I’m sitting on the steps of Federation Square, flicking through the pages of my notebook. Dark clouds lower upon me and the rain begins. The sizeable scattering of tourists and students dwindles as they attempt to escape the downpour.
I spot a man walking into the Time Out cafe. He has a walking stick and white beard. I recognise him from this photograph. I canter through the increasing rain and enter the cafe just behind him. He turns and I introduce myself.
‘Nice to meet you Lee. Judith will be along shortly.’ I shake Tom’s hand and we sit at a table. He is married to poet Judith Rodriguez, who has kindly agreed to come along and share her thoughts. Since suffering a stroke, Tom has been left with speech difficulties. He tells me it’s frustrating to not be able to read his poetry aloud.
Before Judith arrives, we discuss Salt’s financial difficulties. He asks me if Andrew Taylor’s book is still due for June. I tell him that I don’t know, and that it’s been difficult to contact the office when everyone’s so busy. He tells me that he has given John Kinsella a manuscript, but seems unhopeful of a release date before 2011.
Judith pushes her small shopping trolley through the doorway. She sits down and struggles to catch the waiter’s attention. ‘Can I have a long black please?’ She is very keen to inform me of the many opportunities Melbourne offers for the poetry lover. The National Poetry Centre, the three separate writers’ festivals and a whole array of readings. ‘As long as we have your email address, we’ll keep you well informed.’
I’m glad of their hospitality. They appear to know a great number of poets in Melbourne, and every name I mention is accompanied by a ‘yes, we’ve got their book somewhere at home’ from Tom. But when it comes to British poets, a different story emerges.
I reel off a number of Salt authors – Tobias Hill, Luke Kennard amongst a few. ‘I’ll have a look out for those names’ is Judith’s response. It seems that UK poets tend not to travel as far as Australia. And the same goes for Australian poets in the UK. I wonder if that relationship could be improved.
We talk about Andrew Motion. Judith wants to see ‘Duffy’ (Carol Ann) come to Australia, and is looking forward to her take on a William and Kate wedding. This somehow leads us on to education.
I admit that I would like to see more contemporary British poetry taught in schools. Judith asks me if any of our texts appear on curriculums. I don’t think so. But I would like to see them on one.
Tom and Judith order some cake, and encourage me to ‘have a nibble’. They’re both extremely charming, and again I am bombarded with useful information. I’m not quite sure what to do with it all.
After an intriguing hour of conversation, I leave them both and step out into the rain. My thoughts are swimming in coffee, and I just want to get home to contemplate the day.
Hopefully I will hear good news from Salt HQ this week, and I can start laying down my ideas in a positive direction.