Tag Archives: Midsumma Festival

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.

 

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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.

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