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Plumwood Mountain: review of ‘Mirror Sydney’ by Vanessa Berry

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When the review opens, you can click and choose what sections to read. If you wish to go back to a previous section you’ve just read, at the top left-hand-side there is a ‘U-turn’ arrow. You can click on that and it will send you back.

Compass Points- a blueprint for an ecopoetic review of Vanessa Berry’s ‘Mirror Sydney’ as a disabled narrative – reading process by Gemma Mahadeo

Plumwood Mountain: an Australian journal of ecopoetry and ecopoetics is founded and run by poet Anne Elvey.

This book review was written using Twine. I used the Harlow 2.1.0 format by Leon Arnott (the default format in Twine 2)

blueprint for a lifehack, zineful of wolfpack (sic)

For the first time in A MONTH I’ve finally woken up at a decent hour, got out of bed, stayed upright, had meds and breakfast/appetite. It’s not groundbreaking: good sleep is essential to survival.

When I started my new job, much like another writing pal whose work you should support (hi Ali!), I had this idea that I’d use my work days to only focus on getting ready for work (travel, be dressed and ready, eat well etc.), and on my days ‘at home’, I’d blog here, or write and edit poetry and works-in-progress and book reviews.

That hasn’t really happened. My sleep cycle has been pretty bad of late, as I either crash too early to avoid life, or can’t sleep at all even though I need to be up by a certain time the following day. Cut to today where I woke up this morning (like, early), was actually starving and spent a bit-lot of $ on a lifehack thing I do when I’ve spent a sad day in bed: wake up early the day after, get breakfast and lunch ordered on delivery services…

It’s a lifesaver for folks with a chronic mental health condition. I know it’s not socially very responsible, but it’s hauled my arse out more times than I count. The trick is to get two serves of food so that when you’re too exhausted to prepare anything for next time you feel awful (which unfortunately, will happen), you’ve got a reserve (an açai bowl) in the fridge!

zine: Woolf Pack #10

drink: NU Healthy Cafe ‘Honey Nutter’ smoothie

Confession: I kind of slammed down my smoothie so only had a tiny bit left when I started reading the zine. Probably because it had: chocolate protein (powder?), peanut butter, chia seeds, and honey! It was delicious, not too thick, and had that thing going where you keep drinking and keep going ‘um, just one more sip’ and then all of a sudden the whole thing is gone.

Your day is off to a good start when you’ve eaten and you’re reading an essay on fat pink Pokémon?! The zine starts off with an editorial (am assuming) from editor-in-chief Rebecca Cheers about feminism and #metoo in Hollywood (let’s not forget that it was created by Tarana Burke a decade ago), before a playful but thoughful piece by the zine’s visual editor Talia Enright. There does seem to be a fair bit of cute, popcult discussion on the queerness of Pokémon, more recently as detailed in this delightful Junkee article (initially viewed in the author’s Twitter feed). For someone who was just a tad too old to catch the initial Pokémon craze, it’s pretty gleeful to learn that queerness and Pokémon doesn’t have to be age-specific: they’re allowed to keep morphing to suit whoever wants to find them a source of joy and identity.

Talia also has a few illustrations in this issue, as well as an excellent recipe for soy and sriracha tofu which I’m dying to try!

There’s also an essay on episodes from Black Mirror by Humyara Mahbub which name-checks some theorists that make my brain hurt this early in the morning (ie. anything before midday) but must confess that while loving this essay, I still haven’t seen any eps from start to finish (and forgotten ones I have seen bits of). I try not to watch a lot of TV because it’s usually my time-wasting thing, or my starting-to-get-really-unwell thing and try to funnel that energy into reading instead (though recently have been a bit obsessed with Versailles and more generally music from the period à la Le roi danse because it reminds me of a happier, more productive period in my life most likely never to happen again).

I tell myself I don’t like writing fiction, but seem to enjoy reading it when it’s in an anthology or zine. ‘Love and Baked Goods’ by Helen Taylor is really cute and full of that unspoken longing that two people sorta-kinda-maybe mutually acknowledge but don’t do anything about, and ‘Dead Channel’ by Brianna Bullen invokes my empathy so much in that it probably reminds me a bit too much of life not that long ago despite its highly speculative element of accessing ‘memory labs’ to experiences others’ memories.

Bec Jessen (‘there is nothing you could ask or I could tell that would reveal a true thing about me’) and Rae White (‘Go and Gone’) are two Brisbane-based poets who I met briefly at QPF, and the work they have in this issue are loooooovely in that they both articulate intimacies and awkwardnesses that exist outside of gender and heteronormative constructs.

The last piece I’ll mention is Honor Webster-Mannison’s ‘Inside Problems’, sequential art about imagining the interior very literally (the house one lives in and one’s body), and the interior emotional lives of oneself and others. There’s also a beautiful bit of text:

…out is a world born by endless roads filled with cars with windows rolled down to shout ‘suck’. It’s filled with mothers with laser gun eyes, with fathers at home, with leaf blower limbs that they wish were machine guns.

Tried to keep this one short and sweet, in the spirit of GETTING! SHIZ! DONE!

 

 

purple pink purple green

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…

blood sugar, sex, maybe some magic

*insert general excitement about having new Patreon supporters*

Look, it’s never going to get old. People wanting to support one’s creativity…it really does feel fantastic.

I wasn’t having a great last few days, but made the effort today to do some self-care stuff, and epic adulting (how good is it that you can pay your car registration in three-monthly instalments, praise the capitalist lords?!). After testing to see that That’s Alotta Donuts really is 24-7 (?!?! who needs doughnuts that urgently?!), I bought some lemon meringue ones, some white choc and raspberry ones, and one each of a Rocky Road and Ferrero Rocher. I’d chosen them having in mind to pair them with a dark beer. A riffle through my zine collection, and lo and behold, a fun theme emerged!

zine: Pizza Echoes by Michael Hawkins (printed by Glom Press; $10 from Junky Comics distro)

beer: Red Duck Sexy Thing chocolate and chilli dark ale (500mL; 6.9% ABV limited release)

guest appearance: lemon meringue + white choc & raspberry doughnuts from That’s Alotta Donuts

Over the weekend, I had another one of Red Duck’s limited release beers I’d been keen to try for a while (the Choki Boki) – it full-on looked like chocolate milk, frothed in the same way, and smelled of glorious caramelly, chocolatish biscuit goodness! Sadly, this did not quite translate to the palate. Sexy Thing is completely different – it is delightful, rich, really smooth and now I wish I had an extra bottle. It went really well with the lemon meringue doughnut which isn’t all that sweet, and is a doughy, gooey, fluffy flavoured air treat to eat. Seriously, I hate making a mess when eating, but it’s absolutely impossible to eat the lemon meringue doughnut neatly. Etiquette school be damned!

So yeah, the doughnuts are GONE, the beer’s just about on its way to disappearing, so now it’s zine reading time. An A5 riso-print zine about pizza in turquoise, neon green and neon pink? Even the staples are pink?! <3

Three siblings seem to be bonding over a misplaced childhood toy known as the ‘metal b.f.’ They chat about several places they’ve lived and someone brings in a pizza. One sibling can’t really recall their time there, so the other two try to jog the memory by describing their pizza-making antics.

Storytelling and reminiscing, shared food and oddities such as the metal b.f. are weirdly and lovingly intertwined…just when you think one bit’s about to get freaky, one of those three elements will kind of ‘anchor’ the story to prevent it going fully surreal. This lot sound like the most adorable siblings – it’s got shades of Stranger Things, and Stephen King’s ItPossibly even Paper Girls? In case you’re wondering, I recommend all these things, except maybe don’t watch It unless you’re okay with clowns. The book felt much less vivid, though totally just as scary.

So…do you have any weird pizza stories? Perhaps it’s like the cheese dream phenomenon? My Monday evening has panned out (ha! see what I…?!) better than it felt it would when I first woke up today.