INSIDE CRACK – Musical Poetry Teamed with Scenes on Screens

An interview with Josh Donellan and Mike Willmett
By Alex Morris @Nemiwai

When 30-year-old Poet Josh Donellan (JD) was growing up, he hated Australian Bush poetry. Later in his life, things changed. He found the Australian poetry scene and started listening to Mos Def and Saul Williams. He’s now a novelist, holds poetry workshops with kids and will be performing with sound artist Mike Willmett (27) of Meeksounds for Crack Theatre Festival.

Image by Kate O'Sullivan

Image by Kate O’Sullivan

Mike’s also a sound designer for a lot of independent shows around Brisbane Theatre. He works on projects that integrate new technologies with audiences. He’s a lecturer and tutor at QUT as well.

Together Mike and JD are Poetry is Dead, and they’re Queensland’s Setting the Stages artists for the Festival this year. Neither of them have been to TiNA before, and they are excited to present something they’re pretty sure no one else in Australia is doing. TiNA’s an especially big weekend for JD as his third book, Killing Adonis, is being released.

They gave a brief synopsis of what the audience might expect during their performance.

“So Josh says a word, colours come across the screen and it lights up, but what colours, and whether or not it happens is under my control,” Mike said. “It’s quite abstract as well. But it looks really pretty, and it gives [the audience] something else to look into and gain meaning from. In a nutshell, musical poetry with visuals.”

“It’s a synesthetic experience,” JD said.

The two have worked together in the past.

Image by Kate O'Sullivan

Image by Kate O’Sullivan

“We played in traditional bands before, but we’re both really busy, and we found this worked really well with other projects [we were doing]. I write something, and Mike can come up with a sound piece really quickly,” JD said.

JD enjoys working with Mike, as playing in larger bands in the past have sometimes been a bit more work.

“We’d start these bands and have a great time but then someone would get married or move overseas and we’d break up. [So it’s] really good to be just the two of us,” JD said.

JD’s main job is a novelist, and he said writing can be a little hermetic. He likes the performance aspect of poetry.

When JD and Mike perform, people will come up to them afterward and tell them to keep doing what they’re doing. They hope this will be the case at TiNA.

“We want the whole range of human emotion: happy, sad, heartbroken, politically-incensed.” JD said.

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