US poet goes bush in Australia

20th April 2010 10:04 AM

Josephus Thompson III (pictured) is a spoken word performer from Queensboro, New York.

He was recently in Lismore as part of a Rotary exchange program where he and four other young people from the US had a quick tour of the Northern Rivers. The group includes a town planner, an environmental engineer and a banker. That’s a universe group for sure.

The Echo had a chat with Josephus, who is a high-profile performance poet and educator in his home country.

“It’s a vocational and cultural exchange,” Josephus said, lolling in a creaky chair in The Echo office. “I’m here to see how people live on the other side of the world; to see what poets on the other side of the world do.”

Josephus had a taste of North Coast poetry when he ended up at local perormance poet David Hallett’s house last Sunday after a visit to The Channon markets. David is a fine poet and has been promoting poetry on the North Coast for the last 20 years. He and Josephus swapped poetry performance pieces in what one lucky spectator described as “a mind-blowing impromptu event”. And Joesphus loved it. It was certainly not bush poetry – he had that experience earlier in the week.

He travelled to Tenterfield and was there during the Oracles of the Bush – a bush poetry festival.

“We don’t have bush poetry back home,” he said. “Well, not like what you have. Your bush poetry is comic. It’s funny.” (Yeah – big floods, smart dogs and bodily functions.)

Josephus had the opportunity to listen to some of the bush poet greats like Ray Essery and reciprocated with performances of his own poetry – which isn’t bush poetry. But inspired by his experience, Josephus tried his hand at bush poetry.

It’s been a whirlwind tour of this part of Australia, just a month, but he likes what he’s seen.

“One of the biggest differences, apart from driving on the other side of the road, is that Australians use both hands when eating,” Josephus said, obviously amazed. “You hold the knife and fork in both hands and push the food onto the fork… In the States, we cut up our food, drop the knife, then transfer the fork to the knife hand and just use the one hand. You’re very formal.”

Formal? Josephus Thompson III thinks we’re formal?

Thanks for the poetry, cobber.