Review: Poetry Prescribed

Joanne Baker

By Jo Withers

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It’s a wet and windy Friday night as we step inside Chateau Apollo for Poetry Prescribed. The event is a collaboration between mindshare and Draw Your S(words) who regularly host open mic poetry nights at the venue. It’s a dream combination and I’m excited to experience a celebration of poetry and mental health discussion to mark the end of Mental Health Week 2020.

We shake off the rain and breathe in the cute and cosy setting. It immediately feels welcoming, like an indoor garden party with bright, white walls, rows of pale green chairs and fairy lights strung across the ceiling to add a warm evening glow. An eclectic group of people mingle through the room, carefree and chatty. There’s a bar at the back, free Mojo kombucha and an air of sophisticated relaxation I’d all but forgotten in these Covid-heavy times.

Around 7p.m. Caitlyn Tait bounces onto the stage as our MC for the evening. Tait is funny and friendly and imbues the audience with her positive energy as she comically runs through housekeeping and the evening’s agenda. Without more of a do, we welcome the first act to the stage, singer/songwriter Annie Siegmann. 

Siegmann is awe-inspiring. She’s a one woman show – she’s gutsy, she’s hilarious, she plays guitar, she sings (powerfully) she performs amazing, thought-provoking songs. She’s a natural performer, her command of the crowd and the strength of her sound is hugely impressive. She’s successful, confident and relatable, her candid asides regarding her own mental health and life struggles reaffirm the message that mental health is not visual, we only know what’s happening below the surface through frank discussions and breaking down myths and stereotypes.

As Siegmann dashes from the stage to her next gig (she also performs with the band Seabass), Tait takes control of the proceedings again to introduce performance poet, Joanne Baker, to the stage. Baker structures her routine beautifully, organising her poems to reflect her own mental health journey. As expected, it’s not a simple A to B route. Baker doesn’t pretend to have found all the answers, but she has reached an understanding and awareness of her inner self and her poetry (which began in the dark depths of despair) culminates in joyful pride. The audience erupts with the delivery of the final lines of her poem, The Closet, whooping and cheering their admiration. Baker is a remarkable ambassador for mental health awareness. She does not stop at simply discussing mental health, she goes further and celebrates her journey, the ups and downs of her human trail that have inspired her and fuelled her creativity, as she says, “I don’t suffer from mental health, it’s my super power.”

After a short break, Tait takes to the stage again to introduce Anna Jeavons of mindshare and Jessica Alice from the SA Writers’ Centre to announce the winners of the mindshare creative writing competition. The shortlisted pieces had been displayed on the wall of Chateau Apollo during the evening and feature prose and poetry from previously published and unpublished writers. The shortlist is phenomenal, a vivid and intensely personal selection which Alice describes as, ‘a joy to read’. Several poets take to the stage after the awards to perform their shortlisted pieces and it is thrilling to hear the pieces given life and tempo by their authors.

Following the shortlisted performances, Tait reclaims the stage and opens the open mic segment of the evening. The courage of the performers is inspirational. They stand before us one-by-one and lay bare their most intimate thoughts before an audience of strangers, but then this the true strength of Draw Your S(words). The audience shines – they are refreshingly encouraging, non-judgmental, welcoming, positive people, lifting each other up with genuine warmth and appreciation for their art.

When we leave Poetry Prescribed a little later, it’s still raining outside and the early evening shadows have succumbed to darkness but somehow it doesn’t matter. My footsteps are light and I’m feeling inspired, for the first time in a long time I am filled with positivity and renewed appreciation for the power and wisdom of thoughtful words.

       

         

         

Poetry Prescribed: presented by mindshare, the Mental health Coalition of SA, Draw Your (S)words and City of Adelaide.

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