Judith Wright Poetry Prize

The results of the 2017 Judith Wright Poetry Prize were announced yesterday, and I was happy to discover that my poem ‘Hot Clouds’ was highly commended.

Established in 2007, this prize brings attention to emerging poets, who have published no more than one collection of poems.

Congratulations to the winner Evelyn Araluen, and to all the shortlisted poets. There were 1000 entries, apparently, which means the competition was fierce!

You can read the first, second and third prize winning poems in the March edition of Overland.

And you can read ‘Hot Clouds’ as soon as I publish my first collection (which should only take another forty or so years…)

This is a Voice

During the last two weeks of 2017 I performed at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum as part of the exhibition This is a Voice.

I was one of a number of people who provided a live ‘voicing’ for the exhibition, which in my case meant thirty minutes of spoken word poetry. Visitors were free to wander in and out during the voicing, as you would an artwork in a gallery.

I’ve performed at spoken word events around Sydney, but never for thirty entire minutes; it was an epic feat! I had to memorise a lot of material, and I had to learn how to ‘read’ an audience within a live setting. I ended up changing my set every time I did a voicing, to keep it feeling fresh and spontaneous.

The best part of the experience was getting past those initial nervous jitters and settling into the performance peacefully and joyfully. When you have thirty minutes to fill, you can’t just race through everything in a bid to ‘get it over with’. You have to pace yourself, take deep breaths, and allow the silences in between the lines and stanzas to ‘speak’ for themselves. I believe that poetry is really just an intricate frame around silence, and for the first time in my life I became comfortable with simply standing before an audience, with stillness and presence.

I am incredibly grateful to the Program Producer David Greenhalgh; thank you for putting Australian poetry in a museum!

Here is a photo of me in action:

 

Erasable Poetry

Yes, it is true, I have officially become an Insta Poet.

One of the reasons this platform makes me uneasy is because it is so ephemeral (which is a euphemistic way of saying ‘disposable’) – poetry necessarily takes time, whereas the entire premise of Instagram is that it is… insant.

But I’ve decided to put my grumpiness aside and instead embrace the medium by creating ‘Erasable Poetry’. These are spur-of-the-moment poems I’m writing with whiteboard markers on erasable surfaces.

I write the poem, snap a photo, post it on Insta, and then erase it. It’s an entirely different process to what I’m used to (many of my ‘real’ poems have taken actual years to complete, if you chart the process from first draft through to publication). The quality of my Insta poetry obviously isn’t as good, but it’s fun to write, and it’s a nice way to stay creative within a busy life.

As for the other #poetsofinstagram. With very few exceptions, they would all benefit from reading a lot more poetry (the sort that comes in ‘book’ format) and from being open to constructive criticism. If you’re in the game solely for affirmation and accolades, you’ve picked the wrong art form.

My two cents!

Pink Cover

Honoured to have been included in the inaugural edition of Pink Cover zine. If you can get your hands on a physical artefact, it’s a work of art; lovingly hand-collaged by the talented and passionate Samantha Trayhurn.

The launch was fun, although I should apologise for disappearing so early; I get overwhelmed in rooms full of writers! Everyone taking detailed notes with their large brains…

I don’t do Twitter (for reasons also relating to anxiety) but I did appreciate the shout-out from Anne Casey, thank you!

Here’s me at the launch, before I drank too much alcoholic lemonade and went home to lie on the floor next to my cat:

Photo credit: Dr Steve.

The other zines available on the night were Marrickville Pause and So Fi Zine; both excellent.

Thanks to Sam, your zine is lovely, and I’m so glad there are people out there creating opportunities for poets.

Home Economics

The future’s uncertain. Caution is best.
So partner up and bunker down.
Stockpile your assets. Build your nest.

To be fully secure, you have to invest.
Add gold to your palace, jewels to your crown.
The future’s uncertain. Caution is best.

If you waste your life on folly and jest
you’ll wind up homeless – a fool, a clown.
Stockpile your assets. Build your nest.

Keep your cards, at all times, close to your chest
and your feelings hidden behind a frown.
When the future’s uncertain, caution is best.

Shut your eyes to the plight of the poor and oppressed.
Give your raft to a stranger, and you’ll drown.
Stockpile your assets. Build your nest.

An ice age is coming. This isn’t a test.
Only the prudent survive in this town.
The future’s uncertain. Caution is best.
Stockpile your assets. Build your nest.

 

 

 

Tramsheds

Tramsheds, 2011. Photo by Tim Brooks.

Those old trams were like wrecked ships in the swirling murk
of an underwater crypt. We passed through in shoals –
some with cameras, some with rope. To enter,
we’d break in through a hole in the fence, ignoring the sign,
rusted and bent: TRESPASSING IS PROHIBITED
and pass from sparkling order into shadowy neglect.

Back then, in Glebe, us weirdos could afford the rent.
But much can change in a decade. The only trams now in this locale
are functional, modern, swift – transporting the Great Washed
to respectable jobs – the carriages defaced not with spray paint
but ads. The sheds are unrecognisable –
gentrified and desecrated – entry is via escalator.

It’s Sydney’s Most Dynamic Food Destination, but you can’t get
a sandwich – the closest thing is a croque monsieur, topped
with a duck egg. The exposed kitchen reveals the chefs –
tattoo embellished, ironically bopping to Elton John,
proud of their ethical lifestyle choices.
Sixteen bucks – the sandwich is oily, hard to eat, and heavy.

Above the fluorescent overheads you can see the original rafters.
Up there, time is still suspended – particles of light in stasis.
Ten years ago, I was a witness – I saw past civilisation’s façade
to entropy. It was humbling and strangely comforting.
We fear what these spaces represent
so we make them functional again. The weirdos will go elsewhere.

 

Podcast: Imposter Syndrome

Have you ever felt like a fraud, a fake, a… weirdo?

In episode 46 of the Poetry Says podcast, I chat to Alice Allan about that feeling of not quite fitting in. If you have ever felt like your achievements are somehow not valid, or that you’re a pretender who is eventually going to be ‘found out’, we’re here to reassure you: you’re not alone. In fact, you’re in very fine company indeed.

Without giving too much away, we also touch upon Nick Cave, The Simpsons and, inevitably, Radiohead.

Thanks to Alice for reaching out to me and getting this conversation started!

You can subscribe to Poetry Says on iTunes.