Poetry cafe woos Winton


A new book-themed cafe in Winton is proving to be a classic.

Born in Winton, but travelling often, Lost Poet owner-operator Tahnee Oakhill would finally settle in the outback town when she turned 18.

Having a background in journalism and creative writing she designed the motif as a way to share her sense of purpose with her home town.

Growing up in shearing sheds where her mother was a cook and her father was a shearer, Ms Oakhill met her now husband in her late teens, despite the two only being born days apart in the same hospital.

“I spent plenty of time growing up in the kitchens of pubs, bistros and cafes that my mother either worked in or ran herself; she has also run her own catering operations.”

“My background [however] is in journalism, creative writing, and events.

“For the past 20 years in Winton, I have mostly been behind a camera, keyboard or somewhere behind the scenes or backstage of the huge variety of events that my little town has seen throughout that time.”

Ms Oakhill has built a steady portfolio writing for the Winton Herald, magazines, Queensland Country Life, The Longreach Leader, and Sunday Mail in the past, as well as, production for festivals and the filming of ABC’s Total Control.

“I have loved reading and writing the written word since I was a small child,” Ms Oakhill said.

“I named the store The Lost Poet because it was really about me trying to find my place and reconnect with myself and my sense of purpose and what that looks like in my hometown.

“I also felt like it represented so many of the artistic and creative folks who can often feel like the odd ones out or the black sheep in small outback towns.

“I think the character of many small towns, however, is changing vastly, and can no longer be so easily stereotyped nor does it do the same.

“I did note that when I first decided to call the Coffee Bookstore ‘The Lost Poet’ that it related not only to me personally but could easily be connected to that figure [Banjo Paterson who famously first performed Waltzing Matilda in the town] which has represented our town and becomes part of its leading character for such a long time.”

The cafe aims to be a relaxed space for locals and tourists alike to come and ‘just be as they need to be’.

“I want people to feel they are welcomed to come and sit, to read, to connect or disconnect, to be inspired or energised in some small way,” Ms Oakhill said.

“If I can offer good coffee and some comfort food in the mix to help that along then I feel like the business is doing its job.

“I run the Poet with my young cousin, Crysania Gadd, who has moved out to Winton from Townsville to pour the coffees from our La Marzocco machine ‘Delilah’.”

“The initial goal for me when I started the lost poet was not just to be a coffee bookstore,” she said.

“I just felt like these would be the two aspects that would help create the atmosphere that might lend itself to the future goals of running events within the walls of the poet and the kind of folks that would seek those out and the space itself.

“I am hoping to expand further on the space and create events or openings where creatives and artists can be inspired to mingle, work, inspire and be inspired. “There are so many hidden talents in and outside of our small towns in the central west and id love to see them find a stage or space that really encourages and embraces them doing that.”

Since opening in November, the Winton community has embraced the coffee shop-bookstore hybrid with open arms.

“As long as some days can be when you are starting out your own business, it has been the friendly faces who come through every day that my staff and I get to enjoy seeing; or even watching friends and family come together during tough times and seeing that they feel some sort of comfort and intimacy within the walls of the poet has been special,” Ms Oakhill said.

“That’s been the real kicker.

“That’s the stuff that gets you up early and keeps you going late at night to make sure that no matter what the following day brings that your community knows you will open your door to them.

“I love seeing the writers come in with their laptops and seeing their eyes sparkle as they order another hot chocolate and tell you how many words they’ve just clocked up and how inspired by the space they have been.

“Seeing someone find their favourite book in the used books in the room.

“Watching kids roll in after school and share milkshakes on the old chesterfields, phones in pockets, laughing and talking face to face.

“There have been plenty of times our closing hour has rolled around and we just let people sit and continue talking, writing, reading as we clean or just enjoy the energy of the room. I

“It’s been a beautiful, positive thing.

“I am very grateful.”