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all the world’s colours and breakfasts

Supporters: you know who you are. Thank you soooo much! <3

The title of this post is a riff on the French translation of Tous les matins du monde (which translates clunkily into all the world’s mornings. It’s a novel by Pascal Quignard and the film (directed by Alain Corneau) famously has:

    • THE FREAKING VIOLA DA GAMBA (no joke, this film is responsible for bringing the viol to a wider audience. Don’t even get me started on how ace Jordi Savall is)
    • Gérard Depardieu’s suuuuuper-hot son Guillaume, playing the younger Marin Marais (I’m really sorry I’m early-modern-western-music geeking out but the music is sublime – may even have read that the actors who are shown playing the gambas learnt the basics but I’m not going to cite that for you ’cause I’m losing you…! <3)
    • grown men learning music and crying in sheds
    • soundtrack available here! (I don’t feel dirty about sharing a Spotify URL to it because I’ve got it on CD twice. There was a 20th anniversary for the film version, so I’ve got that one, natch. The ‘regular’ one is really my dad’s, hehe

Review proper starts now.

zine: The Suburban Review vol. 7 (writers of colour)* edited by Anupama Pilbrow

full disclosure: I have a piece that appears in this volume, but for the purposes of this post, I am not reviewing it. This is about celebrating and reviewing others’ works who appear. I’ve never read this zine cover-to-cover till now.

drinks: non-alcoholic – Woolworths brand English breakfast tea (day 1 & 2) / alcoholic – Sailors Grave Brewing (Orbost, Vic AUS) coffee breakfast stout; 500mL can, 5% ABV (day 2)

I didn’t really learn the word ‘suburb’ before I came to Australia. In England, places were cities or towns, and in the Philippines they were villages, now that I reflect on where I’ve lived within these countries.

The people that feature in this volume of TSR are amazing. They are intimidatingly talented and their profiles have only grown since it came out. At this year Emerging Writers’ Festival and National Writers’ Conference, I was astounded to learn (pleasepleaseplease read that in the best way possible!) that TSR co-editor Anupama Pilbrow is a mathematician as well as a poet. Recently, I’ve come to see many poetry-pure sciences links as making sense – before I understood them as facts on a page. Perhaps I wanted to see them as distinct rather than celebrate their joyful overlappings.

Anupama’s intro is about representation and how it really matters. Coincidentally, I posted a thread on Twitter the day I started writing this post about how knowing the British-Guyanese writer Fred d’Aguiar even existing means writers like me can claim space?

That last question mark is there – deliberately.

The first piece by Pakistani-based Mahreen Sohail ‘en-route‘ hits me in the feels so hard, I’m not initially prepared. It starts with imaginings of if one were to set fire to a house, then seamlessly moves through the complicated relationship between a mother and a daughter when migration is part of your experience. There were times where I winced reading it because even though I’ve never come across this author’s work before, there is so much that feels familiar – the silences, the I-don’t-want-to-argue-but-I’ll-push-you-to-your-limits-anyway exchanges. Just…wow.

Gomeroi poet and lawyer Alison Whittaker’s ‘Workwork: odes to invisible indigenous burdens‘ has three poems. The first ‘Blackwork’ short, sharp, economical and I love the way she uses dashes and white space. Nothing about the way she uses the page, its language and its space is accidental. It is measured to critique and devastate persons that could be the reader. Here’s a spot that made me go ‘ooh. phwoar. fuck.’:


That dawdling off-trend meme,
White guilt. To survive among it; well,

it’s naff to say, but compul—

—sory to do. …

(excerpt from ‘Blackwork’)

The second poem ‘Heartwork’ is at first literal then metaphorical, in describing the heart and its bodily mechanics. I’m not giving anything away or spoiling the poem for you by quoting its final line:

…—colonially tired, colonially blue.

You can learn more about Alison here, and also note that she is this year’s Indigenous poet-in-residence for the Queensland Poetry Festival after finishing a stint studying in the US.

The Sharmas‘ by Jov Almero is clever, incisive and devastatingly funny. It will make you cringe, wince, giggle, raise your eyebrows in saucy expectation, and it’s refreshing to hear someone write about food and not wax lyrical about it as a transformative cultural experience. Cheeky snorts will happen whilst reading! Also: yea fellow Pinoy!

‘Chorui’ by New Delhi-based Sohini Basak is the kind of poetry I want to write – slightly stream-of-consciousness, uses repetition in a letter-permutation kind of way, and includes personalised taxonomies. It’s about a crow who has a bet going on with a sparrow who claims the crow’s too filthy, so it tries to get washed but can’t – because everything it wants to touch to get clean doesn’t want to get dirty!

                 …then our crow goes to the 

holy cow … milk please … a study in food chain

As I start listening to Radiohead’s Kid A album (one of my favourite musical aids for sleep, and late night working – it’s like musical comfort food?), I read Sean Wai Keung’s ‘Immigration’ poetry sequence. There are two sections called ‘Departure’, and Arrival is in the middle. This review is getting super-long so I’m mindful of that, but it’s such a haunting look at what generations eat and how they travel and what they have to do to survive in the places they’re alien to, in search of a better life. Reading it instills a sad yet necessary pensiveness – it’s nice to be up late now, reading the form I guess I call my writing genre ‘home’ (which stems from my first real love – music) but also a little lonely.

Lee Lai’s comic features a queer couple of colour, one preparing a roast chicken, the other excitedly interrupting. Afterwards, they share the meal and feed each other, and say the most vulnerable, frightening, loving things to each other. ‘Queer people of colour and romantic* contentment’ needs to be a genre! This comic sequence made me smile the way I do when my cat is happy and she just wants to be around me because my existence apparently makes her really settled, and then we catch each others’ content feels.

Eerily, when reading ‘Looking For Cuba’ by Celine Aenlle-Rocha, ‘In Limbo‘ and ‘Idioteque‘ came on. It’s short but impactful, and questions when a person stops and/or starts to belong to a place they are fleeing, and the place they’ve fled to.

Stephanie Chan’s ‘Waterfall’ is a poem/microfiction piece about a first, shared overseas trip to Malaysia. It’s also another lovely example of queer intimacy and is prefaced with a note on its inspiration (Cyril Wong’s poem ‘crossing j. b.’ from their poetry collection Below: Absence – more wonderful poets’ work to look up!).

Ellen van Neerven, a Yugambeh writer, has a short story called ‘Carrier’. It’s kind of wonderful and dark, in that way where you read and don’t quite know what’s going to happen or follow, and know that some bad stuff’s gone down, and your mind just keeps birthing more questions as you read on. The sense of wholeness is in the quotidian scenes of people caring for each other and connecting in the best way possible even if we are stripped down to our best or worst selves. There’s an unease about going on the journey of Jet, the character who’s injured, and this doesn’t resolve with the story’s end. You realise, as a reader, that to want neat resolutions and endings, is actually quite misanthropic towards the writer, and towards humankind.

‘War Flowers’ by Mexican-American poet Fernando Pérez is about photographs, and their lives. Such astounding economy of words evident in tight metaphor and hints at major national historical events. I’ll quote some of my favourite lines:

Those camera flashes that made blue eyes in black and white

appear hollow.

[…]

Revolution let sticks of dynamite fly.

Time in a camera’s flash, rifle mouths in bloom.

I saved drinking the alcoholic selection for this post for the second day of reading. The gorgeous Bengal I’m currently looking after seems to have given me time off to write this, so now I have the evening to finish a can of this gorgeous stout.

It looks like flat cola, and tastes slightly acidic in that way too! Must be citrus, or some sort of bitter citrus oil from rind. Why is this so heavenly? I’m just going to retype the can tasting notes here:

Coffee Breakfast stout brewed with micro-roasted beans by our old friends at Genovese, vanilla beans, cinnamon & a little Lark Whisky barrel oak ageing to boot!

Coffee notes: Jhone Milanez Lacerda – lot #03. Red Catual varietal. Controlled fermentation process. Sitio Santa Rita estate. Serra do Caparao (Brazil) region (altitude: 1250 masl); coffee tasting notes: strawberry jam, candied orange, milk chocolate, ripe jackfruit, juicy mouthfeel. Roasted by Ben Toovey.

HA! Fark am I glad I saved this can as an end-of-the-week drink! No wonder it’s so freaking divine! In case you were wondering, I never read tasting notes of a beer till I’ve drunk at least half a glass of it and tried to name the flavours I think I can get?

So what did I think I could taste? Jam, orange, cocoa, mango tartness, vanilla, chai spice, something to make it taste smooth but thick the way coconut cream is, something boozy.

When it warms up a bit, the acidity is more pronounced and I start to get a bit of that savoury roast coffee feel, but not much. Gosh, this coffee by itself must be dreamy to drink. I’m going to pour my second glass (very coincidentally a Bonne Maman jam jar!), and start reading where I got up to.

‘Final Call’ by Bikram Sharma is about two best friends, one of which has a successful application to study at an overseas university. There’s familial expectation, there’s hints of magic realism very, very subtly woven in, and the story itself is achingly devastating though not in ways you’d expect. It went down paths I definitely did not expect and so deftly; quickly but not rushed.

There’s a lot to process in Atong Atem’s ‘Conversations With Myself, My Mama, My Friend, and My Past Self About The Burden of Re-Learning Intimacy’ – it’s creative non-fiction, and framed through experiences of childhood assimilation, and talking to relatives, and the emotional labour and burnout that goes with uneven (largely platonic, it’s insinuated) relationships. She gives voice to the complicated dance that is displacement, belonging, surviving but not really enjoying existing as an alien.

Khalid Warsame does the same with this list poem? microfiction? piece ‘Secret Shame’, though any piece that intimately admits zolpidem as being part of the creator’s existence is going to have me on board (seriously: I have never embarrassed myself drunk ever the way I have whilst waiting for Stilnox to kick in, if it’s even working. Chronic insomnia is part of my mental illness experience).

Though I’ve largely discussed the works above in order of appearance, Taiwanese artist Mengo Lee’s comic about surviving and looking after an unwell parent was sandwiched between Warsame and Atem’s pieces. It captures and conveys the eerie, dreamy-like state of being in hospital, and waking up and not wanting to really get up out of bed, that could be due to medications or sleep-wake cycles, conscious-unconscious states of being.

The last piece by Wiradjuri writer Hannah Donnelly, ‘Bloodwood’ examines the surreality of colonisers/invaders’ belief systems (I particularly enjoyed the mockery of the union jack symbolism and the weird anti-biological birth that made Jesus’ apparent existence possible), and the title ties and threads all contributions in this volume together. It also reminds us that many of us are still living an ongoing process of decolonisation, if we are persons of colour. How many generations does it take to shed that exhausting burden? I couldn’t resist quoting a line, about water, because it exposes my ‘head’ knowing and understanding that Australian First Nations peoples are the land, and the land is them, I’ll never really know that truth. It’s uncomfortable to admit that, but it also means continuing to learn in earnest and deep, solid hope and optimism. It’s about water reservoirs:

Forced to sit in stillness, the water turned into tainted sorrow that killed them for hoarding its flow

Melbourne-based comic artist Rachel Ang has illustrations peppered throughout relating to the written works featured, and is also responsible for the cover art – having her illustrate the landing page for my ‘Umami’ piece was just…it felt wonderful and special to think that someone could read my piece and create based on it?! (I know I said I wasn’t going to talk about my work, but her illustration is gorgeous and cheerful. There’s a quieter reflective one for Keung’s ‘Immigration’ poems, and a darkly magical one for Sohail’s ‘En-Route’.

I’ll end with a confession below. If you got this far, thank you for reading my gustatory, aural and literary indulgences come together in this post!

no, I don’t have a (self-)signed copy because I think I’m famous or important. It was meant to go to a friend who had read and helped edit my work a few years ago, but he never gave me a postal address whenever I asked him for one, so now I have this embarrassing failed display of emotional warmth that makes me wince a lot more than I previously admitted.

Buy unembarrassingly unsigned copies here for a steal! There’s a loooooot of big-deal creatives in it!!!

(*I find odd things romantic: like being able to sit next to someone you love, and have a comfortable silence in a shared space, and limbs might be touching/brushing against each other, and the world feels whole. Though it’s used in a polyamorous context, I also get compersion a lot in a fair few non-romantic situations)

you got your health, kiddo…

It’s early in the week, the month, the year. I’m nearly forty and still classify myself as a loser (not by choice). My parents are about to retire, and I’m living with them after being bumped out of a shit sharehouse situation (woah, alliteration much?!?!). My job network provider doesn’t think I’m a total burnout* because he sounded remotely interested in the notion of my freelance writing. The person before him – my actual consultant – was a deeply empathic human. I’m guessing this is why he’s no longer in that…’role’.

I’ll always have booze, words and cats, right? I put on  the soundtrack to Miss Sloane, by Max Richter, after having caught Richter’s name in the credits. Watching TV is not a habit that feels comfortable anymore, not while there’s so much daylight.

My folks are out wishing my gorgeous younger nephew a happy birthday, I’m here getting ready for a housesitting gig, and doing a bit of reading, and writing. These posts aren’t for personal or professional gain – it’s to remind me that other creatives exist and to pay tribute. My song might be very, very, very quiet or barely audible, but that’s okay for now.

I got two zines recently from a Brisbane-based distro because I wanted to read Shastra Deo‘s contribution in The Tundish Review #4. It’s pretty exciting to see a Fijian-Indian Brisbane-based poet having a collection published (fuck yeah!) and Junky Comics had some other fabbo offerings. I loaded up my e-cart like a good sad consumer drowning her sorrows with two teeny zines by Linkraptor because: 1. mental health, and 2. who doesn’t love burgers?!?!

You all know I’m all about the mental health crapping on (I have major depressive disorder and NO, YOGA WILL NOT FUCKING CURE IT). You may also appreciate the gentle irony that for most of my life, I struggled with very disordered eating. Hated food. This dramatically changed once my psychiatrist put me on antipsychotics. One in particular stands out as really encouraging me to love food, and that one is called quetiapine (brand name is usually ‘Seroquel’ or variations thereof. I refer to chemical names because that is the constant name they share). As someone who has never taken recreational drugs, the ‘marijuana munchies’ started to make some sort of sense once quetiapine was prescribed for me (for PTSD-type symptoms; no! yoga did not cure it so stop thinking about it!). Holy fuck. GIVE ME ALL THE CHEESEBURGERS. WITH ALL THE BEEF PATTIES. NOW. NOW. NOW.

The last page of ‘Top Secret Burger’ has the words ‘the mission of the secret burger is to give the best burger for whatever you enjoy…’ and it’s a damn pure sentiment. Everyone being entitled to the burger of their dreams – yep, vegans, vegetarians, gluten-free folks…it sounds like a dream, huh?

My cat is lying out of the sun, to my right. There is something supremely comforting, knowing that she’s alive and relaxed, and feeling safe. When I first met her, she was an anxious cat – being a rescue, and belonging to someone else. Watching her gradually ‘undo’ her nervous habits has helped me undo some of mine.

‘Space Out’ has some sentiments that remind me, or help me feel okay about not having all of my long-term memories intact (I explain a bit about that here, but please be mindful that it contains reference to medical procedures some may find disturbing). That we’re fallible because we’re human, and that is okay (well, as long as we’re not doing it on purpose).

Both the zines are like reading a hug from a stranger who is somehow familiar. Isn’t that why we choose to create, and keep on creating? Most of our economies don’t value creatives the way they should – unless they’re able to be profitable (which is totally crap, by the by – please do NOT confuse me for one of those who thinks this is a good way to be). One of the things I like about my depression is that due to seeing the lows the mind can fall to, sometimes a stranger being kind – or being themselves has this ability to make you feel like…you could be a nobody to yourself but someone who doesn’t even know you thinks you’re worth something, and they don’t look to gain from it.

That’s also what this series of posts will hopefully be about. Revelling in multidimensional living when you’ve spent twenty or so years with…the volume turned down, or not up to speed. Rejoicing in half-price boxes of choc-coated matcha ice cream confection-whatsits. Rejoicing in having a clean, dry, warm bed to sleep in. Not worrying about how much you get paid, and when that will be.

Soooo, guess who’s the dumbarse who totes picked a tinnie based on its purty label! Was expecting a watermelony gose like the one I’d tried at Bar SK but accidentally got one that tastes like seaweed and a bitter lager – which is actually the pilsner influence! And no, the seaweed isn’t gross, and – bear with me – isn’t awful! Goses are supposed to be salty anyway, and this had that savoury, clean Mex-lagerish thing happening that went well with my matcha ice cream splurge. It’s sort of sad that just as I was really digging ‘Down She Gose’, it finished!

Just as it was starting to warm up and get less lager-pilsnerish, it was GONE. Having said that, in terms of gose-country, it’s not that salty or sour, but that might make it an entry-level beer into that style (protip: now you know what to get for your beer-nerdy family member/friend/colleague etc.).

If you have a perv on their website, they have quite a few fab tinnies (the grapefruit and marigold saison sounds divine?!). Anyway, keep an open mind and palate! Seaweed-salty low-booze beer is way better than you think it’d sound. Besides, this is Melbourne, we’re used to assaulting newfangled sensations!

In acknowledging that not everyone wants to drink alcohol, a great non-alcoholic alternative might be genmaicha (Japanese roasted rice green tea). Of course it goes well with sushi, and light, subtle flavours. Hit me up with hiyayakko right now, please!

*sings* it’s gonna be alright…with Gigiiiiiiii…

*worth watching the whole thing, but from 4’24” is why I’ve hotlinked it!