Kate Maxwell – Picnic on Observatory Hill

Maxwell LE P&W April 2023

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing April 2023

Picnic on Observatory Hill, poem by Kate Maxwell

Picnic on Observatory Hill

The rotunda – trust the poets to debate the name –
Gazebo? someone murmured
maybe a summerhouse or arbour?
Name the platform what you will
but stretched out over picnic rugs, seated
on the stone arc of the Boer War Memorial
or queuing patiently to recite
– at least louder than birds and cheering
bridal parties wandering through words –
writers gathered at the skirts of her high sides.

Chasing a coquettish sun to cheat the chill
of September shadows we shifted blankets
squinted into verse and voice
devoured by laughter, gush of breeze
rumblings of trains above. Into squawk
and celebration of the day the mic persisted
at times a burst of stronger phrase
then low and lulling as the soft honey
hues of a sinking sun.

The literary lingered with their peculiar
purpleness, earnestness, and longing
while Tug, in comedic casual control
lifted a wry eyebrow at the enormous
Bearly There teddy bear and balloon display
below: a gender reveal in full throttle finery
silks, stilettos – and all oblivious
to the slightly amused man reciting poems above.

Then someone mused on Megan Markle
someone lived alone with cats
someone mocked the payment of poems
and seriously, it was too hard to hear much else.
A partner, sent on corkscrew duty retrieved
one from a group of more practical poets
who recognised the contemporary ridiculousness
of corks but who’d come armed anyway.

The poetry support spouses chatted
about bridges, battle strategies in Ukraine
while we slathered forth to spill glasses, souls
with our fellow afflicted, licking wounds
about lack of inspiration, publishers, or publication.
And, for the Finale, just when we thought
the Poet’s Picnic might meander back
to things more philosophical

a grinning quad of slick suited men
joined our emcee, mid-poem, upon the balcony
and shot pink dust blasts into the afternoon
to boisterously declare
the happy couple’s girlish hopes.
While poets, all flushed with wine and pride
– such opportunists, scavengers all –
chose simply to applaud, and believe
our words were finally given due fanfare.

Note: Observatory Hill has been the venue for the annual Poet’s Picnic
for a number of years. In 2022 two poets and their respective spouses
shared a picnic blanket, wine, and a rather surreal experience as they
witnessed the osmosis of gender reveal parties and poetry readings in
a strangely symbiotic flow.

© Kate Maxwell

Kate Maxwell grew up in the Australian bush. She is a teacher, poet, and short story writer. She’s been published and awarded in many Australian and International literary magazines, including Cordite, Stylus, Meniscus, Books Ireland, and The Galway Review. Her first poetry anthology is Never Good at Maths (IP Press 2021) and her second, Down the Rabbit Hole (Ginninderra Press) will be forthcoming in 2023. Awards include1st Prize in The Darling Axe Flash Fiction Competition, 1st Prize in the Port Writers Open Literature Competition; shortlistings in the ACU Poetry Prize, Alice Sinclair Memorial Competition, Booranga Literary Prize, Peter Cowan Competition, Microflix Writing Competition, The Furphy Literary Awards; and commendations in the Anton Chekov Prize, and the Goulburn Valley Writers Competition.

She was also nominated for best micro fiction on the net in 2021 and best short fiction in 2023. She is currently compiling her short stories into a collection. Because she has probably been teaching for too long, Kate’s interests include film, wine, and sleeping. She can be found at https://kateswritingplace.com/

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