The 2018 Mildura Writers Festival opened in style at the Mildura Club on Thursday night with around 170 people attending the opening night of the festival which saw author Robyn Davidson in conversation with Nic Brasch.

The Mildura Writers Festival is in its 23rd year and continues to be a feast of culinary and literary delights for event patrons.  Literary enthusiasts relish in the festivals unique ambience and the opportunity to be intimate with both emerging and established Australian and international writers .

The Festival feature lunch filled 27 Deakin to capacity on Friday with American poet Jane Hirshfield interviewed by Kate Larsen.  Ms Hirshfield is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and her most recent book of poetry, The Beauty, is long listed for the National Book Award.  The highly decorated writer delighted audiences with her poetry readings and her insight into the relevance of poetry in modern society.  Her poem “On the Fifth Day,” was written for the 2017 March for Science in Washington, D.C., protesting the anti-fact, anti-truth, anti-science political climate of the current American administration.  Poetry as protest and sanctuary remains necessary in changing times, the writer maintains.

Friday night of the Festival saw the Museum of Innocence, formerly the ADFA building, transformed into a sphere of culinary delights and literacy genius to host the Philip Hodgins Memorial Medal Dinner. 

The Dinner is a central aspect of the Festival with the award given annually since 1997, to an Australian writer whose work best reflects the high standards and distinguished literary accomplishments that Philip Hodgins consistently advocated and exemplified in his poetry.

Judges for the prestigious award are appointed for a three year period and world renowned Australian writer Barry Hill chose in the first year of his tenure, David Malouf as the 2018 Award winner.  The winner receives a unique medal created by Mildura artist Jim Curry and a $5000 cash prize.  Barry Hill spoke of Mr Malouf's talent and ability to portray a diversity of imagery with the use of a single word.

David Malouf joined an enviable list of previous award winners and spoke of gratitude at being chosen as the 2018 award winner.  A Furphy water cart constructed of various metals was the 2018 Curry specially crafted Medal.  The Curry inspiration for this year's piece was retold as being that the furphy water cart travelled from town to town, it was a place where people gathered and where stories were told.

The Writers Festival continues tomorrow, concluding on Sunday with Finale Lunch.  The Saturday night dinner and Sunday lunch are both sold out, but space is still available in the day sessions held in the Brian Grogan Lecture Theatre at Latrobe University.   Full details of the Festival are available  at http://www.artsmildura.com.au/Writers-Festival/Program.aspx

 

On the fifth day

the scientists who studied the rivers

were forbidden to speak

or to study the rivers.

The scientists who studied the air

were told not to speak of the air,

and the ones who worked for the farmers

were silenced,

and the ones who worked for the bees.

Someone, from deep in the Badlands,

began posting facts.

The facts were told not to speak

and were taken away.

The facts, surprised to be taken, were silent.

Now it was only the rivers

that spoke of the rivers,

and only the wind that spoke of its bees,

while the unpausing factual buds of the fruit trees

continued to move toward their fruit.

The silence spoke loudly of silence,

and the rivers kept speaking,

of rivers, of boulders and air.

Bound to gravity, earless and tongueless,

the untested rivers kept speaking.

Bus drivers, shelf stockers,

code writers, machinists, accountants,

lab techs, cellists kept speaking.

They spoke, the fifth day,

of silence.

Jane Hirshfield