John Bennett has a PhD in poetics and is a widely published, performing and award-winning writer. Since moving out of Sydney’s Inner West he has been working in the fields of integrating texts with photography and video, and with various community groups.
Book Publications: Invitation to Jagun, Wagtail, 2013; A Pocket Diary, Flying Island Books, 2012; Field Notes, Five Islands Press, 1998; A Measure of Place, Penguin Books, 1993; and various chap books.
His poetry has been widely published in Australia and overseas. He won the Mattara (now Newcastle) Prize and the David Tribe Prize and is represented in Puncher and Wattmann’s recent ‘Contemporary Australian Anthology’. He has received a Bundanon Fellowship, 2008; Varuna Fellowship, 2005. Sydney Harbour Artist of the Year, 2007; Poet in residence, Macleay Museum, Sydney, 2007; Judge (chair) of the Newcastle Poetry Prize (and many smaller competitions); and Sydney Convenor of Poets Against the War.
In the last few years he has completed a poetry commission for the NSW Department of Primary Industries and for the Regional Museum Coffs Harbour.
John has performed as featured guest at Writers Week, Festival of Sydney; Bryon Writers Festival; Brisbane Writers Festival; West Cork Literary Festival; Australian Poetry Festival, Sydney; Franco-Anglais de Poesie, Paris; Australian Book Fair, London; Blue Mountains Poetry Festival. For five years he was the Artistic Director of Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival, and he served two terms as President of the Poets Union.
He has taught literature at Wollongong University, ecopoetry at Sydney University’s Continuing Education and Camp Creative, Bellingen. He has also worked with Aboriginal writers for Saltwater/Freshwater.
His exhibition ‘First light, from Eos to Helios’ (Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery, July / August 2017) consisted of poetry, photographs, video poem and a chapbook of poems and prose and public performances. The work advocates natural aesthetics as a way of connecting back to nature. A documentary on this project, ‘Poetry at first light’ was broadcast by ABC Radio National’s Earshot February, 2016.
Exhibitions: Natura Morta, Nexus Gallery, Bellingen, 2019; Biligan, video (15 min), commissioned by TurtleFest, Bellingen, 2016; The Delicate Trace, Matilda St Gallery, Macksville, March 2014; Natural Selection, Nexus Gallery, Bellingen, Dec 2013; Landscapades, Blue Mountains Heritage Centre, Blackheath, Oct 2013; Worth Words from China to Valla Beach, Matilda St Gallery, Macksville, Sept 2012; Desire Lines, Balmain Watch House, Oct 2011; Sydney Writers Festival, 2010; Newtown Underground Film Festival, Sydney, 2010.
First Light – from Eos to Helios, Coffs Harbour Regional Galley, from July 9, 2017; Not-so-Solitary, Coffs Harbour Regional Museum, May, 2017; The Lure of Ruins, Nexus Gallery, Bellingen, 2017; Biligan, video (commissioned for 2016 TurtleFest, Bellingen) 15 min plus talks; Eos, Nexus Gallery, Bellingen, 2016; Natural Aesthetics, Nexus Gallery, Bellingen, 2015; Natural Aesthetics, Coffs Harbour Regional Galley, 2014; Solitary Island Community Project, Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery, Aug 2013; The art of nature, Coffs Regional Gallery, 2013.
John’s poetry has been published in Australia the UK, USA, Canada and China. He has won the Mattara (now Newcastle) Prize and David Tribe Prize, and been runner up in Red Room’s New Shoots, 2016, Wildcare Tasmania International Nature Writing Prize, the Warana (2 times); Vincent Buckley Poetry prize. He is represented in Puncher and Wattmann’s recent ‘Contemporary Australian Anthology’. John
A documentary on his work, ‘Poetry at first light’ was broadcast by ABC Radio National’s Earshot February, 2016. He has also featured twice in The Listening Room (ABC), once with a poem produced with four voices, A First Hearing (ABC), Poetica (ABC) and Radio Eye 360 (ABC), ABC Mid-North Coast, Radio 5UV, Eastside Radio, 2SER, 2BBB and 2NVR.
‘John is a remarkable poet with a wide ranging set of interests, skill sets and knowledge areas. He has won major awards and has produced very ambitious works.’ Kit Kelen, Series Editor, Flying Islands.
‘I recently curated his exhibition of photography and poetry ‘First Light – From Eos to Helios’ at Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery. John was both highly professional and a pleasure to work with – organised, responsive and generous. He initiated and led several innovative public programs including an interactive poetry-writing activity in the gallery, walks at dawn and group discussions. These, and the exhibition, were very well-received by our audience. John also recently took part in a multi-arts project at Coffs Harbour Regional Museum, writing and performing poetry in response to stories drawn from oral histories of the Solitary Islands Marine Park. Again, this was a highly-engaging project that our visitors enjoyed very much.’ Jo Besley, Gallery and Museum Curator, Cultural & Community Services, Coffs Harbour City Council.
‘John’s abilities to build transformative connections is a fine achievement. The way in which these elements have been so organically integrated into the work is a tribute to the poet’s language skills and the richness of his imagination.’ Judith Beveridge.
‘John is alert, wide-ranging in his interests, pro-active in his interactions with the communities in which he finds himself.’ Martin Langford 2017. Deputy Chair, Australian Poetry Ltd, co-editor, Contemporary Australian Poetry, Puncher and Wattmann,
His PhD ‘A New Defence of Poetry’ defends poetry as a natural use of language and investigates discursive ecopoetry – (‘This is an extraordinary thesis . . .’ Dr Ivor Indyk).