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’.
Damn queer, it’s a loud-and-proud photo! Wrote a poem, edited another, drank a delish tinnie and continued reading a fab issue of Rabbit Poetry Journal – the Indigenous issue. The work is gob-smackingly good, and the interviews with the poets are fantastic to slowly pore over. (Blog post URL to follow!) Cheers to @audacious_monk_cellars which has become my almost-local bottleshop 🙂
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.