets?) but these three blokes have stuck with the journey, and so the legend has it that they can be found here every second Monday night at seven.
Let’s start with Ray. This man is no ordinary person, he has a mind that will impress and challenge you, mainly because his intellect is obvious the moment he starts to speak. Dallas and George give his title as the ‘group scholar’, although it turns out that they themselves aren’t wanting for a bit of scholarly thinking. Ray is a small man in stature, uses a wheelchair and was the original convener of ‘Poets at the Pub’. A fabulous smile and a warm and welcoming personality this man defers humbly to the other two in the group. He explains and sets the intellectual background for his work before he delivers. When he reads his poetry, it’s gold. His work has depth and is layered with levels of meaning that requires, I suspect, time and thought to decipher. A gem of a poet and a brilliant man.
Then there’s George. A gentleman and a poet. He’s been a boxer, a miner and many other things in his long and varied life. He has a fine understanding of mining and the cultural ways of men in a mining town. For the past six years George has won the ‘Paddy of the Course’ (best dressed male, I think) title at the local ‘St Patrick’s Race Meeting’, something he is proud of. He writes short stories and poems and has published his own works. In his eighties now but age, it appears, has little relevance to George. Recently his wife died, he read a poignant poem in honour of her. It was the first time he had read it the group. George read with clarity and beauty with just a hint of emotion that fell quietly around the edges of the piece. He signed and gave me a copy, I am thankful for that gesture and felt moved by his generosity. Poetry with meaning.
Now we come to Dallas, he has a face that lights up a room. In fact, when we walked in it was Dallas who welcomed us and made us feel at ease. He reminds me of the saying ‘larger than life’, now I don’t mean this in relation to his size, although Dallas is a broad man but not a tall man, he just has a personality that commands those around to listen. I must say thought, he does carry a hint of mystery about him. He gives off an air of someone who has seen life from many angles, had his fair share ups and downs perhaps but knows how to keep the wheels of life moving. Anyway, his poetry tell stories of life, real life. Solid, well put together prose that makes the listener curious. He read a poem about a young woman who left a relationship because her partner ‘didn’t adore her enough’. A gutsy poet who doesn’t want the meddling eyes of editors or literary critiquing. This poet believes that if you mess with the poem it is at risk of losing it’s authenticity, perhaps he has a fair point. Dallas is a man who knows his mind, I like that about a writer or a poet…it comes through in the work. And, his work is honest and impressive.
And so, after a glass of wine and our heads full of wonderment we headed back to our miners cottage. We felt as if we shared something special that evening. To sit with and listen to three generous, intelligent and yet different men talk about people, history, the environment and life in general took us to another place. I was left thinking about how different people can come together and relate so beautifully when there is a common thread. Poetry…
Thanks to the wonderful ‘Poets at the Pub’ in Broken Hill.