Poetry in motion

FLAT CHAT Jimmy Thomson
Tomorrow sees the start of a campaign to correct one of the anomalies of the NSW strata legislation, concerning the keeping of poets in apartment buildings.
A misprint in the original strata laws means owners’ corporations have the right to forbid owners from keeping poets in their apartments, townhouses or retirement villages. With Australia’s ageing poet population, it is this last category that is particularly of concern.
Despite this being an obvious typographical error, judges have since upheld the letter of law. A test case in 1997 saw the eviction of a band flat-dwelling punk performance poets, following complaints about their regular declaiming of blank verse accompanied by the banging of dustbin lids and the juggling of power tools.
But it wasn’t just this particularly noisy group: it’s a known fact that, as a species of writers, poets are particularly vicious and given to unprovoked attacks.
However, it was their behaviour that convinced the judiciary and legislators that, while the ban was obviously unintentional, it had benefits to strata owners and should remain on the statute books.
A subsequent court case, Dodd & Gee Developments Vs Wright, White, Bright and Zimmerman, established that the term poets includes greetings card writers, doggerelists (of course) and people who write songs but can’t play any musical instruments or, indeed, sing.
The amendments to strata rules in 2005 failed to correct the anomaly, but it did offer hope to SMALL poets who found they could live in some apartment buildings, provided they were carried in the lifts and kept on a leash while crossing common property.
The irony is that, as everyone knows, small poets are often the yappiest and most annoying of their ilk.
Their toileting and hygiene habits often leave a lot to be desired and their attention-seeking behaviour can be very irritating. And even poetry lovers can be put off by their howling and scratching when they are left alone all day.
But starting tomorrow (April 1), the Poetry Council of Australia will launch its “No Rhyme, No Reason” letter-writing campaign to persuade politicians to change the laws and allow poets free access to apartments.
“Poets of the world, unite,” says spokeswriter Gervaise McFadzean. “You alone know what to write. Poets have to have their say, needing somewhere nice to stay.” Quite.

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