just desserts on a lonely Saturday evening

zine: Tick Tock by Zoe Meagher & Eddie Edmends

drink: Henry Langdon vanilla chai latte (powder mix)

At the beginning of the year, I was housesitting near Castlemaine to try and get lots of reading and writing done (which totally happened!), and found this lush vanilla chai latte mix in a lovely tin at the town centre supermarket. Their newsagent also seemed ridiculously well-stocked in terms of lit mags!

Now that the weather is much chillier, I’ve been making myself these vanilla chai lattes (boiling water, top up with milk, sometimes flavour with maple syrup) especially when I’m feeling too sad to really eat anything substantial. It isn’t good form to miss meals when depressed, but I try to find something I know I will eat, rather than skip eating altogether. Tonight, that was Filipino cassava cake – reminds me a bit of a tougher, larger version of Portuguese custard tarts without the paper-thin pastry. The best bit is the burnt edges! Coconut milk, glutinous rice, slivers of cassava…blissful.

Interestingly, one thing me and my maternal grandfather have in common (aside from the obsession with music – he was a professional clarinettist, I did not quite make it there as much as I wanted to be profesh) is our love of burnt rice, which is called tutong in Tagalog. I had to look that up online because I never learnt to write Tagalog – only by ear when I lived there as a kid. It seems such a specific thing to love, but perhaps not to those who get it! Nutty, toasted…it smells so good if it’s not charcoal-burnt!

So yeah, dessert as dinner on a cold Saturday evening, chilling with my kitty, and reading an indie comic I picked up at All Star Comics a while back. The cover has a medieval gauntlet-clad arm, wearing a digital wrist watch. The back says:

A knight, a popstar and a qantasaurus walk into a bar.

Tick Tock is the only inter-temporal lounge destination officially sanctioned by the time-travel regulatory body.

Most time-travellers just stop by a for a drink or two. The unlucky ones (like Misty, Max and Elric) get trapped and have to pour the beer.

Eddie and Zoe collaborated on the story, then Zoe drew the pictures.

Okay, so they can do my beer drinking for me, for tonight, hehehe. The first panel is in the style of an Anglo-Celtic medieval tapestry – there’s fighting, looting, pillaging, and then a jump into a time portal. Elric happens on Misty, reading what appears to be a review of the Tick Tock bar loo, and they both realise he’s stuck. He doesn’t initially cope well with this.

Another trapped time traveller unable to return to their time of origin is not good for business. The landlords get called away to a spot that looks like Flinders Street Station (its clock, famous steps), and more adorable anachronistic hijinks ensue, like some sort of dino attack, and a cute bird that might be a dodo? The tale ends with Elric briefly evading Misty (we learn she used to be a singer/performer) to try and surf down escalators that you’d expect in Melbourne’s city loop train stations, and a flashback to the medieval scene where someone else is stuck in Elric’s time, in his place.

I really wish this story were longer, I’d love to read more issues! It’s hilarious, it’s smart and diverse without it feeling token or forced. Verily, it might be part of a series, whee-hee! Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot of about ekphrastic poetry, and how despite having written video game ekphrastic poems, I’m still not confident about how I’d do this for paintings in a gallery. Reading Tick Tock makes me want to try, but I think what I’d like to do is invent backstories for the people mentioned in this comic, or write an imaginary bar review for a poem of mine (it’s called ‘Red’) that I initially envisioned to be imagining what it’d be like to drink at a synaesthetic-laden bar.

One of the other reasons I’ve been thinking a lot about odd twists on concepts that already exist – which I think Tick Tock is a tantalising example of is that I’m a submission reader for an online speculative fiction journal called Syntax and Salt. I absolutely love reading speculative fiction, and short stories…but write very little of it myself (though I do try to incorporate it in my poetry. ‘Red’ is part of a much larger, probably lifelong work-in-progress). The very first longform piece I ever wrote (which took an age to find a home; wrote it as an undergrad) could possibly count as speculative in that it tries to be a very real biography/story about very imaginary-but-believable-in-our-world/time people. I mention this because it reminds me that speculative literature doesn’t have to be ‘longform’ or conventionally narrative — it could be creative non-fiction too, and most definitely poetry. There’s going to be a ‘staff’ issue and I’ve got a couple of ideas about what I’ll end up submitting but also think it might be nice to write newer work for it that doesn’t end up appearing too.

I’ve nearly finished my vanilla chai latte abomination (you can brew one with frothed milk as a treat – I just did half boiled water, half milk), so it’s time for this post to wrap up. This might sound silly, but though I don’t know Anthony Bourdain, his passing has hit me harder than expected. He sounded like a brilliant, generous, struggling human. I know I’m struggling with mental health stuff at the moment, but I’m going to keep reaching out to those I trust, and I’m never going to stop being grateful for having their love, friendship, support. Bourdain’s gone, but he’ll keep inspiring food hacks like me to revel in the few kernels of food culture I have. That’s also why this blog exists. Misfits finding or keeping their small spot in the world is never going to be easy — it isn’t.



everything’s gone not quite green

beer: cherrywood smoked rye Baltic porter (355mL can, 8.8% ABV) by Dainton Brewery (Dandenong, VIC)

zineThe Coelacanth Journal 4: the dream has gone but the baby is real by various contributors

So an old friend that is kind of the closest thing I have to a big sister sent this to me a ridiculously long time (it’s dated 2012) when I would have just started having ECT. Every so often, she’s sent me care packages, and is responsible for my love of pocket notebooks!

I’ve been looking at various stacks of unread books and thinking about assembling them by colour, but that’s kind of not entirely fair on me, as some are I guess what I like to think of as work-related. In the photo for this post, you’ll see:

  • Maggie Alderson’s Bluets: verse novel and particular poem sequence research
  • Vanessa Berry’s Mirror Sydney: reviewing for Plumwood Mountain
  • Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness because I don’t get to read enough speculative fiction
  • Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God because it was Teen Vogue’s first-ever book club selection

The above titles are definitely going to make up part of my winter reading stack, as is sipping darker beer styles! I was not at all prepared by how syrupy, rich and sweet the Baltic porter when I opened the can — I think I was expecting something with a thinner mouthfeel and, due to the smokiness, perhaps a bit more savoury. It does settle down a little, but the booziness has also really caught me off guard! That’s not a bad thing, I’m just out of practise? Also not a bad thing for my liver!

Let’s start reading: for some weird reason, I thought this post’s zine was from the US but it’s UK-based. The editorial is really on its way to hooking me in by starting with the quote “Poetry won’t get us to the moon!” — which I’ve been thinking about a lot after finishing a poem I started earlier this year which tries to marry physics and poetry. Why should it matter whether or not poetry could get us to the moon? Despite being a practising poet, I do find myself asking this question and defending responses to it very, very frequently.

This zine is actually quite heavy-going; the three standout pieces are one about crop circles (seriously fascinating shit!), a section of a theatre play about training to become one of the first cosmonauts, and one about an ugly-sounding fondue set and the council estate Thamesmead. The other submissions are somewhat dry though perhaps very suited to visual arts academics, and oddly show heteronormative bias within sexist remarks that could easily be skipped over (e.g. apparently the pregnant body is not sexual to which my first thought is well, if it’s pregnant it was perceived to be sexual, and I don’t know that that switches off at a given point in a pregnancy? Which then leads to questions and definitions of what is construed as ‘sexual’, sigh, soz). I think too that my lack of knowledge on cultural theory relating to fine art might be impeding full appreciation of the other contributions?

The beer is alternating taste-wise — one sip will be sweet and syrupy, the next smoky, woody and aromatic the way you expect burning an exotic wood might be. It’s warmed up a little and feels a lot more balanced than my initial sip-reaction, and it’s taken me about two hours to finish it and the zine above.

I’ll finish with a quote from the zine’s editorial that struck my fancy, because it reminds me that science and creativity are excellent bedfellows, and long may they continue to be.

Dreams are often the ‘innocents’ that become real in ways quite opposite to their germinations.


ode to a bar

Wow. Last week was exhausting but in the best way possible. I ran an intro zine workshop for the Freeplay festival, and then appeared on a panel with another poet, and both of us got to chat like mates on stage/streamed from ACMI! On poetry and video games!

This time last year, I was nursing a moderate heartbreak (the main bits of it had begun at the beginning of the year), and was preparing for a non-ECT hospitalisation. An interstate ex-housemate was trying to bully me into putting a utility bill under my name because she was being hounded by debt collectors. Not my problem. I felt lucky to have the excuse of impending hospital admission as well as rehearsals for Emily Johnson/Catalyst’s SHORE to say that that would not be useful to either herself or the current household.

So this year, my emotional and professional mind landscape is vastly different to last year’s, and definitely for the better!

zine: Backyard: number one by Backyard SK collective (various)

beer: KRUSH! tropical pale (4.7% ABV, 375mL can) by KAIJU (Dandenong, Melb.)

It’s been far too long since I had a KAIJU beer, for whatever silly reason (I didn’t really go to any events for Good Beer Week or GABS, I know, should hand in my membership badge stat), which is stupid as I love their beers (their Cthulhu and Betelgeuse are my kind of flavour country <3) and they’re a staple at Bar SK. As soon as I open my can, the tropical notes waft up, and it gives the beer a subtle, balanced fruit kick. I do tend to ignore drinking this in favour of beers I’ve never tried, and I enjoy it during the heat, but damn! What the hell was this doing, languishing in my bar fridge for so long, so neglected?!

If someone wanted me to recommend beers to someone who didn’t really know where to start with craft beer, I’d definitely name this brewery in a top five list.

To the zine, which I can’t actually flick through right now because my cat has decided to sit on it. I don’t have the heart to push her off! She has been and is a kickarse companion in my countless times of psychological distress which is why I tend to be pretty soft on her loving to sit on my paper-anything. The zine looks like a document to a game that perhaps was part of ‘Delete’ or an unfinished prototype – it’s kind of hard to tell, but I did see a Trello board screenshot photocopied, and a few diagrams with character attributes, possible text responses in certain situations. It looks like it’s set in someone’s bedroom for part of it.

Piecing it together from what I remember gives me an inkling to what reading a poem and trying to record an extended analysis might be like – poems are very rarely literal and it’s not often obvious whose ‘voice’ it’s told/narrated in. I’ve been thinking a lot about poetics after Saturday’s panel, and more so about what poetry and video games do have in common. I’ve also played a shitload of Pokémon GO today, because there’s one special research task that asks you to evolve 20 Pokémon! I had a job network appointment, then went to pick my mail nearby, and trying (unsuccessfully) to be in a raid alone forced me to enjoy the sunshine. A looooot of my electronic buddies fainted, whoops! Autumn has been fantastic in that it’s crisp and cold and bright by day, but you feel justified having the heater on as soon as the sun sets.

I also wanted to use this post as a way to point out others’ work I either forgot to mention, or did not mention enough of during my panel chat. I feel really fortunate that my first ever conference experience was such a welcoming, positive experience – at no time did I ever feel like an annoying not-tech creative: everyone really wanted to learn about video games and their intersections with other creative media.

So anyway, thanks Jini for asking and pronouncing my last name correctly! That shit always means a lot. They do a FUCKTONNE of work, so much so that they wrote in The Saturday Paper about the unpaid labour of arts workers. It’s not an easy read – it’s not meant to be, but it’s commendable to go on the record with a lot of what they’ve said in that piece. Jini is also a member of the PlayReactive collective.

Many a fistbump to my co-panellist Rory whose future Pokémon poems I eagerly await! Would you believe, we’re also Rabbit Journal buddies! If you like either of our work (which I hope you might!), please pick up a copy of this journal, and definitely subscribe to Rory’s Tinyletter. Can’t wait to see what future work my Oulipo comrade comes up with!

Thanks so much to Alex for even giving me the notion that video game ekphrasis is a thing! If he hadn’t asked me to submit something for Bonfire Park, it’s no exaggeration to say that I wouldn’t have pitched Writers Vic at all about that fab WWOC commission. For some odd reason, it sounds too hard (in my head) to write poems honouring visual artworks, but that’s exactly what happened when trying to write them about video games?! A blindspot banished, huzzah!

And oh my goodness, so Ian Maclarty‘s game ‘The Catacombs of Solaris‘ won a freaking award at Freeplay! I’m not sure if you still can, but it was also playable in a space set up in ACMI during the festival and conference. We met properly at the festival, though I think we’d met when All Day Breakfast was still around. I was having a fair bit of ECT when ADB still existed and hadn’t actually remembered we’d met, whoops!

This is much longer than anticipated. My cat has fallen asleep on the zine! <3 I’ve got a good beer to finish drinking. Check out the above creatives’ work and tell your mates about it!