Explore the 2024 Program

Festival Blog: Beats and books

Good morning readers (of books and this blog), I’ll start today with an admission; I still get nervous. Whether it’s before a poetry performance, a workshop with high school students, or a first date ... my emotional brain starts to tumble faster than my logical brain can keep up with. Of all the ways I’ve found to manage this, one strategy prevails – the longstanding and widely recognised tradition of a ‘get pumped’ playlist.

For today’s Sydney Writers' Festival update, I wanted to ask programmed writers, what are they listening to in those moments before they step in front of an audience?

The song often blasting in my noise cancelling headphones is Nightmare by Halsey. In moments when my body is bursting with the wrong shade of adrenaline, this song grabs me (by the ears?) and forces me to pay attention. If I want something a little bouncier, I’ll queue Tomboy by Princess Nokia.

Bertie Blackman, an incredible musician herself, and the author of Bohemian Negligence tells me she listens to “really sad piano music usually – with no words. So emo” then adds, but

But ‘Here Comes the Rain Again’ by The Eurythmics is a good one.

“Here comes the rain again

Falling on my head like a memory

Falling on my head like a new emotion”

In the Writers' Green Room, Daniel Lavery reveals that on the plane over to Sydney, his touch-down soundtrack was Thinking of You by The Colourfield.

Of course, with the links between lyricism and poetics, I wanted to ask fellow Rhythm Of The Word poets Omar Sakr and Anthony Joseph.

Omar Sakr, author of books such as Son of Sin and Non-essential Work shares,

So, generally speaking, I don’t listen to music before my events, I’ve fallen out of the habit but you’ve reminded me that there was a year or more where I only listened to Juice by Lizzo prior to going on stage, and it was goddamn perfect because in her music, she is the freest person to ever free and nothing can please the heart more than to hear that kind of joy. I need to go back to that. 

As for Anthony Joseph (who has released eight critically acclaimed albums, five poetry collections and three novels),

The music changes, but currently using Erykah Badu as fuel. Especially ‘Bump it’ and ‘Back In The Day’ from her Worldwide Underground album. 

Behind the scenes, Thursday night was an intimate launch for JOAN Press, Nakkiah Lui’s imprint of Allen & Unwin. With the thread of music fandom running through my new book Dress Rehearsals, I was in charge of creating a playlist for the launch event. Nakkiah’s soundtrack request?

Raise Your Glass, by Dena Deadly. 

In-conversation about her new work Praiseworthy, Alexis Wright described writing with a low hum of music in the background and capturing that “pulse” in her work. Alexis praised the “intensity ... beauty ... passion” of opera, explaining “that’s the everyday world that we have, it’s operatic.” Classical Indian ragas are another soundtrack of her creative process.

I’ve added these tracks (and some other festival-relevant treats) onto a Spotify playlist. Listen here. Please feel free to add some of the songs you’ve been listening to before SWF events this year!

– Madison Godfrey

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