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Nick Bryant-Smith

Unlocked is an educational program developed and run by The Red Room Company in collaboration with NSW Correctional Centres. The program aims to unlock the potential of inmates through the transformative possibilities of poetry. Australian poets are taken into the centres to run intensive writing workshops, working with the students on every stage of the writing process, from the initial exercises and experimentations, through the editing and rewriting process, to recording, performing and publishing their work in a professionally designed print anthology. You can purchase a Unlocked #1 or #2 to help support the program.

Piloted in Sydney in 2010, the project has now entered its third year. The most recent Unlocked project was held at the Balund-a Project, a residential diversionary program for male and female offenders between 18 and 40. The program has a strong Indigenous focus, which is also a focus for Unlocked for 2012. Indigenous poet Lionel Fogarty led the workshops, and the students responded with great enthusiasm to Lionel’s work and stories. There was a particular interest in Lionel’s use of language, his mixing of English and Bandjalang dialect. Photos from the project are on flickr, and the next Unlocked anthology will be appearing soon.

In October 2012 Red Room Company poets Lionel Fogarty and Nick Bryant-Smith will be traveling to South Coast Correctional Centre to run an intensive, three-day workshop. Through Unlocked, students can return to the community with recognised qualifications, as a part of the study that they have completed inside. In this way, the value of the project is not just in helping students to come to terms with emotions, past experiences or relationships, but to build practical literacy and communication skills, and the confidence to apply them.

Find out more about Unlocked.

Rouse Hill

Time travelling on the motorways
we watch the landscape change
as cramped steel and concrete
give way to open space

Somehow bare
and more exposed

carbon copies of a pre-packaged urban dream
past the outback steakhouse
past the golden arches
Flying high in this distant
corner of the empire

At our destination
vivid white and yellow in the trees
A row of cockatoos
observes what’s on offer
making selections
from a drive through menu of their own

On the old Windsor Turnpike
I look across at Bunnings and realise
I’m standing on the front line
a battle between past and present
History holding the line
as the machine of progress threatens
to swallow it whole

The smell of death lingers on the property
rabbits drowned in the heavy rain
mosquitoes buzzing
Life and death intertwined
in the cycles of the elements

On the hill the house is old and grand
a sandstone monolith
Imposed on the landscape
built by convict hands
to oversee the Estate

Inside the walls scream
stories of countless faces
peering out from the picture frames
secrets betrayed in the detail

Sensory overload
floral wallpaper behind
oil landscapes and family portraits
souvenirs brought home
from Grand Tour adventures
The Sons of the Empire watch over it all

Foreign culture planted on native soil
determined to survive and flourish
just like the estranged plants
in the garden outside

The back doorstep
worn down by weary feet
servants shuffling in and out
behind the scenes
Hidden from view to uphold
the illusion of tranquillity

Catching our reflections
I’m startled
by the figures staring back at me
clothes and hair so modern
so out of place in this room frozen in time
Like living ghosts
visitors from a future that has
yet to unfold

The drive home returns us
to a world more familiar
tunnels and electric lights
Smog and FM radio blasting from worksites

Bulldozers, cranes and hardhats
an army of fluro vests
cutting into the rock
at this intersection of time and place

Clearing the way for the future

Same as the men who cleared those trees
and built that house

all those years ago

Nick Bryant-Smith (AKA Solo) is a rapper, spoken-word poet and one half of the Sydney hip hop act Horrowshow. The duo’s first album, The Grey Space, received wide acclaim and earned an ARIA nomination for Best Urban Albumn. Nick has supported acts such as The Heard, Hermitude and Blackalicious as well as securing spots at Sydney’s Big Day Out, Groovin The Moo, Urthboy and more. Horrowshow’s next album is set for release in 2012.