Tag Archives: canned beer reviews

s(h)i(t)ck life stuff happens

content warning: self-harm ideation (body horror), mental illness (depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder), eating disorders, health issues related to being assigned female at birth


zine: Cooking With Baggage (& Verve): Lessons From An Ex-Vegan Ex-Chef by Cher Tan (find them on Twitter here. Check out their other zines here.

drink: The Matriarch New England India Pale Ale (NE IPA) (355mL can, 6.5% ABV) by CoConspirators Brewing Co.

music: Ghost Stories For Christmas by Aidan Moffat & RM Hubbert

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This is kind of confusing because a new blog post is live on my blog, but that means a completely new one is up on my Patreon. patreon.com/posts/s-h-i-t-ck-life-29478582 ($) Anyway, latest free one: https://eatdrinkstagger.com/sick-life-happens/ Latest Patreon one is @coconspiratorsbeer ‘The Matriarch’ and @palindrome678’s zine ‘Cooking With Baggage (& Verve): Lessons From An Ex-Vegan Ex-Chef visual descriptor: 1. a green beer can with a caricature of a rich old white lady, right to a filled glass of beer, hazy orange-amber. At forefront is the black & white zine, illustrated. 2. The green beer can with caricature of old rich white lady and filled glass with beer, side by side on a wooden chest of drawers.

A post shared by Gemma E. Mahadeo (@eatdrinkstagger) on

I know I’ve been in worse situations before health-wise, but a fortnight ago (edit: mid-Aug 2019), some equally amazing professional stuff happened, and some pretty awful health and life stuff did too.

I don’t know what will happen with the life stuff and its resolution, but I need to learn to deal with that. I’m more worried about the health stuff. I’m officially in a depressive episode again (it’s been a while, so it’s okay, we’re old predictable mates), but the premenstrual dysphoric disorder treatment is just…it’s not killing me, but even when your shrink in absolute sympathy tells you it’s still a bloke’s world, what do you do? Oestrogen patches, epic nausea (again), and menstrual blood that’s not even supposed to exist. It makes me hate being assigned female at birth, why can’t I be saved from my own body?

I’ve been getting a bit more public about identifying as non-binary, and I’ve no intention of changing what I like to call the ‘sack’ I’ve come in…unless my PMDD symptoms are extreme. One recurring fantasy I have is of cutting off my breasts with an amazing Japanese culinary knife (because they’re known for their sharpness and quality, there’s no cultural misappropriation shit happening here), even though it’s the menstruation that brings on these gruesome desires.

Perhaps presumptuous, but I consider the zine author a good friend and colleague. We’re very similar in the kind of ‘Asian’ that we are…we don’t tell our immediate families everything, we’re kind of considered weirdoes by them, and Cher is also infinitely more talented than I am as a writer. Uni education can’t teach you some shit (don’t get me wrong, I’m really fucking grateful for spending my undergrad time reading books I fucking LOVED), and Cher is living proof of that. I wish the Australian writing would get over itself in terms of its love affair with academia wank and just…I dunno, adopt a rescue pet, maybe?

Cher and I also listen to a lot of music that is coded as that meant for white people. We don’t do this deliberately, we just listen to music that moves us?! Isn’t that what music is for? So yeah, they’re also in a punk/noise band, and can’t wait to see them perform in a few weeks. If you can’t already tell, I’m a pathetic fanperson for Cher.

An old joke, but I love dangerlam‘s drawing of me, Cher, and Sonia Nair here because we look like a badarse power metal trio. I was freaking terrified the first time I met Cher, and was having severe impostor syndrome about what the hell EWF was doing programming me with a critic like Son!

Sadly, upon reading Cher’s zine intro, I realise we have a lot of really shit things in common. Yeah, yeah, all Asians are supposed to love food! (sarcasm) Asian parents aren’t exactly the first to pick up on the fact that disordered eating can stem from:

  • a. it feels like the only aspect of your life you have control in (if your family unit is controlling/strict)
  • b. as an Asian child, you’re expected to be fucking perfect at fucking everything – this can bleed into the way you start to look at food; abstention from the ‘pollution’ of consumption looks like a way to emulate perfection, or reaching it?

For me, meals at my house as a child till I moved out of home were sheer hell. I can recall this even from my London childhood. Because there was no choice over what I ate or portions thereof, I somehow got really good at being a closet pseudo-anorexic: just restrictive enough to not register as having an issue. In Year 9 (when I had my first year-long major depressive episode), I got my arse kicked for hoarding sandwiches with SEVERAL layers of ham in them, rotting in my school bag. I got picked on so much for lunches I didn’t even want to eat. I was too scared to throw them out at school, and knew there was no way I could throw them out at home. I didn’t exactly have a lot of spatial freedom – till I started uni (thank god). As a teen, I also developed irritable bowel syndrome: just another way to piss off my mum because she didn’t exactly take well to the suggestion that it’s stress-related. To be honest, neither do I. I wanted to be tougher than that, so I ignored all my mental health issues because that was what strong people did. I would grow up strong.

Not that it mattered. My mother was too angry at me for x, y, z to register that I even had major psychological issues start early (anxiety, depression, possibly PMDD), and my father worked too much to notice…anything. For them as psychiatric nurses, mental illness didn’t hit people you weren’t treating. She isn’t big on empathy (she no longer calls as my health issues are worse than hers).

Also like Cher, I learnt to cook pretty late in life – maybe at 19, when I first moved out in second year uni, from Marie Claire cookbooks before Donna Hay got famous, authored by her! Yep, I’m that old. Sometimes, I’d return home to try and cook for my parents. My father once took a look at a chicken pilaf I’d made, shook his head and pursed his lips and said he wasn’t eating that. I was gutted, but not surprised. My parents are not people to pay me compliments.

Cher once cooked for me and it was fucking fantastic. Nothing fancy or major, but it was about the setting and experience: sitting on a balcony, drinking tinnies, sitting on milk crates. I scarfed down my serving of her dish.

A far cry from the human who didn’t learn to really enjoy food until I was put on an antipsychotic called quetiapine (Seroquel). In smaller doses, it’s great for chronic anxiety (which I now realised was the sort that came with PTSD) and hoo boy, did I gain weight taking that med! To the point where cholesterol levels were an issue. You will not have any control over what you crave. My main ones were rich fatty foods, meat, cheese, lots of beer. Decent cheeseburgers. Why didn’t anyone tell me food could taste this amazing?!?!

Mirtazapine, an antidepressant also great for chronic anxiety, can do the same thing. My main craving for that (which was also depression eating because I was in an abusive work environment for the first half of 2018) was matcha flavoured icecream. Hit me up with all the tubs.

I love that Cher isn’t into any of that ‘authentic’ bullshit and, like me, just embraces when something tastes damn good even if it’s not part of the recipe. Likeomg, you mean you can change or adapt recipes to your liking?! No fucking way!

I want to try making Hainanese chicken rice (no way can I pull that off, unfortunately), the palak chicken paneer on cauli mash (because I am the world’s worst South Asian Indian diaspora kid ever that actually wants to cook Indian cuisine. My brother, I’m sure, wouldn’t give a hoot about learning *wink*), and the Singaporean-Malaysian-style chicken curry because roti c(h)anai is the fucking flavour bomb.

Seriously, reading the zine, I’d forgotten about my beer, but I did make tasting notes before starting to read, so we’re all good. I constantly harp on about how I have no formal training when it comes to beer tasting because a lot of me does feel like a fraud in that respect. Having said that, I’d LOVE to take the cicerone (beer sommelier) exams now that they hold some sessions in Melb/Aus, but it’s just another dream. It’d be great to write more eloquently on something I love so much but would I stop writing in a way that communicates my love and wants to share that love with you readers (for which I am grateful – for every single one of you, don’t you dare forget it)?

Check out the above IG embed for the photo of The Matriarch and the full (!!!) beer glass next to it, mmm-hmm. I can’t move it. It’s stuck there (ie. it’s too tricky, soz!).

I love The Matriarch. It’s a beer I’ve demolished many of tinnie of, expect to do more of, or even on tap. It’s not going to kill your palate with bitterness so it’s a great intro to folks who say they hate beer but are willing to give something new a go because…they’re ace and not coeliac (I have a wonderful mate who is, and it breaks my heart that I can’t wax lyrical on amazeballs beers with him. Gluten-free options exist, but they’re slim). Clint aka. Pocketbeagles is an amazing designer and all-round fab human (he was once super-nice to me when I was crying in public at a Froth launch) but I don’t have the guts to suggest to him to maybe do a non-white CoCon character…I’m a coward. A burnt-out one.

*Patreon-only tasting notes appear here*

As a queer person of colour, however, there are a couple of things about the brewery that I try to ignore (seriously, this lot cannot put a foot wrong with the beer they make) or when I try to be vocal about, guess who isn’t listening? Um, only the entire cishet white beer industry. Why the fuck does no one ever talk about 2 Brothers?!?! No really, whitemansplain it to me! Is it ’cause they’re Azn bros? Their Kung Foo rice lager is a killer accompaniment to a wide variety of Asian cuisine.

Doctor’s Orders Brewing (on hiatus at present) do this thing where they don’t brew from a set, fixed location all the time and they refer to themselves as ‘cuckoo’ brewers. Cuckoos (cheeky bastards!) lay eggs in other birds’ nests!

CoConspirators Brewing Co. frequently refer to themselves as ‘gypsy’ brewers. Unfortunately, most of the Australian beer media industry doesn’t give a shit that this is considered pejorative. In parts of Europe, it’d be like saying the ‘n’ word to someone from the African diaspora, but Aussies love travelling! If they don’t see or live this, then is it really true? I had to block an Anglo-Aussie male on Twitter who got into this very discussion with me. Never mind that I was fucking born in Europe.

I’m tired of shutting up about these issues. I got emotionally flogged by various folks as a result of giving a speech at the launch of the Shifting The Balance report led by Diversity Arts Australia. This was one of the few times people were paying attention to this small feminine-presenting creative of colour and it wasn’t something to be forgotten after the event. So yeah, I know the (Anglo-)Australian beer industry don’t give a hoot for my opinion, but damn, it breaks my heart that I’ll never see a face like mine on the cute CoConspirator can labels or tap badges. I try to laugh it off, but it hurts.

I’m also going to assume you know my choosing a beer called The Matriarch isn’t unintentional. It stands for a lot of things that oppress me, in society, and culturally. My personal protest is to never become one. That’s all I can do with my brand of intersectional feminism.

The music choice? It’s because Christmas isn’t warm and fuzzy for everyone. I recently tried to explain this to a gorgeous woman I matched with on Tinder. She unmatched me when I told her that Christmas and family dynamics were stressful for me. I’m not surprised, but phwoah, it stung! White queers don’t really like me (or the ones I’ve been on first dates with like to pas-ag or neg on me).

I’m so sorry this was so long! If you got this far, thanks so much for reading (and you Patreon lot, I am bear hugging you in my mind’s eye). Corny but true: en route using a ridic expensive pool rideshare, I thought to myself “Gem, every second, minute, hour, day, week, year you survive is triumph. Try to focus on surviving second by second, then minute by minute. The rest might start to feel a bit more doable.”

P.S. oh okay, there was this one time a person of colour featured on a CoCon beer… and let’s face it: West Indian rum is pretty fucking special.

If there’s any breweries that want to make a beer called ‘The Poet’ and put my ugly yellow-brown mug on it, let me know! People of colour have dreams too, y’know.

brexistential gothic in brunswick

I grew up in Melbourne, so you’d think I’d know not to rely on weather forecasts that are more than three days old.

Sadly, some of us are amusingly slow to get the memo, or perhaps just unusually optismistic about the wrong things. I’m catsitting for a mate, and wondering why I’m sweating buckets and why my laundry is dry as soon as it comes out of the washing machine. It’s 39 C. I’m thirty-nine. And still an idiot.

zine: Riz Ahmed Eldritch Erotica by Black Book Shoppe

drink: Australian Gothic dry hopped apricot farmhouse ale with wormwood (5.4% ABV, 355mL can) by Sailors Grave Brewing (Orbost, VIC)

music: Merrie Land (2018) by The Good, The Bad & The Queen (squee!)

There’s this series of zines called ‘Eldritch Erotica’ and they’re dedicated to men I embarrassingly hadn’t heard of till semi-recently. Actually, I had heard of Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame (thanks Shang Lun for singing the soundtrack back in good ol’ ADB days!), and recently learnt that Jason Momoa is a jerk but only seen pics of Riz Ahmed (phwoar, dishy…). Because he’s born in the UK, this zine is set in London (my birth city: its weather also being somewhat…infamous).

I’ve also saved my first listen of The Good, The Bad and The Queen’s new album (holy fuck! it’s been a bloody decade since their debut?!) Merrie Land for a proper listen. My fave community radio station had said that the album had been described as a product/example of ‘Brexistentialism’ (if you don’t know wtf is going on in the UK re. Brexit then you’re just deliberately ignoring the news) – a contrast to the debut which came out when England was all about expanding and being more connected to the north.

Of course I managed to muck up pouring the bloody beer into a glass, which I’ve had (and looooooved) before. The wormwood this time around isn’t as pronounced (to be fair, it’s been in a fridge for a fair few months) and has more of the slight sourness expected from a farmhouse ale. The first time I had it, it was a bit more floral and fragrant…which I guess was the wormwood (yep, the stuff that used to be in absinthe and made a fair few French 19th-century artists very, very unwell…).

I’m not really paying much attention to the lyrics on the album because it sounds like they’re using recorders or a recorder synth sound and it’s giving me British primary school flashbacks (in case you were wondering, they expected more from their students on the recorder than they did here in Australia. It was only really an aurally painful experience here). They also use the Welsh Male Choir in a lot of the tracks – it’s sad in a childhood flashback kind of way. I keep expecting Aled Jones to break everyone’s hearts with his ‘Walking In The Air‘ (seriously: how is The Snowman a happy Christmas experience?!?! It’s beautiful but it’s really bloody hauntingly sad – sorry, that was a long aside).

The zine. Like the Lin-Manuel one, it’s a choose-your-own-adventure and begins in London. The person you’re pretending to be is nice and awkward, and starts off with hot drinks, and autumn before progressing to tumbling in fallen leaves (I usually die or get to a dead end on the first go of these zines). The reason I love autumn in Melbourne so much is reminds me of England. It’s not too cold, it’s much easier for anyone to feign some sartorial competence, and the colours…

And it looks like I’ve spoken too soon: after an extended bout of affectionate shenanigans, Riz just vanishes?! Should I have fed the ducks in Hyde Park? Checked out the old building? I didn’t want to go shopping in the city, that’s boooooooring! Unless it’s for books…? Or clubbing, I’d just make a fool of my myself on the dancefloor, sob. I can already hear an uncle making fun of me for wearing ‘dem tum-byoy tups an’ dem dawk marten beutsss’* (I’m not taking the piss: that’s is exactly what he said to me the last time I was in England. I still have those boots, probably the longest long-term relationship I’ve ever had if you don’t count the one I have with my shrink).

Usually once I reach my second dead-end or read-through, I read all of the pages from start to finish, but the album I’m listening to is on its last track, and my beer is very, very patiently waiting for me to scarf it down.

*translation: them tomboy tops and them Doc Marten boots

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)