A Poetry Reading with Jack Thompson

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This is the National Year of Reading, and our very own Coffs Harbour Libraries kick started their 2012 events with a show that booked out virtually overnight. There was a full house on the evening for ‘A Poetry Reading with Jack Thompson’.


A varied aged audience were seated and treated to the great Australian actor reciting poetry from famous Australian icons such as Henry Lawson, John O’Grady and Banjo Patterson.

It was a time to sit back quietly in the peacefulness of the library and drift into a world when there was no Social Media, iPods, computer games or television to stimulate the mind and soul.

It was a time to float back to a world where one relied solely on the entertainment provided only by one’s family and friends, away from the hustle and bustle of our busy lives. It was a time to be still, to listen and enjoy the power and entertainment of the written word.

After the reading, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr Jack Thompson and found myself totally mesmerised with this man of great talent, who has a true passion for reading and literacy.

Jack, as a young actor you had a stellar career locally, and it wasn’t until starring in Breaker Morant that you were recognised internationally. I have read that you were described as the Flagship of the Australian Film Industry. How did that make you feel?

At the time (Jack laughs) … if I remember rightly, I was actually nervous the Flagship would sink!

Aside from your successful acting career both in film and on stage, you featured in the first episode of the Australian version of Who Do You Think You Are? on SBS. You discovered much about your family tree and found a few skeletons in the closet. You said that you enjoyed the experience, and one of the facts that you had discovered was that your great grandfather was Captain Thomas Pain. Seeing as your father was also a merchant seaman, have you ever had the yearning for a life at sea?

No, I am afraid to say that those genes escaped me, and I can say I am definitely a landlubber. Actually, I like to have my feet firmly planted on the terra firma.

Staying on the topic of the sea, I heard you mention on the night at our local Coffs Harbour Library, that one of the favourite movies that you starred in was the film Wind, made in 1992 – a film where the storyline was based on yachtsmen determined to win the prestigious America’s Cup Race. You were out at sea for great lengths of time, and you had to face the waves then, Jack?

Yes, that’s true (laughs). But the good thing was that those magnificent yachts were so finely tuned, that they could only be sailed in perfect weather. The whole experience was totally enjoyable.

As you are a self proclaimed landlubber as you put it, do you get a chance to enjoy the great outdoors?

On the home front, I have a few projects on the go up at the farm, which gets me out on the land. I will be introducing some new cattle later this year, doing a bit of building … there’s always something to do.

The night at our local library was a huge success. What are your thoughts on the National Year of Reading and Literacy?

I think of literacy and public libraries as lifesavers. I feel very passionate about supporting them. Initiatives like the National Year of Reading just give the community another reason and opportunity to drop into their local library to see what’s going on.

Libraries are ever evolving, and none so more than Coffs Harbour Library. It is very modern and up with the latest, but that central purpose of free access to information for all remains paramount and is all something we should fiercely protect. When we go to our local library, we should all be very proud; it is funded by the community for the community and serves us all very well.

You are regarded as a true blue Aussie bloke who has led a colourful life, but you have shown that it is perfectly acceptable as a man to have a passion for poetry. How did the love of poetry and the written word come into your life?

It started at school, and then John Thompson was himself a poet, lived in a literary milieu, and so without any conscious deliberation much on my part, and almost by osmosis, I was simply surrounded by poetry and poets and took it for granted that poetry and poets were part of normal life.

I didn’t know any different, and I suspect that for many people of my generation, the ability to recite a poem was well regarded, much like being able to spin any other kind of yarn or having attractive handwriting. These were desirable and attractive attributes to be striven for.

One was regarded well, and so one sought to acquire the skills, and along the way I found there were certain poets I liked more than others – just like there were certain novelists. I can honestly say they became friends for life.

You have accomplished so much and received many awards. Tell us Jack, what does the future hold for you?

I have discovered that after 42 years, I LOVE performing in the theatre! It’s an immediate art form, compared to film, and there is nothing like a live audience responding to you and you to it. With the poetry I have been doing (Jack Thompson’s Favourite Australian Poems), people know the works immediately. I can see some of the audience mouthing the words to Clancy of the Overflow as I say them. It is a wonderful thing, so I am going to do as many live shows as I can this year. I really enjoy doing it.

Where are some of the venues that you will be taking your live show to?

Regional venues like the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre in Penrith, which has fabulous acoustics and which makes them a pleasure to perform in. I’m also doing the Laycock Street Theatre up at Gosford on Father’s Day as well; that is another little beauty, and then in between times, there is the Dylan Thomas piece Under Milk Wood for The Sydney Theatre Company at The Wharf. I am doing that with Sandy Gore. That, plus a bit of filming the Baz Luhrmann film, The Great Gatsby. That will just about see the year out, I think.

On behalf of myself and the Coffs Coast FOCUS, I thank you for your time and wish you all the best for the future.

Before Jack Thompson, the great Australian actor left our Coffs Harbour Library, he shared something special with the Coffs Coast audience. We all sat mesmerised as he quietly recited a beautifully written poem that his father had written for his mother. The room sat in silence, and Jack Thompson finished his reading, leaving us hoping for an encore and totally enthralled …

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