His safe word is Poetry

By Melissa Walsh   Photos Yanni

Jai Thoolen could be described as a fair haired Hagrid, a gentle giant or even ‘Thor’.  At the very least the six foot seven (202cm) Rosebud man with the wild flowing beard  is a true wordsmith and one of the peninsula’s most prolific poets.

“I grew up on the peninsula, and I lived mostly in Rosebud all my life,” said Jai who went to Tootgarook and then Rosebud High School, and was somewhat of a rebel.

“I left pretty early and got a job in a supermarket in Red Hill and basically ran the joint,” he says with a laugh. “I was already this height and had this beard so looked a lot older.”

Writing was always something that came easy to the gently spoken Jai, who would write pages and pages on an essay that only required a few paragraphs.

“I guess I discovered my love for writing at school when I used to write more than I needed to. I also wrote poetry here and there for my girlfriend in the early days when I was around 18 so I don’t know if it’s any good.”

His passion and gift for the English language is outstanding, with his influences coming from the greats like Henry Lawson, Pratchett, and Spike Milligan, and now the young writer cannot stop.

“The proverbial flood gates are well and truly opened and I write all the time,” said Jai, who has 10 to 12 notebooks scattered around the house and takes one with him everywhere he goes.

“I wake up in the middle of the night with a line or a word and have to write it down and then look at it the next day and work on it from there. I write one a week and sometimes I write ten in an hour,” said Jai, who is quite indignant there is no such thing as writer’s block.

“I am so convinced there is no writers block; I wrote a poem called Writers Block,” he explains.

The incredible thing about Jai is he can write in any style, from formal writing to Aussie slang, to children’s literature and light-hearted poems.

“I get inspiration from everything around me. It could be a rock I see in the garden, a person making a comment, or just a line or stanza that comes into my head,” he said. “Henry Lawson is my favourite poet but I love Banjo Patterson and the Australian style of poetry. I just relate to them and would like to think I have a romantic notion of our country and writing but that’s up to the reader I suppose.”

Never knowing when the muse will strike is an understatement for Jai, who wrote his first children’s poem on the back of a sick bag in the middle of the ocean.

“Two years ago in March I was coming home from Tassie and my partner Sarah had seasickness.  I couldn’t sleep so I wrote My Beard on the back of a sick bag,” said Jai, who has always had an affiliation with beards. “I do like the beard and I am a fan of a satirical band called The Beards. I’ve had my beard since I was 14.”

“My Beard was the first poem in the kid’s genre and is currently being illustrated by Fred Whitson, a local artist. The book will be out in May,” said Jai. “I released another book in December last year called A Selected Collection of Rhymes, and My Safe Word is Poetry in February, which I wrote in the last 12 months and started my publishing house Pickle Poetry so I can print on demand.”

Being a true master of the craft, 38 year old Jai finds it easy to get into the headspace of kids and laughingly says he is still a kid himself.

“I’ve just finished a poem about Bobby Buggler the Juggler, Harry the Hermit Crab, and Captain Phipps the Pirate, and one of my favourites Home-made Thing-a-ma-bike about a boy and his dad going down the street and getting hard rubbish off the side of the road and making a bike.”

A former carpenter, Jai now devotes his days to penning his wonderful verses.

“I feel like this has always been inside me but I may have forgotten about it. Life gets in the way so to speak but now I can’t see any other way to live apart from writing.”

Phone Jai for further details on 0450 080 587.


First published in Peninsula Essence – March 2018