Author Archives: gem

About gem

Born in London, lived in the Philippines, current Melbourne-based writer.

there better be a better Blak future

zine: Blak Blow: The Blak Women’s Edition (#40, Dec 2018)
drink: Nature’s Organics beetroot latte mix with honey
music: Alessandro Cortini & Daniel Avery, Illusion of Time (2020)

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I can’t in good conscience charge for this Patreon for post so it’ll go live on my blog (eatdrinkstagger.com) at the same time as Patreon folx can read. Patreons are getting a keg-load of content this month anyway 😉 I started writing this way before the TLB…’stuff’ emerged, so please don’t crucify me. I took ages to read this issue to do it justice. And don’t judge me – that beetroot latte mix is delicious! * * * visual descriptor: 1. a blak woman, illustrated, sticks out her tongue on a pink magazine cover that says ‘Blak Brow’ 2. a black ziplock packet of organic beetroot latte powder mix 3. a quotation on the back cover of the mag 4. the ingredients lists at the back of the beetroot latte powder mix * * * https://eatdrinkstagger.com/there-better-be-a-better-blak-future

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You don’t often realise that a year, a month, or a week is going to be the best or the worst of your life long after you’ve survived it.

Or haven’t.

Going to the The Lifted Brow issue launches are always a…how to put it? Someone like myself never quite feels at place. It’s too cool, everyone is talking about what they’re working on (but not giving away too much) and pretending. Or perhaps that’s just me.

At the Blak Brow launch, I met people who I had no idea would become part of my life thereafter. Footscray Community Arts Centre was packed: it was different, being in a crowd where bodies of colour were the default. It was still socially daunting, due to the number of folks there, but not ‘I urgently need to find a blank corner to sneak a diazepam and lack of stimuli’ threatening.

I am terribly slow reading periodicals, and I find TLB hard-going generally. This time last year, I lost the ability to read as my body began to unravel seemingly not in sync with my mind. Though I thought the worst year of my life (2016) was behind me, at least I’d had the luxury of hospital and specialised care. Last year, I was irresponsible and put a job before my health. I figured if I could afford my medication (some of which is expensive – as of Mar 2020, one is $140 AUD for a month’s supply), took it diligently, everything would improve. I was stubborn and didn’t go to hospital. I feel that ultimately cost me my job this year.

However, I met people all through 2019 who I could not have imagined would hold me together, just long enough to do things I didn’t want to do but had to. Sure, it’s become almost cliche to give space and voice to minorities, to those we would hardly have heard or seen even fifteen years ago.

Some voices should never have had to fight to be heard in the first place. My voice is not one of those. The ancestors of some of the oldest voices in the world reside in this part of the world (this still knocks me for six every time I think about it) and for so long, were silenced through genocide, invasion, erasure or ignorance. So grab a large mug of tea, sit down and get ready to read about Blak voices, finally being centred.

The works show the complexity of Aboriginal women’s lives and shows up the wooden and pedestrian one-dimensional narratives that blast out of Sunrise ‘talent’ and other purveyors of White Australia (can we please ban commercial television from hospital waiting rooms – it’s bad for our health).*

from the editorial of the The Blak Brow Women’s Brow Collective

There’s a really moving interview between mother and daughter called ‘The Walk and Talk’ with Rosie Kalina and Paola Balla – they have the sorts of conversations I can’t even have with cishet or queer white friends, let alone my mother. It just feels like a really surreal concept. Anyway, another quote:

Dort: …All these bloody plane trees aggravate me.
Mum: Isn’t it full on how colonisation not only stresses us mentally, but literally irritates your skin and body?
[…]

Dort: Migrants and settlers have been sold the lie of the lucky country. It overrides what we have been fighting for.
Mum: Multiculturalism is a planned construct too. The plan has been to breed us out, assimilate us, destroy us or silence us.
[…]

Dort: Where’s the outcry for the violence against our women? Painted to be a race thing, but where is the outcry for our women?
Mum: We know the horrible truth that white women’s lives are more valued in this country. My nan used to say, “If you’ve a pink split, you’re right.” She knew what the reality was for us. White feminism’s liberation was not tied up with ours.

The interview even goes as far to document how Western doctors want to sterilise Blak women, while white women were/are for fighting for the right to choose to have terminations. Dort’s mum adds that:

…Also, our sons and cousins and nephews need to know if they have kids with a non-Aboriginal woman, that we want those babies to come into the world with the same (birthing program) support.

Yugambeh poet and author Ellen van Neerven and her mother Maria van Neerven-Currie also get to chat in ‘Because of You I Can’, and it’s about how Ellen has inspired Maria to explore and extend her own creativity and its potential outlets. Also maybe don’t talk to me if you haven’t read Heat and Light or Comfort Food. I always get so nervous whenever I bump into her at readings or festivals and am chuffed she has a new poetry collection out!

Of course I’m going to be biased but this issue is so lucky to have poetic contributions from Evelyn Araluen, Natalie Harkin (worth reading her Dirty Words published by Cordite), Vicki Couzens, Jeanine Leane (whose book you can also get from Cordite), and Charmaine Papertalk Green (who cowrote False Claims of Colonial Thieves with John Kinsella…I still don’t know how I feel that a white man was partially involved in this project but that’s another issue), and Lisa Bellear.

However, I’m going to quote from a work by a Badimaya/Yamatji woman who wrote a poem called ‘Fractured Souls of Angels‘, whose work I was not initially familiar with.

A glistening blade, a dangling noose
Density of the tempting pills
Calling you to a secret place
(…)
We whisper “help” while shouting “go away”
To make us feel better

‘Binak’ by the Koorie Youth Council is absolutely a standout piece that I reckon high school kids should be reading, and is most definitely enhanced by Jacob Komesaroff’s comic panel illustrations.

I know this is getting long so now I’m just going to be listy, sorry. Other excellent standouts:

  • ‘Creators and Colonisers ‘Naarm City Lights’, (2008) a description of Savannah Kruger’s installation depicting the decay invasion has wreaked upon the stolen land (at Footscray Community Arts Centre), and her poem towards the end of the issue
  • ‘Blak To The Future Statement’ by curators Rosie Kalina and Hannah Morphy-Walsh, as well as Walsh’s separate statement ‘Blak To The Future’ immediately following
  • all the Pop Quizzes!!! They’re feisty as hell, and rightfully so
  • Timmah Ball’s ‘Imagining Lisa: Dreaming In Urban Areas‘ about Naarm (inner Melbourne)
  • Celeste Liddle’s take on Trevor Noah being an arsehole (he is; he still hasn’t apologised for his demeaning jokes about FN women)
  • Lidia Thorpe’s speech full stop
  • lastly, ‘A Room With A View’ by Vickie Roach which should be made required reading to anyone who is not Blak. I do not say that lightly. The way this country treats its Indigenous folx, one of the oldest races in the world, and pretty much world treasure given that status is more than shameful. It is proof that so many of us still are devoid of both sympathy and empathy, and paints a bleak picture of the future to come.

But here I sit, a queer nonbinary British citizen, Australian permanent resident of Spanish-Filipino and Indo-Guyanese heritage (if you try to tell me that a. I’m South Asian Indian and/or b. South American, I will kick you in the fucking ‘nads; fair warning), with a blanket covering my legs, typing away on my 2012 Mac Book Pro, chugging down organic beetroot latte mixes with equally ethically produced milk in my Red Hill Brewery beer stein from the comfort of my couch and more than adequate sharehouse as I read and wrote this.

The multicultural dream my family were sold are part of the problem. We still are. We are never going to know what it’s like to be arrested for being drunk, die in custody due to the endemic negligence of ‘the people supposed to protect us’, and many of us ‘settlers’ and ‘migrants’ (euphemisms for invaders) will cling onto the fairly achievable dream that if you work hard enough, even from nothing, you can succeed in this shitty capitalist world. Even I am not without my privileges. My retired father pays for me to have private health insurance so I will never see the inside of a public psychiatric ward. He has worked most of his life in one (England, and here) and jokes that the private ones these days are as plush as hotels.

WE ARE STILL ON STOLEN LAND. SOVEREIGNTY WAS NEVER CEDED. I PAY MY RESPECTS TO ALL WURUNDJERI FOLKS, PAST, PRESENT, EMERGING, AND ACKNOWLEDGE THAT I AM PART OF THE SYSTEMIC TRAUMA OUR FIRST NATIONS FOLX FACE AS A ‘SETTLER’ OR ‘MIGRANT’. I WILL DO MY BEST TO KEEP DECOLONISING AND TO ELEVATE FIRST NATIONS CAUSES AND VOICES WHEREVER POSSIBLE BEFORE MY OWN COMMUNITY OF COLOUR.

*omg why is it that whenever I have ECT, I NEVER forget Sunrise being on in the waiting room and I’m always last to be treated? IT. IS. ABSOLUTE. HELL.

**full disclosure: I’ve performed with Savannah Kruger before, so knew her, but hadn’t known Hannah Morphy-Walsh, who I now also consider to be a friend and have done and will do activism work with

NB. Fri 10/4/2020: it pains me to have to disclose this but it is essential to you, the reader, and as respect to all previous contributors, interns, and staff at The Lifted Brow. Please note that this not reflect my personal opinion on the matter as I am not privy to enough information.

Many thanks to fellow disabled creative Pauline Vetuna for her feedback prior to publication of this piece. I met her at the Blak Brow launch, and consider it a privilege to now call her my friend and colleague, as well as someone who always has my back.

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an everyday problem

zine: Archer Magazine: The First Nations Issue (#13, 2020) by various authors; edited by Bridget Caldwell-Bright & Maddie Clark
drink: lots of peppermint tea with honey
music: The OOZ & Man Alive! by King Krule

Said with more than a token dose of sarcasm, but isn’t it great when each year, Invasion (‘Australia’) Day comes around and we all pretend to give a shit about how we’re on stolen land? On a non-sarcastic level, I almost envy the ignorance of the people who think that ‘civilised’ Australian history starts in 1788, and use the day as an excuse to get pissed because that’s what ‘mateship’ is.

Can you beat someone to death with a copy of Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu? Purely theoretical question…

I find a lot of shame in not being able to participate in Invasion Day protests, but this being the third year, my personal alternative protest to dedicate Jan 26th to reading literature produced solely by First Nations. Traditionally in Jan, I’ll try to review a zine by an Indigenous author. I’ve been relying on current stockpiles and didn’t have any, however, I do have the latest issue of Archer Magazine

It took a week to read, and it’s not really something you can do justice to by speedreading with a tinnie. I read it on trams on the way to health appointments, absorbed. It blocked out thoughts of whether or not I was entitled to sit on the disabled seats of the tram. It stopped me from being jostled around by white people and men of colour who often assume I need to move out of the way for them.

I’ll start with Laniyuk’s piece because I can’t read it objectively (I also read it greedily as soon as I got a copy of the mag). Crossing paths with her at the Queensland Poetry Festival in 2018 was one of many fantastic connections made during that festival.

It’s hard to read about someone who you consider a friend and have the extent of their trauma detailed for everyone else to read.

Australia does not have a great track record with Indigenous folks, and as someone who is a migrant, it’s becoming clearer to me that we are part of the invasion narrative that has and still does traumatise so many of this country’s first inhabitants.

Laniyuk was also one of the people who was there for me mid-last year in a period of acute distress. She was able to make time for me despite. She is one of the bravest, most fearless, and most talented people I’ve met. Her piece in this issue illustrates this to the letter (pun intended). She is of mixed heritage – her mother is French, and her father is a Larrakia, Kungarrakan and Gurindji man.

As a mixed-race migrant, I’m part of this invasion narrative, whether I like it or not. Both my parents come from or have heritage in places colonised by the British, and the Spanish. But me and my family are trespassers. I know my parents and brother would not think about this at all. I can’t make amends on their behalf. I can always try on my own though.

This doesn’t mean the magazine is trauma porn – quite the opposite: a lot of it details the creative practices of Australian Indigenous creatives, even when not in Australia. There’s photo editorials, Q&A interviews, a fashion shoot, showcases of visual art. There’s some upsetting narratives about navigating and acknowledging one’s queerness, and gender identity – this includes genderqueerness, wondering if you’re non-binary and/or trans, and transitioning if it’s a choice the narrator makes, and of finding chosen family as many queer folks do (thank goodness).

This is not much of a ‘review’ post, but I hope if you have the means, you’ll consider acquiring a copy of this issue, especially as Archer’s government arts funding was not granted this year.*  If you happen to be in a financial position to support them staying in print, then donate to their Pozible campaign – read about what they do with the money they make & have and here.

I’m sorry this is a short and not-beery post…it didn’t seem appropriate to review beer. I’ve also been pretty sick the last fortnight (mind-sick) but this week it’s been actual ‘socially acceptable’ sick with some kind of chesty cough that had me spend two days in bed.

I drank and still am drinking lots and lots and lots of herbal tea, with honey to force out the illness, and have kept warm, layering like the consummate Melburnian inner-city savvy I am. It’s the only way I’m savvy!

Please try to remember, ‘Australia’ Day is not the only day where issues of sovereignty, dispossession, genocide, and intergeneration trauma are brought to the forefront for Indigenous Australian folks.

For some, it’s about surviving every fucking day in a system that punishes them for being themselves. I can only imagine how hard it is to celebrate culture and heritage in those circumstances. Change the fucking date. Read more Indigenous literature: if you can’t find any, you are simply not looking hard enough. Elevate Indigenous creatives! They’re probably more talented than you (look, that means me too so don’t be offended).

I also highly recommend supporting Indigenous X on Patreon. They are the only Patreon I support – if you know of other Indigenous folks creating content on Patreon, let me know so I can sign up to support them too?

For this reason, next up, I’ll be reviewing The Lifted Brow’sBlak Brow‘ issue which I’m hoping to get to you soon, and will probably be drinking lots and lots of tea again.

Thanks again Patreons, I know I’ve had epic radio silence a while, due to circumstances outside my control x & cheers to my new supporter Felix for making this post possible! promise there’ll be beery content soon x

*No, they are not paying me to say this, but full disclosure: they have published me in the past (to my eternal glee).

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drunks never stay sober with a metaphysically broken ‘heart’

zine: Beers Never Get Drunk in a Sober & Blasphemous World by Patrick Moore (limited run by Analog Submission Press, Cape Town SA & Yorkshire, UK); no longer available. 

drinks: 1. Pillow Fight (6% ABV, 440mL, can) brewed by Tallboy & Moose (Preston, Vic, AUS) 2. How Now Brown Cacao? (6% ABV, 440mL nitro can) brewed by Moon Dog Brewing (Abbotsford, Vic, AUS) in collaboration with Metisto Artisan Chocolate

venue: The Catfish, Fitzroy, Melbourne (they’re playing some killer Britpop at the moment and it’s RAD)

*Patreon-only content*

After being shafted by some skeezy bartender over a period of a few months, for whatever-the-hell reason, I thought it’d be good idea last Monday (7/10/19) to turn up to their place on employment (on their day off, natch) for drinks with someone else (there was one beer I was dying to try) after my work shift. I guess if you’re brought up Catholic, the self-flagellation desire never truly leaves you, wink? Here’s the first of the quartet – Hop Nation‘s Fool raspberry sour. The beer I was chasing was Stay Puft Imperial Salted Caramel porter by Tiny Rebel Brewing Co).

Four tulip glasses later (fark, I forget how expensive Beer Deluxe is?! and how sloppy *some* bartenders are with pouring?!) with excellent company, and insisting on taking some of my night meds which were probably best left avoided after getting home (it’s okay – sometimes I can do that), given that one completely caused me to forget that our bathroom/loo switch is outside the door, not inside – absolute hell when you’re dying to empty your bladder.

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Last Monday, started a new Patreon post, which means the previous one is now free on my blog: https://eatdrinkstagger.com/shitck-life-stuff-happens/ But here’s the current Patreon one’s reviewed goodies (also how good is coworking?! especially now there’s wi-fi at ye olde Catfish!) visual descriptor: 1. a tall beverage can with a pink body lying on a pillow on label and ‘Tallboy and Moose make beer’ to can’s right, a glass of a mango juice coloured liquid. 2. tall beverage can that says ‘Moon Dog: How Now Brown Cacao – cold brew cacao cream ale, nitro charged’ with a clear, dark honey coloured liquid in a glass to its right. 3. an off-white mottled zine with the title ‘Beers Never Get Drunk in a Sober & Blasphemous World’, with author Patrick Moore’s name at bottom and an illustration of barflies at a bar on top of a colourful, larger zine

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Immediate beer consumption the following day wasn’t exactly on my mind for the following day, but I’d had a coworking sesh organisised at The Catfish with my poet mate Connor, who is doing a much better job of poeting at the moment, while I’m halfway through the poetry zine I purposefully chose, and hope to have two tinnies with rather than just the one.

*Patreon-only image & content here*

First of all, the first poem reminds me of aforementioned skeezy bartender (but seriously, who is the fool in this situation? Why the hell was I so naive? I do not like that I cannot put the two dot diacritical on the ‘i’ in ‘naive’) called ‘It’s Our Almost One Week Anniversary Together’ – I’d like to type the whole poem, but I’ll just do the beginning and the end:

you want a love poem?

go asphyxiate yourself


[…]


you’ll get yours

after I’m done

dry heaving

in the toilet

I feel personally targeted by this because I spend a lot of my time dry heaving (chemical nausea, and I don’t use the toilet for that shit, what do you think bathroom sinks are for?!) and I also don’t write love poetry*. Perhaps ones about my cats count, but they’re safe, aren’t they? And they do unconditional love way better than humans do. I don’t really think humans are truly capable of strictly unconditional love, just like physics error calculations have to be done because we don’t live in a vacuum. There’s too many extenuating forces that can affect, say, the skimming of a pebble on a pond’s surface. Anyway, I digest (sic)…It was quite the scuffle with bedclothes (and clothes generally, let’s be honest) to get to The Catfish on time after an unintentional tasting sesh last night. I really wanted a Bloody Mary! The beer. I’d been wanting to try this one for ages and for some reason thought it was a collab? After last night’s…antics and despite scoffing down a mushroom Philly cheesesteak with extra cheese at warp speed, I wasn’t looking forward to drinking more beer (gasp! flap your kerchiefs, ladies).

*Patreon-only beer tasting notes here*

Pillow Fight is weird – at first it seemed too bitter in keeping with its IPA kin, then at other times, it tasted more like a textbook NE IPA (freshly squeezed orange juice without too much sweetness or mouth-pucker sourness). It also looks like slightly diluted mango juice, and has very little carbonation. It’s a good-sized can so I took my sweet-not-sour time drinking it. Probably one you’d be best off drinking on tap and super-fresh? My can had some hardened orange oat/lactose that eventually melted but yeah wow, the bitterness just stunned me into sobriety (don’t worry, it won’t last). I’m very grateful for the second beer How Now Brown Cacao?, which is one of those beers that doesn’t taste like beer at all (confirmed by my mate Connor) and is just freaking delicious – think a liquid that looks like a pint of a pale with a foamy, creamy white head that tastes of subtle chocolate, caramel and fudge.

*Patreon-only beer tasting notes here*

It was needed for the second half of Moore’s chapbook. I hate giving negative reviews of things, but there’s a lot in what I’ve read so far that’s extremely problematic: ableism (in particular regarding mental health, though some with people who have unusual appearances, such as bearded ladies), implied misogyny in the killing and successful concealing of ex-lovers (like, seriously? this isn’t the 1990s?). One of the ableist mental illness poems I’ve quoted below, but chosen very carefully what part to quote:

nothing matters when 
you’re the rightful proprietor 
to a broken mind
— ‘Toothpaste on the Stairs. With Ghosts’

Some of us don’t actually have a choice over having ‘broken’ minds. Sometimes people ask me if I’d rather never lived with any mood disorders, but would I be the person I am now if I didn’t have them? Who’s to say I wouldn’t have grown up mean, a slave to capitalism, not caring or wanting to imagine how others might feel in given situations (empathy is a fucking curse with my type of depression; for some time I have to fake not giving a shit in certain situations before not giving a shit, and that’s usually for my mental health in regards to toxic, draining people).I absolutely fucking HATE writing negative reviews of ANYTHING, however, I think the weakest poem in this chapbook is ‘The Writer’. It feels riddled with phrases and concepts that are designed to shock, and also ignores that people have different experiences at different times in their lives. The poem instructs people not to bother experimenting with recreational drug use if you haven’t before…so at what stage is one supposed to contemplate that? At 10? At 50? At 25? It just seems like a passive-aggressive prescriptive ‘suggestion’ borne of accumulated lived experience or life wisdom that doesn’t really read as such.
The one poem I did connect with as a reader was called ‘The Wrong Bar’ (which I dare remind you, I most certainly am not at!).

if you’re the drunkest one at the bar, 
you’re at the wrong bar
— ‘The Wrong Bar’

We’ve all been there. No judgement if you haven’t, or don’t want to, or are still waiting for your wrong bar.

Also, cheers Connor, for confirming that I wasn’t being overly harsh when reading the reviewed chapbook. I’m the kind of reviewer that can always find something positive to say about someone’s creative work because it’s a bloody risk, putting aspects of your self out there that aren’t as, say, risky as they would be in a corporate/professional setting.

I think I’m going to have to start asking C to nag me to get the veg or vegan cheesesteaks though (my fave is the mushroom one, every freaking time, that sucker is so good with the melted cheese!), and though I don’t eat much meat, I should probably make more of an effort with preparing vegan meals?

And drink less booze. Ironically, been drinking a tad more since the skeezy bartender incident, bad bad bad.


*not entirely true; I have dedicated poems to lovers of great personal significance, especially as they were likely not to be listening or paying attention. Some have even been published. Shh! Don’t tell anyone I have feelings.

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