Every poem is a portal

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Every poem is a portal through which we can transmit emotions, empathy, intellect, wonder and humour.

~ Scott-Patrick Mitchell, 2022 Red Room Poetry Fellow

Who is Scott-Patrick Mitchell?

Scott-Patrick Mitchell is very Scruffy from a week at Bundanon! They are a poet, a writer, a part-time theoretical construct, a sometimes ghost, and they're very comfortable talking about themselves in the third person. But in all honesty, I'm just somebody who loves reading and writing poetry, and I also really love lifting up and making space for emerging poets and helping them to achieve their potential - and I do that through a lot of work back home with WA Poets.

Can you describe your Fellowship project?

My 2022 Red Room Poetry Fellowship project is called 'Antipodean Sea Garden: Knowing Perth Canyon'. I'm writing about Perth Canyon which is this kind of huge vast underwater submerged canyon off the coast of Western Australia and it has captured my imagination since 2016. Not many people know about it which is I think very Perth.

So what I'm doing is I'm walking about 60 kilometres of beach coastline and sitting with the ocean and listening to the ocean, and I'm writing about beach culture, the marine life, what washes up on the beach the erosion that's happening to the dunes and I'm taking a lot of scientific material and using that as research as well because obviously I can't swim four kilometres down to access the canyon itself. There's a lot of space for imagination and scientific retelling and just being able to connect people who live in Australia, not only Boorloo Perth, but in Australia with this incredible marine park that is so crucial to the local marine life's feeding and breeding. There's something magical about something so ancient and submerged and just being able to write about it.

What is the value of this Fellowship to you and your practice?

This Fellowship is phenomenal. It's an incredible opportunity for me to create space for myself. Even though Red Room has facilitated in creating the space, it's also myself just holding the space for me to write something slightly outside of my comfort zone as well. I usually focus a lot on urban life, and identity within the urban landscape so being able to kind of reach into the ocean and write about something so magical is - it's an immense privilege. I feel so honoured, humbled and privileged to be undertaking the Fellowship and to experience Bundanon as a place where I can be and read and write and research - it's just this phenomenal opportunity.

What does poetry mean to you?

Ooh what is poetry to me? That is a really big question! As I just told a whole bunch of school kids, if you got 100 poets in a room they would each give a different answer. One of the main things that I've learned poetry is about is opening up a portal. Every poem is a portal through which we can transmit emotions, empathy, intellect, wonder and humour.

It's just this really interesting way of being able to connect not only with other people, but with the ideas and the imagery and the subject matter that is written in the poem. Poetry for me is a lot about connection, and then community - and just being in a place where there are others like you who live with the impostor syndrome and the self-doubt, but you're all striving to create something that is akin to magic or is magic, and helps each other connect, and readers and people you don't know connect with poetry.

Are there any other aspects of the Fellowship, other shortlisted poets or poetry that you’d like to reflect on?

Another aspect of the Fellowship that I think is really important to mention is this is like my fourth or fifth application and funnily enough it was the one idea I've had the longest. It was what I call my Ace up my sleeve, because it was such an important project but I wasn't ready to write about it yet, and so I held onto it and then I was like no this is the time - do it - and I'm blown away and humbled and just honoured that it was accepted.

Poetry is a long game, and you've got to be in it for the long game - you've got to keep going. Every little rejection is just an excuse to try harder and push yourself just that a little bit more, and really find what it is that excites you. Even if it's completely different to what you normally write, pursue it - because that's usually what's going to resonate with other people. So I really encourage people to apply for the Fellowship who've worked with Red Room, and if you've applied before, apply again and just keep going because it'll happen.