by Laura Damon-Moore

Cafe Poet Alia Gabres performs a spoken word piece at the Melbourne City Library. Photo by Shirley Bateman.

One-off performances and workshops by poets, musicians, and other entertainers are hugely popular in libraries and serve as valuable additions to a library’s program roster. But long-term partnerships or residencies mean that an artist works closely with a library to facilitate a suite of programs, integrating inspiring performances with hands-on learning opportunities. Artists-in-residence may be visual artists, writers, or performers.

An excellent example of a poet-in-residence program is found in the Cafe Poet project in Australia. Established by Australian Poetry in 2009, the Cafe Poet program “aims to promote poetry while strengthening community relationships.” So far about fifty poets have been placed in cafes, bookshops, and, in the City of Melbourne’s case, the City Library.

The exchange is beneficial for everyone: poets are given space to write (and complimentary tea/coffee), as well as the chance to engage with their community; the host gets to be part of the poetry community, plan events in conjunction with the poet, and (hopefully) increase foot traffic.

The current Cafe Poet at the Melbourne City Library is Alia Gabres, who began her residency in March and will continue until late August. Alia’s residency includes spoken word performances and a series of free workshops, which budding poets and writers are welcome to attend to share and develop their work, ideas and performance skills with Alia and each other.

This series of sessions will build towards a public performance poetry event in the Gallery at City Library at the end of Alia’s residency, where those who have worked with her will be able to perform their work in a supportive environment.

The residency marries cultural and creative development with the opportunity to see a performer, learn and workshop with her, and perform one’s own work, all in the same place, at no cost to the participants. A true incubator for developing artists.

To learn more about the Cafe Poet program at the Melbourne City Library, and about Alia Gabres, the current Cafe Poet, visit the library website.

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