So back when Randall Stephens (aka Steven Taylor) was MPU President...
I got drafted onto the committee as an ordinary member. I have to say I really lived up to the title. Very average in attendance at meetings and events and generally lacklustre at anything except wine drinking. To this do I admit. Having previously sworn off committees for life several times I was there to make up the numbers. In itself this is not as unimportant as it sounds. Any incorporated association has legal obligations and one of them is a full stocked committee list.
Of course I was aware of the MPU before that, as a long time member of the Melbourne scene. I'd attended workshops, readings and book launches and had known all of the committee members of the past decade at least by name (our dear Leon Shann for example). I will say this: most people, with a few exceptions, find it much easier to bitch from outside. Over the years I'd been told all kinds of things about the Melbourne Poets Union that I've since found to be slightly or entirely untrue. Often though there was more of a sense of not really know what they were up to.
The great catch 22 of any arts organisation (or otherwise) has historically been that the only way you could really know what that org was doing was to be a member, but if you don't know what they do then you're unlikely to become a member. The Internet is making life much easier in terms of dissemination, being able to explain to non members what the hell you're about. Any rate I was not unaware of the work the MPU was doing prior to joining the committee, but a more intimate knowledge comes from involvement.
So, after a couple of years on the committee Randall decided to take a break from poet things and cycle around Australia. He really doesn't piss about when he decides to escape from poets! This left a gaping President shaped hole that no one was putting their hand up to fill. And I mean but no one. This would be, what 2015? I think that's when we're at. The AGM rolled around and still no nomination for president was forthcoming once all the other positions were refilled.
Wendy Fleming is currently the longest serving member of the committee and I believe has filled most every position at some stage (currently Treasurer). She's small but she's strong. She also has a particular look that she can direct at you that sees deep into your soul and tells you that yes, you really would like to be the MPU President. Stronger poets than I have been unable to resist that look and anyone who knows her knows exactly what I'm talking about - I've done some canvassing. And so it was that I found my hand creeping shyly up and taking my oaths.
Now personally I'm not the most organised person on the planet. But I felt that I'd coasted enough as an ordinary member so it was probably time to step up and take the new job seriously. Which I do. Any organisation is not without its difficulties and jobs, health, travel relationships, oh just life in general can all impact on our ability to be the smooth running machine we'd like. But we try in a sincere way. There's a lot more we'd all love to achieve and plans afoot, ever afoot.
This has been a year of looking back and forward at the same time, with the 40th anniversary. And that can make a person dizzy. Certainly there are thoughts of where did we come from, how have our aims changed? Should we be more... Uniony? Me, I'd like a couple of extra bodies on the committee just to make the running easier, but I think we're on track. Step one is to get this website updated and operating properly (my other job). The annual comp is open again, there are events to plan and promote. There's always busy work to take care of.
There will be many stories in this section of the website from people who have been around much longer than I have, this is really just a sketch from my own time with the Melbourne Poets Union. Stick around, there is oodles to come.