Port Arthur’s reputation as a haunted site and a place of serious study and learning will see it included in an unconventional nationwide arts project.
Poet Nathan Curnow, from Portland in Victoria, has received support from the Australia Council for his project, Ghost Poetry. He has stayed overnight at 10 allegedly haunted sites around Australia, from hotels to gaols to old mansions, and write a new collection of poetry based on his experiences.
On Monday, 20 August, Nathan will visit his final destination, spending the night in Port Arthur’s Parsonage – a potentially nerve-wracking privilege not normally granted to visitors.
However Nathan says that his project is not about proving or disproving the existence of the paranormal.
“It is an artist’s exploration of fear and paranoia and the expression of these things through language,” he said.
“Ghost Poetry is a serious arts project that has already taken me to the Fremantle Arts Centre, Old Adelaide Gaol, Monte Cristo Homestead, Richmond Bridge and Picton, NSW.”
According to PAHSMA Director of Conservation and Infrastructure, Jane Harrington, the project is one of the more unusual study projects undertaken at the Site.
“We have assisted numerous researchers, academics and artists in their studies across a wide range of topics, from convict punishment to heritage tourism. But this is one of the more unusual projects we’ve had,” she said.
On the subject of Port Arthur being haunted site, she is professionally guarded.
“Port Arthur is a place of extraordinary stories, and we encourage visitors to interact with those stories in a wide variety of ways. Our Historic Ghost Tours are one of our most popular activities, but we always leave visitors to draw their own conclusions.”
Nathan Curnow has completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Creative Writing at the School of Creative Arts (University of Melbourne). His poetry and short fiction have appeared in publications such as Heat, Overland, Space: New Writing, Going Down Swinging and Blue Dog. In 2006 his first collection of poetry No Other Life But This was published by Five Islands Press. He also recently won the Woorilla Poetry Prize.
Nathan has, probably wisely, chosen not to take the famous Port Arthur Historic Ghost Tour until after he spends a long chilly winter night alone in what is allegedly one of the most haunted houses in Australia. He will remain in the Port Arthur area for a couple of days after his sleepover, to write and undertake further research.