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who gets to give the one star review

who gets to give the one star review

Three diverse female writers join Melbourne Recital Centre’s Writers-in-Residence program this year, in partnership with the Emerging Writers Festival.

Kiara Lindsay is a poet with a background in classical cello. She is interested in verse narrative and art criticism as kindling for further art-making. 

Here, Kiara shares her creative response to experiencing Thirteen Ways to Look at Birds featuring Paul Kelly, James Ledger, Alice Keath, and Seraphim Trio.

i. Galah

gotta put the poetry 
up against aussie rock 
if you want anyone to hear it 

these are the greats 
and what about the rest 
they’re no good or 

there’s no point in hearing them? 
is this a scathing review? 

not of paul kelly himself 
(I wouldn’t dare)

but of the makers 
who let it be like this 
who tell the audience 

this is what’s good and 
this is what you’ll enjoy 

and they do 

this is What They Enjoy 

I am sitting in a donated seat 
assuming my new role as archaeologist 
trying to dig out the words from the music 

I’m new to this and not having much luck 

so with the applause rising 
I use this moment to scramble for the brochure 
take some respite in the printed poems of the greats 

they are the greats for a reason 
and I like them in my own head 

but here they have been presented to me like a dead possum 
gifted to me by a dog I don’t really know

the owner is saying “good dog, you’re so clever”
and I’m staring at the possum’s carcass 
and I want to put it back

ii. Black Cockatoo 

if everyone in this room was
forced to read the poems paul kelly’s 
putting music to

they’d probably come out with a review 
more similar to what the masses report on Google 
after visiting a national park 
and they’re a ‘Local Guide'

paul kelly offers a musical rendition 
of judith wright’s black cockatoos 

another Google user gives a two-star review 
with a special mention of a pesky cockatoo 
I don’t know which is worse

it’s not all bad news about the music
I liked some sounds and 
had a beer

and I guess that everyone else 
probably did too 

after the show I read an article which states 
that birdsong stirs birds’ ‘emotions’ as much as music affects people 

I wonder if this Google user would’ve left a more generous review 
if they’d been affected by some music prior:

terrible place to visit. there are too many noisy smelly birds. one star.

perhaps I’d have felt differently about this show had I 
brought my emotions with me
I left them wrapped up in review culture 
to rot and decay somewhere on a forest floor 

now a bird of prey is picking through it 
perhaps giving me a one-star review for my cynicism 
or instead let’s call it ‘critical thinking’

iii. Silver Gull

I have to say I liked it when paul recited a poem 
off by heart 
and for a moment 
all the instrumentalists stopped 
looked and 

at the end when he talked about climate change
and how to put your money where your mouth is 
I thought about all the climate deniers in the room
hypotethically loving the birds 
and simultaneously loving to destroy the planet 

I imagine these climate change deniers 
sitting down to pen a review of the dandenongs 
lots of birds and trees. one star

I feel better for a moment until I realise 
the hypothetical review isn’t hypothetically a joke 

late in the week 
I’m watching a nature documentary 

sea birds are feeding with sea creatures 
in a bubbly white water commotion 

I’m imagining the Google reviewers 
as a frenzy of sharks 

the fish as poems

they’re taking them all down 

barely looking up to see feathers 
floating on the surface 

Kiara Lindsay


Kiara Lindsay is a poet with a background in classical cello. She is interested in verse narrative and art criticism as kindling for further art-making.

She completed her Honours in Creative Writing at the University of Melbourne in 2017. Alongside Bridget Gilmartin, she co-edits Inhabit Journal and runs a poetry reading series called ‘Evening Swim’. 

In 2018, Kiara was the recipient of the H.B Higgins Poetry Scholarship. You can find her work in Voiceworks, Lor and Marrickville Pause.

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