midsummer productivity pride

This blog post, and entire website, has been produced on the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. I pay my respect to elders past, present and future.  

Peak humidity in outer north Melbourne at the moment. I’ve accidentally slept through most of the afternoon after reading the first half of Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication on the Rights of Man, and woken up in time to head to a fab spoken word workshop that Benjamin Solah and Melbourne Spoken Word run in Brunswick called ‘We Work This Shop’. I’m not happy with the draft of a poem I wanted to bring, so decide not to read – till I realise I’ve got my script from last night’s Quippings ‘Not Normcore’ show in my bag (fluke!). I try to replicate as best as I can last night’s rendition of ‘Stain, guilt‘ and am completely ignoring that it’s a page poem, not a spoken word/performance one. Ack. I also don’t have any of my props, and forget to mimic the Psycho murder theme violin glissando screeching.

Danny, one of the regular workshop attendees, is facilitating and reads out four lines from Robert Frost’s poem ‘Birches’ as a prompt. We then get to ‘free write’ anything inspired by the lines he’s read out. I totally cheat and have one really, really, reeeeeeeeeeeally long line scribbled out in my trusty Field Notes notebook. We all seem to rush home – either because of the heat, or to keep carving away at works-in-progress after all the generous feedback?

I make a stop at my fave sort-of local bottleshop (Audacious Monk Cellars, the staff are lovely generally, and lovely to me <3) and pick up two more cans of Stomping Ground’s Pridelweiss. I’ve left my weekly zine review till the very end of this week, and decide that tonight I’ll finish reading Rabbit Poetry Journal’s issue 21, subtitled ‘Indigenous’.

Anyone with a quarter of a functioning heart in Australia understands the need for dialogue surrounding change of Australia Day (a day that is understandably traumatic to its first peoples). In Melbourne (Naarm), people gathered to make this known on the 26th. I’m a five-foot-nothing female-identifying sack of a human, and for mental health reasons, am pretty awful with marching in crowds. It isn’t that I don’t want to, it’s just depression-draining and social-anxiety-central for me.

So I read. I wish there was a way I could unite others by gathering to read and learn more about indigenous literature (there’s a lot of mind-blowingly good examples about too – am thinking of compiling a list specifically of poets and writers) as a form of silent protest. Rabbit’s ‘Indigenous’ issue is an excellent hop as an intro – though there are a few international authors.

Halfway through and poets whose work has really stood out have been Evelyn Araluen, Hannah Donnelly’s ‘black ducks’, Matthew Walsh’s ‘What they wore at the races today’, Paul Collis’ poem inspired by a street fight, Mitch Tomas Cave’s ‘skin’, and Craig Santos Perez’s gently didactic poems of ‘chamorros‘ which I found oddly echoed some of my feelings as a Filipino mestiza. Damien Chen’s artwork is breathtakingly detailed and nuanced – these blog posts were always supposed to be about paying tribute for no gain whatsoever to the named creatives, and I feel like that too means I can get away with revealing more about the emotional impact the works I encounter have on me. Looking at his sketches…there’s a familial warmth, and a tempered rage regarding the xenophobia people of colour unfortunately do experience living here under Anglo-Australian ‘majority’.

I haven’t yet finished this mag – I’ve been savouring it when I have uninterrupted blocks of quiet time. I chose to drink Stomping Ground’s ‘Pridelweiss’ as I wrote this because, it’s Midsumma in Melbourne, and back to the workshop I attended just before – I have the beginnings of a poem, in which I ask, question, explore in a very roundabout, swirly-path way the gradual and sometimes curved meanderings of what a queer image or queer identity might be. I’d like to think that it always has a space for me – even if that space is as small as a sub-atomic particle! – it exists there if I want it, and it means nothing to others, but not out of exclusion – merely out of uniqueness. Sometimes it’s lonely belonging to pockets of different communities, but it’s also really cool. Our identities don’t have to be fixed, unless we want them to be.

I’ve finished my tinnie, and my cat beckons. Time to snuggle and keep reading beautiful, world-expanding literature from the hundreds of nations that make up Australia. The interviews and poems that follow are excellent, and will provoke thought long after you’ve read them. And of course, my list of books to read has ever multiplied…oh well, life is short. Read hard, read often.

 

if failure were a colour

I’m pretty mad at myself today (well, technically it’s no longer ‘today’ but Friday just after midnight). I was supposed to be in the city for Midsumma to play Bartók folk songs on my melodica as a ‘temptation’ for a performance/reading I’ll be doing later in the month.

The problem with afflictions like heatstroke, is they can’t be reasoned or argued with. I’d driven down from outside Castlemaine, and thought it was air pressure changes that caused me to momentarily get dizzy. I’d deliberately not practised too much on the melodica so that I wouldn’t be puffed out. I’m physically fit enough for that to not happen. Halfway into the city from my parents’ place, I turned back, told my father what happened and went to bed for a few hours. We’re both migraine-prone, so I rested on his advice, had dinner, and I feel oddly naked without any of the books I’m in the midst of reading.

Zine reading time. Tonight’s zine is ‘Tenderness Journal’, a largely visual art-based project from 2015 that Clara Bradley curated. It turned out we had a friend in common – I didn’t know this till attending the exhibition/launch at Grey Gardens Project that year. I submitted a sonnet – imaginings on longing and grieving the loss of love, both offline and online. It’s weird to think that that has become something to define, document, experience, in my lifetime.

The post title – I was thinking about how much of a failure I felt at not making it into the city to play my instrument, and how if failure were a colour, it would definitely not be a pastel anything! I love pastel colours, and was also reminding myself of how slow I was to pick that the cover of ‘Tenderness’ has bare breasts. It wasn’t till quite some after that I noticed that?!

What am I drinking? I’m deliberately avoiding alcohol because at the beginning of my week, my mood dipped a bit, and it’s usually not a good idea to console oneself with central nervous system depressant anything, so I’ve just been gulping down strong yet milky mugs of T2 French Earl Grey, which is…okay. The leaves are far too dry, and the supermarket spoils me by having a fresher British organic one which I do plough through.

It’s not a pleasant reminder to read ‘Tenderness’ because I was unwell, but functional, and everything felt stained with the ache of surviving. At times, I remember looking okay – fine, even, but struggling desperately to stay mentally afloat. It was probably harder because I wasn’t doing it for my sole benefit. An ex-housemate knew that occasionally I muffled my bawling to sleep with my pillow. My partner at the time knew I drank too much to help me sleep, but didn’t realise that his default belief in entitlement to existing made it near-impossible to contemplate getting well. Living for him…it was automatic, easy, it happened so effortlessly. I had disparate areas of life that were all so spectacular in how awful I was in them. I tried so hard too, and barely did anything well.

Perhaps that’s not how it seemed, or was, but that was how it was experienced. At outsider ‘presenting’ an inauthentic life but somehow not being caught out. ‘Tenderness’ seems to encroach in these spaces, where the vulnerabilities of honesty and adoration exist, admit themselves to exist, and – if tenderness were music, it would be a cadence that threatens to resolve its dissonance, but doesn’t. It just – leaves you hanging, longing for its resolution.

The visual art captures this in its recording of textures – cotton long johns, where the shape of male genitalia is discernible and alluring because it is not able to be seen, we only get hints. Writings on what falling in love is like and how it differs from loving – it only ever seems clear that we’ve fallen in love once it is not reflected back at us.

My cat has come back and is now sleeping on my bed. When I think of tenderness and its sort of love, I think a lot about my cat – how when I first met her, she belonged to someone else. We were both emotional orphans of a sort! She touches her paw to my hand, often. I brush the tip of my nose against the velvet of her ears. I feel loved in a way I no longer expect from another human. Perhaps true tenderness is safety and sanctuary.

2017 book and beer chums

While I continue to finish up filling in gaps as hinted at over here, and partially filled here, 2017 book-and-beer matches! I embarrassingly keep a spreadsheet of this sort of thing, because it seems like a good idea when you read, drink and then have to remember or retrace your steps a lot.

 

issue #15 (Feb 2017)

BOOK: Books vs. cigarettes by George Orwell

BEER: Mountain Goat (Melb, AUS) Rare Breed ‘Pulped Fiction’ blood orange IPA

notes: the ‘Romance’ issue, so pairing good lit with good booze seemed pretty romantic to me. Learnt way more than I wanted to about the hygiene in French hospitals during early twentieth-century warfare, as well as a cool (or not, ha, ha, ha…anyway) unit to measure temperature that wasn’t the Kelvin (think it was this one), and Orwell did not have a happy childhood. His experiences at boarding school, and of being a partial scholarship recipient sounded awful – though, perhaps that’s testament to his skill in describing and conveying human behaviour.

issue #16 (Mar 2017)

BOOK: Ablutions by Patrick deWitt

BEER: TWO, gasp! Doctor’s Orders (Sydney, AUS) ‘Fleshwound’ & Brasserie Fantôme (Wallonia, BELG) India red ale.

notes: As of late last year, I just read Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential and feel like this novella is the dive bartender companion in that it describes some of the clientele and professionals in the industry in the late 80s-maybe early 90s. Both books are hilarious, and reading deWitt’s barman narrative makes it hard to ignore speculation on just how intimate he is with their way of life…it’s also a quick read. I’m not sure how on earth I managed to stretch out two good bottles of beer (not exactly small ones either…500mL and 750mL respectively!) to cover my reading period. I gobbled up this book.

issue #17 (Apr 2017)

BOOK: The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham

BEER: Sierra Nevada (USA) ‘Narwhal’ barrel-aged imperial stout

notes: I’d somehow managed to find myself a new sharehouse to live, and completed this B&B way before things started to get awful. Froth ed gave me a bottle of the ‘Narwhal’ and trying to ignore that various beer sirens were singing, I read Wyndham’s classic with it. The book is scarily not as dated as it should feel. One of my favourite memories of growing up in England was watching Chocky, which is based on Wyndham’s book of the same name. Most of his famous titles are on booklists as examples of excellent speculative fiction – which I’m hoping to read more of this year (2018).

issue #18 (May 2017)

BOOK: Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

BEER: SPARKKE (Adelaide, AUS) ginger beer, pilsener, hard lemonade, cider

notes: Had started reading this late for a WMN book club meeting, and due to deadlines and a performance I was rehearsing for, didn’t actually get to read and drink at the same time. At the time, no one knew that I was going into hospital for depression (I went straight after the performance wrapped up, and given you can’t drink booze in hospital, there was no B&B for June).

It wasn’t a good month, but Emily and Clint getting a copy of Froth and the piece about Difficult Women signed by THE AUTHOR got me so excited, I had to get sleepers to properly knock me out that night in hospital (they didn’t know I was in, that’s why it’s so funny. Also first time in my life I’ve nearly puked in excitement!).

I wrote a funny bit of dialogue about how my mother, in unintentional Asian tiger mum mode, completely doused my excitement with a metaphysical wet blanket when I told her about what Em and Clint had done. She is, however, being a Magpies supporter, very proud of my brother driving the hearse for a former footballer who was granted a state funeral around the same time. But seriously, it wasn’t a good time of the year and photos of Roxane even holding Froth…it felt like an amazingly surreal and wonderful thing to happen and cling onto. We all have our s/hero/i/n/e/s! <3

(NB. 1. I don’t want to drive anyone’s hearse, famous or not. It does actually sound quite nerve-wracking & 2. Sparkke have since added TWO beverages to their core range, f*ck yeah! 3. I clearly need to up my game as an Asian daughter)

issue #20 (Jul 2017)

BOOK: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

BEER: 4 Pines (Syd, AUS) cherry coconut brown ale

notes: Another WNM book club selection, which I’d read way after the meeting. It’s been on my to-read list for years, and still haven’t seen its TV adaptation, which is apparently really good as well as quite different from the book. I knew it’d be full-on, so chose a beer to get me through its darkness (it did). Also loved what Clint did with the colour scheme of the woman’s garments.

issue #21 (Aug 2017)

BOOK: The Woman In White by Wilkie Collins

BEER: Bright Brewery (Bright, VIC) ‘Stubborn Russian’ imperial stout

notes: It was so much fun writing this, and getting to hang out in Bright despite the fact that it was actually freezing (one morning the hot water system froze over so it took a while to get it going!). Met some faithful Froth readers, who I again bumped into on New Year’s Eve last year, and keep trying to invent reasons to go back up to Bright. and they do kickarse things like raise awareness of important issues, whilst having fun! James & Jenn were fab hosts, as were their two kittehs!

issue #22 (Sep 2017)

BOOK: Wasted: a story of alcohol, grief, and a death in Brisbane by Elspeth Muir

BEER: Shenanigans Brewing (AUS) ‘Flower Power’ grisette

notes: um, risky choice of book when you write for an alcohol mag, BUT both the beer and the book evoked all those pre-summer feels when the flowers are starting to show, and scents of life become more intense. So, a memoir that deals with the death of a family member, and drinking culture in Australia had to go with a beer that is intensely low ABV-wise. It was also the beginning of a three-month stint in Northcote living with two magical creatives, and a cranky-as-fuck tabby. It was the most happy and productive period of my life I’ve had in a reeeeeeeeeeally long time. I love you Danni & Lolly (and Maddy-cat).

issue #23 (Oct 2017)

BOOK: A Horse Walks Into A Bar by David Grossman (translated from the Hebrew by Jessica Cohen)

BEER: Coconspirators Brewing (Melb, AUS) ‘The Bookie’ pale ale

notes: second month of the Northcote sublet, and I found myself starting to go on dates. I met one gorgeous person a while back who didn’t at all like me, and he was mega into film. I’m hopeless with films, but I recall his pretending to sound like a gangster (no, not like an African one that supposedly terrorises Melbourne, whatevs, stupid fucking out-of-touch-with-the-twenty-first-century federal government), and what a hoot this book and beer were! Clint also designs for this Melb-based brewery, who are doing some delish fabbo things. Fond memories!

issue #24 (Nov 2017)

BOOK: A Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

BEER: Two Birds’ Brewing (Melb, AUS) ‘Passion Victim’ summer ale

notes: my last month in Northcote, and my housie Danni was such a sweetie, helping me take profesh photo where the month’s book and empty beer cans are popping out of a showbag!* I cackled out loud reading the book, and chose the beer because summer was coming, and it had Galaxy hops! It also reminded me of how much I miss the sciences. Adams clearly revels in knowledge, in a not-talk-down-to-others kind of way, but in a way that can’t help but infect you with a passion (har har) for the intersections of several disciplines.

*from a Froth launch

issue #25 (Dec 2017-Jan 2018)

BOOK: It’s Raining in Mango by Thea Astley

BEER: Sailors’ Grave (Orbost, AUS) peach melba pavlova cream sour

notes: having found myself in a somewhat oppressive living sitch, I had to lock myself in my room for a day to even read this book, which I totally chose on a whim but is wonderful – why isn’t it better known?! The reviewing beer bit was much easier, though also tricky given I was rehearsing like crazy for a performance. I got asked to leave that sharehouse whilst on a date, sigh. That sucked pretty hardcore. I’m thankfully still friends with the other housemate who is a wonderful human (them and their partner very nearly had to deal with my embarrassed tearful arse after going home from said date).

It was…a character-building year. Got my heart broken a few times, and made some really good, close friends. Hopefully 2018 will mean not having to be hospitalised, and not missing contributing to a single issue of Froth! I might go back and edit these later to reflect the respective themes of each issue (was lax with that, whoops) – this post is already longer than I would’ve preferred.