Lockdown’s lonely connections

Pakenham writer Penny Smits appears in the After Dark spoken-word event.

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

For a writer who delves into loneliness, segregation and isolation, these Covid times definitely suit her.

Pakenham poet and short-story author Penny Smits is among five spoken-word performers who will appear via a live-stream event After Dark at the Emerging Writers’ Festival this month.

She says during lockdown she’s had “no shortage of inspiration”.

Her recent work connected with a wide audience in “communal” segregation and isolation.

“I tell about how I live in the suburbs but I long for that noise of the city, the dealing with the coming-and-going of people.

“That really resonated with people. That was a time and opportunity to build a community and to build collective understanding something we were all going through.”

Smits draws on her Maori and Aboriginal cultural heritage to explore the themes of segregation, inclusion and the loss of language.

Her work looks at how they intersection with loneliness, she says.

The versatile creator, who started writing at a NZ community newspaper, crafts radio scripts, press releases, poems, short stories and micro-fiction.

She describes her work as even “micro, micro-fiction” – a form that perhaps suits a fast-paced society with miniature attention spans.

At the After Dark spoken-word performance, Smits will perform her short-form work with up-and-coming writers Wai Mun Mah, Jesse Oliver, Wallis Prophet and Christy Tan on Thursday 17 June, 7.15pm.

As part of the Emerging Writer’s Festival, Greater Dandenong also hosts online the Short n Sweet Short Story Workshop on 17 June from 6.30pm.

The workshop is presented by A Constant Hum author, Alice Bishop.

Author Sam Van Zweden will also host an online workshop A Body of Writing that discusses writing about food and the body and how they intertwine with memory on 24 June, 6.30pm.

The festival promotes new writing talent as well as seminars, panel discussions and workshops on the craft.

Due to the latest Covid lockdown, all EWF events have been moved online.

The Emerging Writer’s Festival is staged wholly online from 16-26 June. To register, go to greaterdandenong.vic.gov.au/emerging-writers-festival