Notes from a March 2008 interview with Tasmanian Poetry Festival director Cameron Hindrum....

....one of the many hats you wear is that of director of the poetry festival. How do you manage to find time for all your activities: your role as a husband and new Dad, your work as a teacher, your responsibilities as head of the Tasmanian Writers’ Centre? Even more pertinently, what motivates you?

I also tried learning to play the bagpipes over the last few years. That’s been placed on the backburner for now—something had to give and I’m sure the neighbours are grateful.

Fatherhood comes first; I remember when I first took on the Poetry Festival a few years ago that I worried about the time it was taking away from being with my son, who was only two at that stage. It only proved to be so time-consuming because I’d never done anything on that scale before, as I’ll explain later. It’s important to me to be hands-on Dad, so some things (such as regular writing time) have been pushed out of the way a bit. The pre-school years are of crucial importance in forming those lasting bonds with children, as any psychologist will tell you, and my son is six now and at school full-time (as am I, of course) but my wee daughter turns two this week, so my wife and I are kept endlessly busy between the two of them. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I don’t for a second consider myself ‘head’ of the Tasmanian Writers Centre—I’m currently Chairman of the Centre’s committee of management but more importantly I’m part of an organization that is working to try and provide genuine opportunities for this state’s writers to improve their craft, create networks with other writers, find outlets for their work through publication, performance, mentorship, whatever is needed. The TWC has recently undergone a change of Executive Director and with Chris Gallagher in the role now, with her connections and experience, is it exciting to witness some of the directions the Centre and its members might be heading into over the next few years.

Finding time is a constant challenge, which is partly why it’s taken me a couple of weeks to finish answering these questions! I often tell people that teaching is probably the worst job to have if you want to be a writer because it does consume a lot of energy, and it does bite into your evenings and weekends with marking, report writing, planning work and so on. The flipside of that is of course that it comes with about twelve weeks off a year and if I was more disciplined I would make better use of that time, I suppose.

The Poetry Festival was enormously challenging and time-consuming when I first took it on, back in 2003, because I had almost no idea what I was doing. I attended my first Tasmanian Poetry Festival in 2002—so I didn’t have a lot of experience of the event to get me started. I was aware of it before that, of course, but I didn’t know much about it.

Steve Davis and I work on it together now, and sometimes I will call on the esteemed counsel and wisdom of Tim Thorne—often I will seek his input on who to invite. I have routines and things in place so it’s easier and it is still very enjoyable—I’ve met some fascinating people through the Festival and although it makes for a very hectic couple of weeks in September/October it is always worth it.

What motivates me? Another difficult question, something that I really don’t dwell on all that much. An inability to say no, perhaps?

I suppose I’m trying to create opportunities for others to be inspired, to find a purpose and place for their writing. I remember attending a Writers Festival in Hobart in 2001 that inspired me enormously—meeting novelists like Rodney Hall and Nicholas Hasluck, hearing Jordie Albiston read her poetry, just being around other writers and people who thought that writing was important. And people who’ve managed to make their living out of it. Festivals are crucially important in that regard, and I hope the Tasmanian Poetry Festival provides the same opportunities.

How do you find ways of energising the Tasmanian Poetry Festival? Put another way, what do you hope to inject into the festival, your own stamp if you like?

I’ve actually done very little to change the format of the Festival—I added a new event, the Friday night cruise (which, to be fair, was not my idea, it was the late MML Bliss’s, but a bloody good idea it is) and I have played around with the idea of venues, which is something I’m always keen to do—we’ve had readings in art galleries, cafes, restaurants, bookshops, on the aforementioned boat, and so on. As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke…

Otherwise I think the Festival is only as good the poets who read—and some poets read their work better than others. (I will not mention any names!) I have tried to tap into veins of good poetry in other parts of the country—there is an excellent live poetry scene in Brisbane, for example, which has provided some excellent talent for the Festival and will again this year. The Melbourne scene has also featured strongly over the last few years.

I don’t know about putting my stamp on it—I’m happy enough for people to book the first weekend of October every year to come to Launceston and enjoy themselves with some of Australia’s finest poets.

What – and who - can we look forward to at this year’s poetry festival?

Well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it? Readers of Famous Reporter will have to make the trip to Launceston on October 3-5 to find out. And they should all bring a hundred of their closest friends.