reading autumn in welcome

I’ve just dashed back home from a fab reading engagement at Counihan Gallery – I got to read two stories out to children and their grown-ups from Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 2. It was Melbourne-proper – looked like there was an actual storm, the driving conditions were not favourable (very, very cartoon dust-cloud windy!)  and can only imagine how horrid it would be for those without personal transport.

As I bustled back into the warmth of the house, I made myself a massive mug of Earl Grey tea (using my Red Hill beer stein!), then decided it’d be a good time to finally read colleague and poet Anne M Carson’s Writing on the Wall – it’s technically a book (has an ISBN) but I’m treating it as a zine because it’s not listed on Goodreads. This chapbook-sized collection discusses an issue that we might not think applies to us, in our first world comfort – that of slavery.

Anne’s poems are set in an ancient Graeco-Roman time, and begin with a description of a wall that has existed for nearly three thousand years. Before the suite of poems formally begins, there is an essay by Professor Jennifer Burn on the nature of slavery and its more contemporary manifestations. It’s shocking that it has any at all. How do we reconcile our own lives of privilege amidst the existence of such dehumanising practices? Which still exist today.

This is where things like tea, for me, become a blessing and meditation. An everyday act, occurrence, but one not to be taken for granted. Yes, I am an atheist, but there is something about drinking a hot beverage when cold to the bone that seems a blessing, heavenly. It isn’t that I want to avoid thinking about the horrors of humanity, but that simple, everyday pleasures can help to give you a window into and out of them. We can only do our best with the tools we’re given at any given time, and slavery seems worlds away from me, though emotional abuse and trauma is not – that personal pain is always at the back of my mind. I’ve only really felt comfortable acknowledging that as it has stopped affecting my day-to-day life, in the last year or so.

I fear I may have polluted this tea blend by brewing it as strongly as I could and then adding the slightest dash of milk – as soon as I opened the pouch of pyramid tea bags, the scent of fresh ginger and lemon hard sweets wafted up! It tastes like that in tea form too – the black tea used is very, very subtle despite my efforts to brew it super-strong. This is the second of the Jenier teas I’ve tried as received through my Bookishly subscription, and I think I’ll end up ordering more teas from them, hehehe.

Anne’s poetry is a lyrical, narrational style which is both approachable to read, and yet so deceptive in its simplicity of statement and conciseness. Here’s a couplet from ‘4. The Son Becomes a Man’:

I am to be freed? It hardly seems possible. My master, / he has never more deserved the title than now, in its relinquishing.

Or Aristotle’s unfortunate influence in ‘2. The Will is Read’:

…challenging Aristotle’s claim that slaves / are living tools, property, used at will. Stalwart against wrath, / they urged freedom for slaves… / Greeks could learn from us. / But Aristotle argued louder, his word had the crowd.

We also need to ensure that once people escape abusive states of being, that there is support to ease them into what their lives should have consisted of. This too is hinted at in ‘6. Emerging’:

Walking unravels knots; / limbs, spine, thoughts begin to loosen from confinement.

(…) Doubt slithers — / how will I account for myself in the world?

Very sobering, yet elegant reading. You can learn more and also help by visiting Anti-Slavery’s (Australia) website.

what are the odds, girl?!

It’s been an…’interesting’ start to the week, and yes, by ‘interesting’, I mean ‘slightly challenging’. For the most part, productive in a healthy way – I got proofs for a poem that will soon be out in the wild, and fretted over whether the scanner I had access to was doing a good enough job of photocopying/scanning marked-up pages so that the folks responsible for rendering the text for the journal could read!

That’s the good stuff to have anxiety over – I don’t want to be difficult to work with, so was worried I was being too demanding by wanting my poem to appear on the page like it should…look, anxiety doesn’t listen to humans trying to be reasonable with their brains!).

I also found out late last week that an application I submitted for an emerging producer programme through Melbourne Fringe was unsuccessful…which is hard, but that stuff happens. I personally think that in the interview, I should have discussed my personal creative practice more than I actually did – which, in hindsight sucks, but it’s helped me come up with a few ideas of how I might be able to play with recitation and performance of my poems and as well as exploring mental health (and illness), I’ve started to look at one poem in particular that I can perform/recite/experiment-like-hell with in terms of chronic physiological pain.

So some folks might know that I’m a bitter, failed musicologist. In order to get to that stage, I was a music undergrad at Melbourne Uni, when they still had double degrees covered under HECS, and the Victorian College of the Arts (the joke goes) is where the folks with actual talent went. I incurred overuse injury to both arms as a result of several years of practice without taking proper breaks in high school. Activities like writing or typing for long periods of time can also bring on the pain, or even shit beds. It recently flared up at the start of the year after pulling a muscle in my neck, and the pain in my supposedly good shoulder…UGH. Let’s just say that it was agony trying to wipe one’s arse regardless of what hand you favour

This is a very, very long introduction to my coincidental choice of zine to review, though the drink not so much – I can’t sleep, so thought I’d read the following zine by Rachael Wenona Guy, a Castlemaine-based artist. In yet more coincidences, Guy is the partner of a poet with Marfen syndrome – me and Ben (of Melbourne Spoken Word fame) were gushing about Andy’s work, some of which I’d come across in an anthology called Shaping the Fractured Self, edited and selected by Heather Taylor Johnson, which is supposed to be a chronicle of work by people whose lives are affected by chronic pain or illness. I didn’t enjoy most of the anthology, and it pains me to admit that but hopefully it’s for valid reasons. The choices made as to what poems were featured needed introductory essays – many of which couldn’t be read independent of these explanations. Having said that, Andy Jackson’s poems in the book were freaking fantastic – you had a picture immediately in your head as you read his words, and it made you feel srs feels. There were a few other authors who stood out – and sadly few examples of repetitive strain injury (which I don’t have – overuse injury is a lesser beast) and mental illnesses.

zine: Girl: poems on childhood & Eulogy (photo-essay) by Rachael Wenona Guy (2016)

drink: Magic Rock Brewing (UK)  ‘Salty Kiss’ gooseberry gose (330mL can, 4.1% ABV)

Ooooh, I think I like the Red Duck gooseberry gose better, gasp! though this Magic Rock one is probably a better example of the style? It’s bang-on with the half-salt, half-sour, whereas the Red Duck one was juicier and just a tad sweeter, and much less salty. This one feels like it has more of the sea in it (it does have sea buckthorn listed as an ingredient).

I don’t remember how or why I bought Rachael’s zine, but it was still in the envelope I’d received it in when I found it last month, after very slowly starting to sort and unpack drafts of poems, and medical evidence of hospitalisations. It’s the sort of zine that you want to read when you’re alone, and it’s very late and dead quiet, while your beloved pet sleeps on next to you, on your bed.

A few images wouldn’t leave me alone, as happens with good poetry – I liked the poems ‘Portrait’, about how the person (in the poem), her father is drawing, and she mentions something about drawing a baby’s hand. I loved ‘Robe’ because it reminded me of growing up in England (weirdly enough…!), and the following line from ‘Girl in a Tree’ which again summons memories of my own childhood in London:

(…) The girl surveys her home — it

is ordinary, yet it is everything.

Isn’t it a magical time, when this feels so true, for us?

 

 

unseeded, seething

I don’t really know that there’s a way to mince words or say it politely, but white creatives really need to get over themselves and their self-importance.

The last fortnight has been rough in terms of microaggressions, and it’s not at all healthy to do it, but I can’t stop thinking about whether things would be easier for me if my name was easier to spell. Despite this, I went to see Black Panther at the Coburg Drive-In with one of my fave humans (who happens to be a white boy, gasp!). Hopefully, we’ll get to collaborate on some cool creative shit.

Lately, there are times when I feel myself talking too much about my creative work, or not enough if at all, and I know a lot of this is due to a current environment where it’s still looked at as a curiosity of an activity to engage in (it’s not impostor syndrome if deep down you’re still worried about your right to create at all). I don’t know if I want to be that clueless person at a social gathering that does nothing to learn about the others around them, that doesn’t exercise their curiosity about other humans because it’s not healthy. Though I definitely envy that type of dull stubbornness.

zine: UNCEDED

‘unceded’ is depressing – tracts of imperial Anglo law are reproduced and highlight dispossession of this land’s original inhabitants for finite ‘resources’. The momentary beauty is in a repeated few lines, on the centre fold:

I want to collect your thoughts in my coolamons / We will make madhan with our words to light two fires / Bound together by our stories we dream in refuge

drink: ‘Make Like A Gooseberry’ kettle soured berliner weisse by Red Duck Beer (Ballarat, VIC)

I’m eating last night’s leftover popcorn and really enjoying this can of Berliner weisse with organic gooseberries – I tend to buy cans of beer in pairs if the flavours/combinations sound super-interesting, and this can is way better than the first one I drank (too fast, out of the can). It’s mingled well with the saltiness of the popcorn and isn’t too sour, and the gooseberries taste really fresh?!

It’s cheered me up a loooooot.

So much good stuff is going on, so it makes no sense to feel so awful, but it’s probably because the bad dreams/bad sleep cycle has returned. I’m admittedly not practising good sleep hygiene, with a bunch of other bad habits. But…good things:

  • got proofs for my poem which will appear in Rabbit Poetry’s ‘Queer’ issue
  • my suite of three poems based on specific video games will appear in print in next month’s Writers’ Victoria member mag on the theme of ‘collaboration’ (as part of a ‘Women Writers of Colour’ commission) – I love that the suite of poems is known as the ‘Bar SK Suite’!
  • I’m doing a reading stories at Moreland Library! I get to choose two stories out of Good Night Stories For Rebel Girls 2 and read them to people! Come along!
  • I’ll be reading my poetry at Hawthorn Library, with two other poets. While quietly terrifying (from a performing self perspective), it will be fun, and it is good to hear poems as read/recited by their authors, because it’s most likely how they imagine the words to sound in their head/off the page! Come along!
  • my cat snuggles up next to me like a stuffed toy under the quilt because autumn is here, and it’s getting plenty snuggly-chilly for the warm-blooded mammals.
  • workshopping and feedback – the humans who do it and give are freaking ace, appreciated and remind me that community does exist in a seemingly solitary pursuit. Thinking of the MSW crew and We Work This Shop, specifically.

Turns out writing this helped cheer me up quite a bit…also, choosing a low ABV beer helped too (’cause alcohol is a CNS depressant – I outwardly admit to being ridic slow to take this on board – please don’t be like me in that respect!). Now to annoy my cat for more snuggles.

I need to remember that writing regularly, keeping up with regular health appointments – this is good for me, even when it doesn’t always feel it. Read, write, edit, repeat. Tea, cats, books. And ace humans (god I miss my Northcote babes Lolly & Danni <3).