Surrounded by sub-tropical plant life

Posts, Selected Posts

I’m sure by now you’re getting a little burnt-out on all the ‘end of year’ posts happening at the moment – the ones that look back over 2013 with piercing eyes, or gaze mistily into the wonder that could be 2014. Hey, don’t get me wrong, I like those posts. It’s satisfying to reflect on the year that was, and to remind yourself what’s important to you going forward. That’s fine. I was tempted to write a retrospective blog post myself, but I couldn’t think of any way to make it feel original or fresh.

So I’m doing the compete opposite.

I’m going to write to you about what’s happening right now.

Not what happened over the last twelve months (although this year has been AWESOME) or what I hope will happen next year (although it’s looking like it might be AWESOME), but what is happening at this time.

I’m sitting in a library (surprising no one), typing on my laptop while somewhere a toddler burbles at his mother. There is a row of tropical-looking pot plants sitting directly in front of me, quite at odds with the pristine white tables and frosty air conditioning. I’m in here because (a) it’s stinking hot outside, and (b) libraries are my natural habitat anyway. The books! The air-con! The free wi-fi! Truly this is some kind of modern-day Eden. (Except, with the knowledge? I haven’t properly thought this analogy through.)

It’s softly sunny outside, silver light filtering down through the cloud haze. I imagine the heaviness of the heat waiting to drop on me when I step outside later. Through the corner of a window I can see the Brisbane Wheel circling quietly in South Bank. A lot of the light in this library is artificial, fluorescent and glaring, but I notice that there’s a weird kind of skylight in the ceiling, partially blocked by what I can only imagine someone else once imagined was modern art.

This whole library is a testament to modern art. Its aesthetics are … unique. I wouldn’t say they entirely work for my tastes, but I love the way the slant of the irregular windows mirror the ‘chopstick bridge’ outside. And, from almost every window, the river – the river, the river, the river. I have to say it many times in my head because it is such a presence in this town. I love the way Brisbane lives on its river, and not just next to it. I’ve written many poems on this and maybe soon some of them will be published.

I check my word count: 417. I usually write about a 1,000, but I’m not sure how long I can keep this conceit interesting. It may already be boring my readers. I think an apology to them all, and begin to wrap up the blog post. My stomach is blotted with that pointed pain that comes with hunger. Or, to put it in a less wanky poetic way, I needs lunch. Now.

This is Monday the 30th of December, 2013, and this is what’s happening at almost exactly midday in Brisbane. The sun is at its zenith. (You don’t get nearly enough opportunities to use the word ‘zenith’ in everyday conversation. Excellent word. Zenith.) I am grateful for my followers and readers and friendly supporters. I am determined to keep working and creating and writing. I am also determined to get some burrito in me ASAP.

I hope your day is going well.

Poetry video: ‘Spheres’

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New video! Ezz Wheadon (with her production company A Mighty Fine Shindig) and I have been turning some of my poems into videos. This one was filmed at my favourite chai spot, Roost Coffee.

I hope you like ‘Spheres’! Please leave comments, let me know what you think.

xx

Newsletter! September is for storytelling

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I have started a newsletter! I will be emailing it out about once a month. It’s a nice, tidy summary of creative projects and events I’m involved in, which other people may enjoy also. This idea sprang from the Big Hearted Business morning tea I attended a couple of weeks ago, where Clare Bowditch gave her best advice for being a creative type. (It was an amazing day; Clare asked us all to write down our career goals, then sang to us while we were writing. It has spoiled me – now I can’t write lists without an ARIA-winning singer/songwriter playing live for me.)

Anyway, quite often people approach me at events and ask me when the next storytelling night is, or how they can find out about live poetry in Brisbane. I feel like I have so many answers to those questions that I need to find a more expedient way of letting people know. Thus, newsletter!

Here is the link to view the September edition: http://eepurl.com/D2P2D
You can find out about storytelling workshops, basement poetry, and some festival shows where I’ll be sayin’ words. There’s also a subscribe button on the top left-hand corner of the newsletter, if you’d like to receive the emails.

PS. Hope to see y’all at Yarn: Man vs Wild on Wednesday! Yarn: Man vs Wild

 

Mid-week is the new weekend – tell your friends

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Hey internet peeps,

So, my posts have been a bit sporadic lately. I think that’s mainly because I had set myself the task of posting every weekend, and weekends have become my busiest time of the week. (Such is the life on a non-nine-to-fiver! Your “weekend” is whenever you get a couple days off.) SO, I will try to post mid-week from now on, and keep this blog dynamic. Dynamic. That’s a good word. It’s my favourite term to invoke when someone corrects my grammar. “LANGUAGE IS DYNAMIC!!” I wasn’t wrong – I just wasn’t your kind of right. Wink.

My weekends are happily busy with the best kind of things – projects! Gigs! People! Working, meeting, and talking. I co-host a radio show every Sunday lunchtime (Megaherzzz on 4ZZZ), so I spend a bit of Saturday preparing interview questions and discussion topics and practising my “radio voice”. (Insider fact: It’s my normal voice. There’s a reason I didn’t get into NIDA.) There are also usually a few music/arts gigs to attend, which are mega-fun.   poetsdressedas_poster

I am going to be in one of these gigs this weekend – a really cool event put together by ubiquitous Brisbane poet, Darkwing Dubs. (Darkwing actually just won the Nimbin Performance Poetry World Cup yesterday, so if you see that guy around, BUY HIM A DRINK.) He is curating a two-part series of performances that centre around gender in art and society. The first part in the series is called Poets Dressed As … Women! and all of the performers are – you guessed it – women! I be one of those such lady women. Also performing are Lucy Fox, Merlynn Tong, and Sydney’s Candy Royalle. I’m excited for this event as it promises to be entertaining and thought-provoking. I’ve been writing new material, and planning some tricks to put up my sleeve (or to tuck into my bra, if I’m wearing a sleeveless top).

The male part (teehee) of the series will be held the weekend after, and I look forward to that event also! It features a couple of poets I haven’t seen before, and a couple I’m keen to see again – Simon Kindt, Robin “Archie” Archbold, Martin Ingle, and self-confessed poetic lunatic Randall Stephens. I did a couple of poetry gigs with Randall years ago in Perth and Fremantle, and I tell you this guy is high energy. Should be another entertaining evening.

LONG LIVE POETRY!

‘Mulled Wine’ published in SpeedPoets

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Now I’m really catching up on old news. My poem ‘Mulled Wine’ was published in SpeedPoets vol. 11.7 (launched in September). SpeedPoets is a cool Brisbane publication – it’s quick, tasty and to-the-point. To-the-poetry. I am honoured to be included.

Here is the poem:

Mulled Wine

Thrown together with spices
and cinnamon sticks,
we simmer in a saucepan
on a small kitchen stove.

Mulling too long,
we’ll soon turn bitter.
This is just a drink for winter.
The cold drives us in together
and loosens up our hearts.

Warm hands and cool heads
will swirl us and stir us
and finally pour us
in a thick-bottomed glass.

Drink us now,
for winter’s soon passed.
Sip us slow; we cannot last.

What Is That Sound?

Posts, Transports of Delight

I discovered something interesting on the weekend. I have a high level of emotional intelligence.

There’s a test you can take to determine this, and my Emotional Intelligence Quotient scored pretty high. I am, in fact, probably more emotionally intelligent than you. I am definitely more emotionally intelligent than my boyfriend (who also took the test) – and I will make sure he never forgets it.

In fact, I am so emotionally intelligent – so very much so – that I knew exactly how to handle an uncomfortable situation on the bus today.

The bus was trundling toward the city, and I was sitting down the front, enjoying my window seat. It was a cold, sunny day in Brisbane today – the type that’s beautiful with a cruel, glittering kind of beauty. It was warm inside the bus, so I was content. As we plunged beneath the city, into the subterranean busway, I started to hear a small noise coming from the back. It was a faint, staccato sound, repeating every few seconds. A small ftss.

Ftss.

Ftss.

I did not turn around. The sound was getting more insistent as we swung past the Queen Street Mall bus stop and up towards daylight. There it was again.

Ftss.

I supposed we had a sufferer of Tourette’s Syndrome on board. No worries – we had someone with Tourette’s in one of my lectures at uni. Once you got past the fact that someone to your left was grunting ‘Hup!’ over every third word the lecturer said, it became nothing more than lecture hall ambience.

Now the sound had gotten out of its seat and was moving towards the front of the bus, becoming more audible.

Ftss. Fksk. FKSK. FUCK’S SAKE!

The sound belonged to a smartly dressed young man with far too much gel in his hair, who evidently wanted to disembark in the city. But this bus didn’t stop in the city – it passed right through on its way to the eastern suburbs. Now Pointy Hair had realised this, and was approaching the bus driver.

As the bus cruised through the last set of traffic lights before the motorway entrance, there was a quiet conversation. It suddenly became loud.

‘I NEED TO GET OUT HERE.’

‘I CAN’T LET YOU OUT ON THE ROAD.’

‘LET ME OUT!’

The bus driver – a tough, middle-aged woman with beefy arms and an operatic voice – yanked the bus vindictively over to the kerb. She leaned on the steering wheel and glared at Pointy Hair.

‘THIS BUS DOES NOT. STOP. IN THE CITY!’

The young man was much calmer now that the bus had stopped. He tried to swipe his Go Card to tag off, but the machine hadn’t registered the stop.

He asked, ‘Could you please turn your machine on?’

‘READ THE FRONT OF THE BUS!’

Meanwhile, two other passengers stood up, the ones who were also on the wrong bus but had chosen to bear it with dignity. Now they were rushing the doors with relieved looks on their faces.

The bus driver was livid. ‘AW LOOK,’ she thundered at Pointy Hair, ‘NOW EVERYONE’S GETTING OUT!’

‘Could you please turn your machine on.’

The bus driver finally switched on the machine, and Pointy Hair and the others quickly tagged off. They exited the bus followed by the bellows of the bus driver: ‘READ THE FRONT OF THE BUS! READ THE FRONT OF THE BUS!’

As the shell-shocked survivors of her wrath scattered on the sidewalk, the bus driver threw a foul look into her rear-view mirror – as if daring any of us to ding the bell – then heaved us back onto the road. We rode onto the motorway in a silence that could’ve combusted. I kept waiting for her to shout at us like a pissed-off teacher who’s just sent the naughty kids to the principal, but still needs to vent. I was waiting for, ‘THAT’S WHY YOU ALWAYS READ THE FRONT OF THE BUS!’ But it never came. It was probably saved up for whoever was waiting for her at home, god rest their soul.

Now, because of my heightened emotional intelligence, I was able to handle this situation very well. (Clearly these EIQ tests are extremely accurate.) When presented with a highly charged atmosphere and a conflict situation, I reacted with the grace and style of someone who has aced the emotional intelligence test.

I ducked down in my seat and tried to stop the tears from coming.

Yep. Watery eyes and a trembling bottom lip. Frightened of the bus driver. That’s the mark of an emotionally superior being, right there. Boom. Take notes everyone, ‘cos this is how we do.

 

A crazy couple of weeks

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There was no blog post last Sunday, and I’m very sorry about that. Between study, travel, and illness, I haven’t had any space in my head for this ol’ bloggy blog.

Blog posts are probably going to be a little sporadic for a while – I’ve just started a very intense Graduate course, and it’s kicking my arse. It’s made me its punching bag and is throwing right hooks like it’s mad at me. So, it’s a shame but, when everything gets mental, the blog is the first to suffer. (Actually, that’s a lie – the hygiene of my flat is the first to suffer. The blog comes a close second.)

However, I WILL be posting a new story here this Sunday, I promise! Photo courtesy of Yarn

And, if you’re in the Brisbane area, you can come and see me perform a story, live! I’ll be one of the storytellers at Yarn: stories spun in Brisbane on Thursday 16th August. 6:30pm @ Dowse Bar, Paddington. The theme of the night is ‘In Transit: Stories of Going Nowhere’. Gee, I think I can relate!

Right. Back to study …

My Wicked Week

Transports of Delight

This week, I road-tested a form of transport that I’ve been hanging out to try for years – a Wicked campervan. Man, I couldn’t wait. I’ve wanted to hire one of these ever since I first saw one on the highway, trailing the fumes of exhaust and embarrassed parents.

You know, Wicked campers. Backpacking institution. Painted with crazy artwork, break down at the drop of a hat? Anna Bligh called them racist? You know the ones.

Wicked vans are awesome for their cheap price and rebellious paint jobs. But the thing that really struck my fancy was the handwritten graffiti all over the inside of the van. It seemed like every backpacker who’d passed through that van had scribed something. There were at least five quotations signed by a Pouick, and my boyfriend and I seemed to keep finding more. For the whole week, one of us would be firing up the barbecue or doing the dishes, and the other would yell from inside, “I FOUND ANOTHER POUICK!”

Pouick and Pouick-related graffiti.

This Pouick was clearly a backpacking epigrammatist of the highest order, whose wisdom has been immortalised on the ceiling of the van. Sage advice such as: “Rain is not a camper’s friend.” “Slow down camper, you will see that koala.” And perhaps the most enigmatic of Pouick’s quotations: “No, Meaghan, don’t look at me. Look away. Don’t look at me!!!”

The inside of the van was patchworked with doodles and scribbles. It was like the walls of a ladies’ toilet in a university arts building – but less insane (Pouick excepted). Instead of diatribes or weepy confessionals about sexually confused boyfriends, Wicked campers wrote heartfelt messages of love, advice on cool places to visit, and personal jokes from their trip. After a week, it felt like my boyfriend and I were travelling not just with each other, but also with a gang of cool new friends who had shared their memories with us. It was a beautiful and warming thought … Until my boyfriend started wondering aloud if Pouick might actually be living secretly inside the van somewhere. After all, we kept finding new Pouick quotes that we could swear weren’t there before. Then I wondered if those scratching noises we’d heard all night weren’t really possums, but the sounds of Pouick’s ghost trying to get back in. It was hard to sleep after that.

But still, I had a great time in our Wicked van.

Home sweet van.

So, here’s to the ghostly crew that kept us company during our Wicked week. To Major Jiggle, the three English girls, Jeffy + Jilly, Team Boobies, and the prolific Pouick, thank you for your words. The boyf and I have added our own, so that future campers can travel ensconced in our fond memories. And thank you, Wicked, for such a fun camping experience. I don’t care if your vans rattle and the mattresses are so thin that I couldn’t lay on my side for fear of bruising my bony hips. We paid for an experience, and that’s what we got. (We also got to and from our destination without breaking down, so BONUS!)

Since writing that last bit, I’ve found out more about our campervan. Some of the graffiti informed us that it was used in the shooting of an upcoming Brisbane indie film called Dark Are The Woods. Guess we were sleeping inside a former movie prop! It was exciting to think of seeing the van we hired in a movie, but that was before I looked up the movie online. I’m really glad I didn’t see the teaser while I was still spending nights in the van. It turns out Dark Are The Woods is some kind of B-grade torture porn flick, all about backpackers getting killed and eaten by incestuous bush-dwelling cannibals. And there are strippers, for some reason. Uh, yeah. I’m glad I didn’t know I was ensconced in the memories of those minds.

Hmm. Maybe next time I’ll just ignore the graffiti.

Skaters Gon' Skate

Transports of Delight

Apologies for the quietness lately. I started a new job, which has been taking up much of my time. This job is a bit special, because one of its perks is limitless ice skating. That’s right, ice skating. In the middle of Brisbane, Australia. Ice.

At first I was terrified of setting foot on the slipperyness. I’m not the kind of person who is known for their grace. I trip over thin air. So, I figured I had no chance at all on ice. But, dammit, I was going to give it a shot.

And I did not fall over! Not even once!

Granted, I was leaning heavily on a sled (a sled designed for toddlers who are still learning to walk).

But I kept my balance! And eventually I graduated to skating without any kind of crutch. It was a proud moment. I wish my parents could have seen me.

I actually do wish that, because my folks grew up in America and always had their own ice skates; some of my earliest memories are of family holidays in the States, with my parents trying to convince me to enjoy sliding around in the snow. I was a child of tropical north Queensland – I did NOT like this cold stuff. Wearing all those layers confused me; why couldn’t I walk around in my underwear all the time? We did back home! Cold climes were not for me.

But luckily, people change. Now I quite like the ol’ ice rink. Sure, it still feels unnatural to strap blades to the bottom of your feet and skitter around on them, but I’m learning. Perhaps this will be my new favourite way of getting around.

In some places, ice skating could be a legitimate mode of transport. In Holland, for example, they all seem to be born with their feet on the ice. I was in the Netherlands a few years ago, visiting a friend for a week. I just happened to arrive in the midst of headline-making Dutch weather. The canals had frozen over for the first time in 12 years. For over a decade, no one had seen that much ice. Then, suddenly, EVERYTHING was frozen!

Edam, Holland. 2009.

That’s a lotta frozen.

All the locals in Edam, where my friend lives, were ditching work and grabbing their skates. People were skimming along the narrow waterways that run through the fields, their hands clasped behind their backs. My friend and her family kitted me out with some spare skates and dragged me to the nearest lake.

I was terrified. That thing about me not liking the cold? It was kicking my ass. If my friend hadn’t pulled me bodily along the ice, I would have just crouched in the middle of the frozen lake until it melted. Images of terror-stricken people falling through the ice were tearing through my head. Even the mental vision of Bear Grylls doing naked push-ups to demonstrate how to survive in arctic wilderness wasn’t doing it. And that image usually solves any problem.

After a while, my friend suggested we skate to the riverbank for a rest. (She was probably tired out from pulling my dead weight up and down the lake.) The ice looked much thinner near the shore. I nervously hung back and watched her casually glide to the edge of the frozen part. Under her weight, the sheet of ice we were standing on suddenly plunged downwards, and water whooshed up from underneath, spilling across the ice and the riverbank. I whimpered in fear. My friend merely prodded the dark ice with the tip of her skate blade and said in her charming Dutch accent, “Okay, here is good.”

She walked right off the ice and sat down on the grassy bank. I quivered after her. Other Dutch people were watching me while they unwrapped their lunches. They were smiling slightly, as if I was the weird one. They were picnicking on a snowy riverbank! Meanwhile, children and toddlers skated dreamily past me.

I didn’t understand the Dutch fascination with ice skating. I thought it was a terrifying and needlessly dangerous leisure activity. But now that I’ve had some more practice, I can appreciate how beautiful it is to glide around on an expanse of glittering white.

Now, if Queensland ever experiences some inclement weather and the Brisbane River freezes over, I’ll be ready.

I’ll be ready.

Edam, Holland. 2009.

Standing completely still with no help: An achievement.

This Banana Has Gone Bad

Transports of Delight

I always feel safer on a bus, don’t you?

I mean, when I’m driving, I feel the burdensome weight of responsibility. It’s just me, my frail body locked inside a thin metal shell, hurtling at unnatural speeds through chaos. If I lose concentration for even a second, I could cause immeasurable damage – to myself, to my passengers, to unwitting strangers. Car accidents are horrible, life-altering, and everywhere.

But riding the bus is fun!

I mean, buses just feel safer. They’re bigger, for one thing. There’s something comforting about riding in the biggest thing on the road. And they have have their own lanes. Everything about the bus has this “get outta my way” attitude. They cruise along at their own pace and don’t make room for anyone else on the road. Being on the bus is like being friends with your school’s biggest bully: you’re untouchable.

I used to tell myself that bus drivers are trained and therefore better drivers, but I can no longer follow that particular rainbow. If you’re still holding onto that misty-eyed illusion, just look at this photo again:

(I think they left “don’t read the paper while driving” out of the bus driver exam, because it should be bleeding obvious.) Nonetheless, I love riding the bus. Sitting high up in the back seats, I feel a little detached from everything that’s whizzing by my window. It’s as if all that traffic out on the road is happening to someone else. If I sped around corners and swung dangerously close to traffic light poles in my own car, my passengers would be justifiably anxious. When my bus driver does the same thing, I just think, “WHEEEEE!” Like it’s a fairground ride.

And when I was a kid, the best public fairground ride of all was THE BANANA BUS. Oh, the times we had! I used to love riding on the bendy buses, with the turntable in the middle that would creak and rotate when the bus went around a corner. I remember class excursions on the banana bus, when only the coolest kids would stand in the bendy bit. It was a crazy feeling, like being inside the accordion of an insane accordionist.

But my rosy memory of banana buses has been compromised. While perusing brisbanetimes.com.au this week, I found this:

BANANA BUSES TAKEN OFF THE ROAD

A safety check has ruled 300 articulated buses off Australian roads after a Queensland Transport and Main Roads-ordered audit.

… The bus order followed a dramatic crash on the Pacific Motorway on March 30, when an articulated bus abruptly turned and ended up facing oncoming traffic.

What? Crash? No! This is no good. Another layer of my childhood memories, peeled away like so much banana peel.

It’s as if catching the bus was a large, delicious-looking banana, its perfect yellow skin assuring me of the sweet fruit within. But when I went to peel it, I discovered that this banana was rotten. (Yes, the banana peel was my childhood memories in the last paragraph, but now it represents the act of catching the bus – it’s as if this change in metaphors is a metaphor for the dramatic change in my feelings when I realised that buses are not as safe as I thought.)

If banana buses (the funnest buses!) aren’t safe, then I might have to rethink my entire attitude towards bus travel. Gone are my comfortable illusions of safety. I will now ride the bus with an appropriate sense of barely-contained terror, ready to wedge myself under my seat at the first sign of danger. It’s a mad world we live in. A mad, mad world.