"Hopefully people can use their voices to get some legal change for domestic violence," says activist and poet Janette Hoppe, who is organiser and host of an upcoming Women of Words event and book launch which was scheduled as a part of the Newcastle Writers Festival.
Due to COVID-19, the writers festival was cancelled. Hoppe has responded by organising a Facebook-based reading, featuring poets and writers via video on her Papatuanuku Press Facebook page next weekend. (Search for WOW Virtual Festival or hashtag #WOWVirtualFestival).
Despite the disruption, Hoppe's mission remains the same.
"We're at nine women already, and we're only 10 weeks into the year. It's been one woman a week," she says. "It's about trying to get change. There's quite a few people around Newcastle jumping on board. Quite a few people for International Women's Day had similar messages. A lot of people out there want to be vocal who have escaped domestic violence or who have had family suffer from it."
Hoppe's decision to advocate for domestic violence and women poets started in in October 2016 in response to the 66 women (at least) who lost their lives in 2015 due to domestic violence. She sought submissions and created a collection of poems that explored domestic violence and abuse and called it Eat Stray'd, Love. It was published through Papatuanuku Press.
After the collection was launched women who had not personally experienced domestic violence expressed interest in contributing, so Hoppe went on to host poetry readings while also raising money for local women's refugees. For the readings she features two local poets and two non-local.
This event first appeared at the Newcastle Writers Festival last year, after festival director Rosemarie Milsom attended a Women of Words event and encouraged Hoppe to bring it to the festival.
"This is the book of all the women who have contributed from 2016-2018," Hoppe says. "It's 36 poets, most of them between Sydney and Newcastle. Sarah Temporal is from Byron Bay, Melinda Louise Smith is from Canberra. [Locals include] Judy Johnson, Ivy Ireland. Magdalena Ball, Kerri Shying. Gillian Swain, Jan Dean, Dael Allison and Catherine Knight."
The books are $20. Profits from books will pay the poets who read in the videos and the rest will be donated to a domestic violence shelter. Since starting the project Hoppe's raised over $2000. Shelters she's given to include Carrie's Place, Jenny's Place, White Ribbon Australia and Hunter Women's Centre.
Hoppe is determined to bring people together via video and social media instead. If this format goes well she'll be able to try a similar approach for other poetry events, until COVID-19 is no longer a problem.
Keep an eye out for similar updates from across the Newcastle resilient writers' community.