Outback New South Wales’ annual Poets’ Trek evokes the power of telling
stories precisely where they were set.

Story by Graeme Gibson  Photo by Andrew Hull

"Storytelling is eye to eye, mind to mind and heart to heart,” Paul Roe tells a small group standing on the Darling River wharf in Bourke, north-west New South Wales. Drawing on the Scottish traveller’s proverb, Paul is introducing the philosophy that’s developed around the town’s annual Poets’ Trek. It follows in the footsteps of storytellers, poets and writers, some little known beyond the local area and others very well known, such as Henry Lawson, Will Ogilvie and Harry ‘The Breaker’ Morant. 

Paul has been with Poets’ Trek since its beginnings as a school excursion in the early 1990s. Over the years it has attracted a wider audience and since 2013 it has evolved, slowly but ambitiously, into a weeklong Festival of a Thousand Stories. It attracts dedicated poetry enthusiasts, lovers of outback culture, and other curious types. According to Paul, every year brings surprises and this year is no different.

After orientation on the wharf and visiting the Back of Bourke Exhibition Centre, the trek moves on, heading east. First stop is Mt Oxley, described by Charles Sturt, the first non-Aboriginal to visit in 1828, as “… an isolated mountain, whose sides seemed almost perpendicular, broke the otherwise even line of the horizon”. 

This story excerpt is from Issue #110

Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2017