I love poetry and have been in a serious relationship with words since I could string letters together.
For me, writing helps me make sense of the world and when I was six, I wrote my first short story about what would happen when I went into hospital. I was born with Cystic Fibrosis and in August 1998 and with only a few days to live, I was given the ultimate altruistic gift — the gift of life in the form of a double lung transplant.
Growing up with a terminal illness, I saw and experienced things that made me grow up far faster than a child should ever have to. My childhood and adolescence were punctuated by death and oddly enough, my passion now lies in palliative care. It seems like a natural and seamless progression after having looked after many of my C.F friends during the final stages of illness and I’ve always believed that it’s just as important to die a good death, as it is to live a good life.
I’m currently in the process of wrapping up my research Masters degree in creative writing so I can pursue PhD studies. In 2006, I had to take a leave of absence when I was diagnosed with cancer and in late 2007 I nearly lost my life again after complications from cancer surgery. Since then, I’ve been in a fervent state of creation and in January, I became poet in residence at West End’s Blackstar Coffee as part of Australian Poetry’s ‘café poet’ initiative.
The six-month residency has involved me visiting the café a couple of times a week to write poetry in return for my favourite poison — coffee. The reaction from customers has been really heartening and creatively invigorating. From people dropping bundles of words into the café’s poetry box, to engaging in beautiful conversations and colourful debate about art; it’s been quite a ride.
Being out on the street and seeing the work done by a local group of volunteers, who help marginalised people such as the homeless and displaced, has made me want to give back to my community. I plan to help out with their literacy program. West End has a pulse, beating its own tune with artists, nomads and dreamers where words knit people and communities together.
Connecting with my community, collaborating with other local artists and sharing the magic that is poetry has been an intensely rewarding and oft times, a crazy journey. Strangers have told me that the highlight of their week was having a coffee and going home with a piece of original poetry to stick on their wall, and spotting my ‘poetry interventions’ in unlikely places (think envelopes of poetry poking awkwardly out of bags of coffee). On a winter’s night in July, 10,000 words of poetry will culminate in spoken word, music, art and the launch of my chapbook bruises you can touch’ with the aim of forming a collective of artists based in West End.
Words by Carly-Jay Metcalfe | Images by Torsten Baumann
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