content warning: slight mention of self-medication with alcohol (not reviewing alcohol for this one though!)
I know, I was supposed to have one of these up ages, but got slammed with work. I started a new job, came off my second antidepressant (because I’d gained too much weight, and guess what, now I’m just not sleeping as well) and had a few freelance deadlines that had quick turnaround.
I know, I know, living the overworked, underpaid creative dream but I feel like because my mental health isn’t an acute worry, I can’t really refuse the ace work that’s coming my way. It does tend to mean on days off, sometimes I just sleep the whole bloomin’ day or try to do as little as possible. I also finally got confirmed as having premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and the months where it doesn’t pwn my mood, there’s just so much blood. Been joking that I’m a DIY pagan ritual (probably inspired by a particular scene in s3 of Outlander – Jamie Fraser isn’t the only red babe…?)
Anyway, maybe some more cheerful stuff! Finally got to go through a stack of zines I bought when visiting Brisbane and found that I’ve got two copies of the zine I’m reviewing today. Nice one, doofus!
zine: The Tundish Review #5 (Apr 2018) by various authors; edited by Katelyn Goyen & Nick van Buuren
drink: Macro Wholefoods matcha (with milk and maple syrup) to make a matcha latte!
I’m going to lay off the booze for a couple of weeks because drinking when you’re run-down or have epic insomnia is not a good idea (yes, I’ve been less responsible before, and not proud of it). It’s weird but am also slightly proud of myself for wanting to develop healthier habits since I got a regularish job?
Matcha lattes are so first-world wanker I can’t even but I love them: I love how bitter matcha, and how rich it is with milk and soft, caramelly sugar. I suck at making them, but am practising while I have access to my dad’s fan-ceh milk frother whatsit. They’re also a bit of an energy kick in the same way tea is? I’m actually one of those weirdoes who isn’t kept up by black tea, but forget drinking coffee regularly on my current dosage of my day antidepressant unless I’ve had three full meals a day, if you know what I mean…
The Tundish Review is a zine from Brisbane, where the Queensland Poetry Festival was. Part of the festival had a mini-zine fair at Bloodhound Bar (omg I drank so much good beer there – Trois Mousquetaires ho-lee fark! and even got to share a bottle of one of Moon Dog’s Black Lung iterations with Healthy Party Girl!), and you gotta support the artists and buy all the zines when you can!
Um, so the zine. Gorgeous line illustrations and starts with a poem by Robbie Coburn about fucking Rimbaud. Ouais, ouais, ça je sais, Rimbaud est magnifique et tout les poetès veulent manger son cul défunte, I get it: Rimbaud’s a big deal to European poetry and he kind of had a rock star life before rock stars existed, but NNGH. I dunno, let’s make a bigger deal over Louise Labé or something?
I’m sorry, that turned into a rant. I shouldn’t be knocking a more accomplished poet than myself based on what their inspirations are – I can be pretty insufferable when harping on about Sir Thomas Wyatt (making heartbreak cool, yo, in early modern English, gush! You lust after that swan Anne Boleyn!). And look, it’s a lovely poem but maybe I just expect to be shaken and turned on by contemporary poets in all possible ways. It’s a beautiful poem for a reflective, quieter headspace.
But then I will still go all mushy over a villanelle? Isn’t that just as wanky-exclusionary as being in love with Rimbaud? ‘Villanelle for the sleeping Orlando’ by Frankie Brown is poignant, has striking imagery and I totally want more after the poem is finished! It’s also not a strict villanelle, so it doesn’t read as forced or contrived.
It turns out I’m not the only person with a rant up my sleeve! ‘Existentialist Letters’, addressed to Sartre may just have restored some faith in humanity, it’s just the kind of continental philosophy/anti-Anglo-Aus snark you need and picks apart some of the privileges first-world wypipo have…and abuse.The croissant rant is inspired! Maddeningly, it doesn’t say who it’s by, pout!
Raelee Lancaster’s ‘An open letter to my father’ is heartbreaking in all the right ways and a shift in emotional tone from debates above to the deeply personal. These are the sorts of contemporary poems that shake a reader to their core…I don’t think even think my work now is as brave, vulnerable and reflective as Raelee’s? Will it ever be? This is why I shouldn’t be knocking younger poets like above…? *blush* I heard Raelee read her work on a local indie radio station and remember being hungry for more of her work (which you can find in Overland).
Is it okay to admit that I needed a lot of time between now and reading Raelee’s poem? For all the right reasons…guess that’s part of the sensitive creative thing, eh?
John Ballot’s ‘Just-a-boy and his shadows’ has sparse, cut-to-quick imagery about driving at night. The attention to tension and grip on the steering wheel, and how it can give away so much about a person if their face belies none of the stress or concentration needed for driving. There were so many ‘yes!’ spots in the poem, but this line made me exhale loudly:
bark is steel at 160kmh
One of the uniquely Australian experiences I will always remember is driving in areas of complete darkness, It reminds me of when my family first moved to Melbourne, and how some parts of it still had dirt roads! That halo of ‘perfumed light envelops You’ as you try to swivel your steering wheel as quickly and as economically as possible to get back into better visibility where things feel less daunting.
The next poem is a hybrid poem-as-recipe or perhaps vice versa: ‘Cocoanut Cake: an Emily Dickinson Recipe’, which takes lines from Dickinson’s work, and a recipe of the aforementioned coconut cake which you can get at the Poet’s House at Harvard College (not university). Dickinson’s poetry is the kind that years later, you can still be finding koans in her single lines that didn’t occur to you, oh, twenty years ago? If you don’t believe me, check out ModPo. I did it a few years ago when I wasn’t well enough to write or do anything at a sustained level – it really helped me find my way home to poetry and literature. It doesn’t say who mixed/arranged this poem, but it’s really fun!
Morgan Kinghorn’s ‘Criminal Code Act 1899 sect. 224, 225, 226’ starts with each stanza with a question of the same form, and then asks for qualifiers on that initial question. It’s an interrogative poem, with erotic and existential turns, ending with the subject framed as the ‘other’ or an abstraction. It’s an odd one, but in a really satisfying way, and the images and questions are simple but feel necessary.
While at the Queensland Poetry Festival, it was a relief to be able to talk to another poet of colour about how obsessed white poets are with centos. Yes, I get that they’re all about skill and poetic craft, but they are also quite classist: they’re meant to make poets (like me – autodidact poets are not considered good at their craft unless they mimic their ‘intellectual betters’ very, very well) without their knowledge feel second-rate. You’re basically showing off what you’ve read, and then ‘remixing’ other peoples’ works and continue the lineage of homage-wank (reification of new exclusionary ‘canons’). You bored reading this rant yet?
‘Alphabeat Soup – @realCagedTrump’ is a cento using (dear god) Donald Trumps Twitter updates interlaced with Maya Angelou’s ‘Caged Bird’ – this is the kind of playful genius one wants from art! It’s heartbreaking (as anything to do with Trump if you have half a heart is, I’m not budging on this), and it’s also the kind of poetic innovation that old white male exclusionary-town poets wouldn’t catch themselves doing. Also kind of scary as I imagine the poet who wrote this cento had to become very familiar with The Donald’s Twitterstream which sometimes reads as if he’s a fascist or a contemporary of Ezra Pound when he got all ranty.
Andrew McGowan’s ‘Grimace’ is naturalistic and gruesome and set in an Australian gothic sort of aesthetic. The strongest parts are where nature’s brutality is documented and not ‘explained away’ – e.g. ants eating and decaying a dead bird, ‘Dragonflies and mosquitoes murder / each other, a colossal hum.’ The place setting is compelling, and I wish the poem focussed more on that and really pared back mentions or statements from the human subject. I’d be keen to read more poems set in this place of quiet, implied menace.
The second-last piece is a mini-essay called ‘Good Form’ about rhyme, half-rhyme, slant rhyme, internal rhyme and eye rhyme. It’s a bit down on nursery rhymes (but the greats Pope, Shakespeare, Poe, and Chaucer are okay, YAWN. Christ: reading Chaucer in middle English is really fucking hard work). It does end to say that poets should be open to wandering off the rhyming path, which to be honest, if you haven’t hit upon that now as a practising poet (ideally you should be able to do both rhyming and non-rhyming poetry) best to start trying ASAP?
Then to end, there’s an exercise! ‘The Man From Snowy (Blank)’ suggests that you:
fill in the blanks to create your very own canonical Australian ballad. Whether you’re naughty or nice to old mate Banjo try reading the Good Form feature on rhyme first and see what you can do with this dusty ABABCDCD rhyme scheme here.
Always good to have a bit of audience participation! Might have a go for next Patreon blog post when I review the other Tundish Review issue I have…