Saturday, October 22, 2016

Perth loves Shakespeare.

A wonderful day yesterday, celebrating four centuries of Shakespeare! The University of Perth's lovely campus was swamped by fans who came to take part in the festivities.

Caitlin Beresford-Ord and Igor Sas playing
Queen Elizabeth I and our beloved Will!
Photo Courtesy of the #400 Facebook page
Along with colleagues Frances, Jon and Rosalind, I helped to man a 'sonnet exchange', where visitors to the celebrations could contribute a sonnet of their own writing and exchange it for one of Shakespeare's. This was done by tying tiny scrolls to the 'sonnet tree'. We collected the submissions at the end of the day, with a view to reading them aloud at a meeting one day soon. I hope we can get permission from the authors to publish them here, too.

Personally, I was blown away by the numbers. I'd envisaged a cosy little function with maybe a few dozen attendees, but there were hundreds of visitors! Our stall was very busy, and not only with sonnet swaps. It was the first stall in view as visitors entered the area, so we were swamped with all kinds of requests ranging from 'Where are the toilets?' to 'Where can I get tickets to ...' so we became a de facto information booth. A few visitors didn't know what a sonnet was, yet after having the form described to them, they proceeded to write perfectly acceptable fourteen liners!

Many thanks to the prime movers, Rebecca Davis and Michelle Fournasier of Big Sky Entertainment.

You can read more about the event on the Facebook page

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Sonnet Competition Winners!

Prof. Wortham reads the list of winners
Yesterday – Saturday 15 October – was a red letter day for the Shakespeare Club of Western Australia. We kicked off our celebrations of Shakespeare 400 with a happy get-together to announce the winners of our sonnet competition.

Frances, our president, opened the proceedings by reading excerpts from the lovely ‘Obituary’  from the New York Times of April 23 this year, and went on to tell the capacity audience about how we came to have a sonnet competition as part of our celebrations. It was the brainchild of Rob, one of our members. His idea was quickly taken up by the committee and a judge was engaged in the person of Professor Chris Wortham.

Professor Wortham joked in his introductory address that perhaps he should have bought a bullet-proof vest or sought police protection, since judging any kind of competition is invariably contentious. ‘Sonnet writing,’ Professor Worthing went on, ‘is art in miniature, much like the miniature portraits so much in vogue a few centuries ago’. And speaking more generally, he suggested that the arts aim to recover what humankind lost in the Garden of Eden.

Shakespeare lived in a time when there was a growing interest in, and respect for, education. For the first time, boys of middle class families were receiving an education, and to show that ‘Jack’s as good as his master’, many such students took up writing as a profession.

The winners in the student category demonstrated a maturity beyond their years. The first-place-getter, Karl Robinson, gave us ‘Glass and Birds’, a poem that contrasted the city with nature. The second and third prize winners followed in like vein. Kayla Gent, in second place, submitted a lovely sonnet ‘White Clouds of Foam’, and similarly, third place-getter Anna Lewis, wrote ‘An Ocean Wave’, which compared and contrasted spiritual and sensual experience. These were all lovely pieces and no-one could have envied Professor Wortham’s task in choosing the winner.

Owen Keene  in declamatory mode!
(Photos by Jon Greenacre)
The Adult section was also full of talent. Shirley Wild took out first place with ‘Birthright’, a praise of Western Australian identity and pride. Mary Jones’s ‘The Wild Geese’ celebrated the rescue of Irish prisoners in Fremantle by Catalpa, an American ship, in 1876. Professor Wortham described this work as ’a spirited, sprightly, well-constructed account of a historical incident'. The third prize-winner, Ian Reid, wrote ‘The Long Wait’, about the juncture of the Swan and Canning rivers, which was described by Professor Wortham as ‘a nice confluence of language and tone’. The professor went on to impress on poets the importance of flow, rhythm and metre when writing in sonnet form.

Many other works were worthy of mention, and to demonstrate, several entrants offered to read their own entries. Patricia Cole’s ‘Just Love’, Maureen Barton’s ‘The Colours of Serendipity’ and Don Blundell-Wignall’s ‘Yagan’ showed the diversified talents of entries in general.

Running this competition made us realise that there is not only great depth and breadth of talent in Perth, but that sonnet-writing is still loved by many writers and readers. Long may the love continue!