Bruce Beaver Tribute
Burning Lines Poetry Festival April 2001
A tribute to Bruce Beaver was held as part of Burning Lines: The Australian Poetry Festival, at the Balmain Town Hall. I don't know Bruce well. We've exchanged maybe three or four letters and I've only met him once, but he has been kind and encouraging to me. His Letters to Live Poets is especially important to me and, I believe, to Australian poetry.
When I began to organise this session, I soon realised that I could have had ten, twenty or thirty poets behind the lectern expressing their affection for Bruce and his work. The six contributors to the session all instantly and happily donated their time to the project.
Craig Powell, a lifelong friend, presented the major address about Bruce Beaver, the man, and his contribution to Australian poetry.
Craig was followed by Jennifer Maiden, Judy Beveredge, Nicolette Stasko, Dorothy Porter and David Malouf. Each spoke briefly about their relationships with Bruce and read from his poetry or read poems dedicated to him. The variety of their voices represent the range of Bruce's interests and intelligence.
There was no set agenda for the session. Had there been, it would have been to counter-act the stereotype of the poet as mad, bitchy, jealous and ego-maniacal. It would also have been to resist the received history of modern Australian poetry that begins with the generation of '68 and forever divides the world into warring camps.
It would suggest that there is an alternative history based on generosity, mutual respect and encouragement; that poets can differ in their poetics but still be co-operative rather than competitive.
Bruce Beaver exemplifies this alternative history.