Bill Heck, a former military public affairs officer, said he enjoyed his time last year and is excited to return and perform for thousands of locals and visitors.
“I do 11 shows a week in Longreach,” Bill said.
The role of poet-in-residence is to temporarily live in a specific town or location to create and share poetry, often writing new poems and engaging with the community through performance.
“There’s very few places in Australia that you can actually go and do a [paid] residency as a poet,” he said, noting Winton and Cunnamulla were the only other two.
Bill, 60, writes and performs folk poetry, a style that focuses on stories about people.
“What people do, where they live, how they interact… that’s what I [write about].”
Bill said he has a strong connection to country towns. His father, a stockman, was a fan of Banjo Paterson, and introduced him to a love of poetry, “Henry’s poetry is a little bit more refined. [He] wrote about the genuine emotions of people.”
Bill pursued writing at university in his thirties with a degree in journalism and communications, and there he explored his talents for poetry.
“I came across these stories that just wouldn’t fit in a journalism formula… I was toying with verse at the time, and I put them into verse, and it worked.”
Upon graduating, Bill received a commission to enlist in the army as a war correspondent. He was deployed to Afghanistan and during his military service reached the rank of major, but retired when the pandemic hit.
“I had a tremendous career in the military. I was kind of forced to retire due to COVID.
“They said… ‘Come back when it’s over’, and I said, ‘No, I don’t want to do that’… Instead, I wanted to be a poet, because the world doesn’t have enough poets.”