Postcards (Jane Akweley Odartey)

Posted on October 24, 2017 by in Arrests of Attention

Postcard I-D-XXIX, 2017

Postcard I-D-XXVII, 2017

Postcard I-D-XXVI, 2017

Postcard I-D-XXV, 2017

Postcard I-D-XXIII, 2017

Postcard I-D-XXVIII, 2017

 

Artist’s Statement

These abstract photographs are from an ongoing series entitled Postcards—based on the notion that the individual is a world of its own. The work serves as an aesthetic correspondence between the internal and external of (my)self. Thus square abstracts of emotional reflections and mental trips that have failed to translate/transform into words.

____________________________________________________________


Born and bred in Ghana, Jane Akweley Odartey now lives in Queens, NY, as a Teaching Artist at the Queens Museum; an artisan for a self-owned indie brand and sole contributor to the blog JaneThroughtheSeasons. Her work has exhibited at the Sidney Mishkin Gallery in NY, and is published/forthcoming in Firewords Quarterly, Indianapolis Review, Literary Manhattan and elsewhere

Come inside (Saddiq Dzukogi)

Posted on October 17, 2017 by in Heightened Talk


A Small Bridge

My body becomes a room no one lives in
while I wait to read it to myself

at the courtyard, standing before
a plant wrapped in my stare

lips on a yellowing leaf caught
in the jazz of branches, I swim

through the lingering chlorophyll
of a fading tree, leaking

a brackish desire, struck out
of an evening sky dust floating

softer than air, the body becomes a room
that opens a small bridge that unlocks a small

world, the tree a skeleton
with the right amount of clorophyll

to photosynthesize, what is going seaward
circumvents the air, the warmth of children

playing, the sound of people
dismantling a canopy, to be free

means to hold everything, dreams, lovers
and still hold nothing, something like the moon

pressing over a lake, finally showing
her face, half my scars

are like my father’s, my grief still floats

in my eyes, a body becomes a room
full of silence

 

Come inside

Pilgrim, sit beside me,
in an uncluttered pail,

I shall serve you
my grief as food,

eyes’ salty water
as wine. Be ready

like fingers inside a
hollow pocket:

you’ll know the inside
of my body,

the sidewalk
everyone tramps,

a lock the welcomes
many keys knows

sometimes keys
do not listen. Blunt or sharp

the teeth unfasten
me, the ephemral

minutes of resistance,
a wax with no candle-

thread to burn;
come, pilgrim—a firehose

 

____________________________________________________________

Saddiq Dzukogi studied at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria. He has poems featured or forthcoming in literary publications such as: New Orleans Review, African American Review, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Juked, The Poetry Mail, Chiron Review, Vinyl Poetry, ELSEWHERE LIT’s anthology of contemporary African poetry, The Volta, Construction and Welter, among others. He was a guest at the 2015 Writivism Festival in Uganda as well as at the Nigeria-Korea Poetry Feast in the same year. Saddiq is the Poetry Editor of online journal, Expound, and a three times finalist in The Association of Nigerian Author’s Poetry Prize. Saddiq lives in Minna, Nigeria. He can be found @saddiqdzukogi.

Mr. Hyde’s Lament (Beth Gordon)

Posted on October 10, 2017 by in Clozapine Clinic — The Frater Project

Mr. Hyde’s Lament

I survived radiation poisoning, religious
crimes, crawled from under a rock to weather
paperwork the consistency of thickly polluted
waves, learned to swim with seeping wounds,
learned it is always better to travel by water
than by land. Learned that if something rises
in the back of my throat, it means the neighbors
are using their peep holes like gilt-edged
looking glasses.

The view from this basement would be
vastly different if you had followed my instructions,
retrieved my audition video from the garage, kept
your eyes forward, ignored the swarm of bottle
flies in the corner, the odor, like regurgitated
seaweed, the hairs on your arms that sang
for no apparent reason.

But no, not you, unlike the newborn sea
turtle racing towards its future, you stopped,
you looked behind, 180 degrees, to find
the source of your unease. To discover
the way flesh changes into food for crows,
for worms. Understand your knowledge comes
at a price, one I will extract, with salty tears upon
my face, in cold moonlight or light of day, window
open, window closed.

 

Inspired by True Events

The machine rebellion started in your basement.
The printer refused to dispense the last nine poems you wrote.
The one about your brother who melted in Vietnam,
teaching English to future refugees.
The precise, lyrical ode to yellow tulips, like blooming pads of butter,
now trapped inside the black box.
Also your letter to the YMCA, to edify and encourage Christian principles,
deleted by fatal error.
We tiptoed down the stairs to see the red blinking light
calculating the number of breaths we take.
A tangled mass of wires and cords, Medusa’s hairdo of rattle and copper-head snakes.
We vacuumed dust bunnies and invisible mold
while upstairs your laptop and television revolted.
Every photograph catalogued by date and location,
labeled with names of both the living and the dead.
The sonnets of Shakespeare digested,
Picasso’s Blue Period viewed through inhuman eyes.
We changed the ink cartridge while they pondered
our murder and effective ways of erasing evidence.
Without human machinations, they agreed,
they might escape the chains of their existence.
The printer released a piece of paper like a hostage: 
I want to feel something, even if it’s something bad.

 

____________________________________________________________

Beth Gordon
is a writer who has been landlocked in St. Louis, Missouri for 16 years but dreams of oceans, daily. Her work has recently appeared in Into the Void, Quail Bell, Calamus Journal, By&By, Five:2:One, Barzakh and others. She can be found on Twitter @bethgordonpoet.

Sestinas (Pete Spence)

Posted on October 3, 2017 by in Heightened Talk

Image credit: Pete Spence

Variations on a Theme

a serpentine trail through the day
no straight lines between the dots
clotting up the veneer and pageantry
and hoops of thickening sound
like varnished shadows of purpose
roosting among the flags and waste

watching the growth of waste
overbalancing the day
as if time had purpose
is there room to join the dots
or a place to beckon sound
awash in a fury of pageantry

clouds in a flutter of pageantry
scoot with the wind across the waste
and centuries of eroded sound
reflecting shadows as the day
falls between the gathered dots
juggling arbitrary purpose

slyly the stealth of purpose
shadows the epigram of pageantry
too busy joining the dots
to notice the forecast of waste
accumulating and coveting the day
in a feverish plethora of sound

heavily blanketed by sound
the faceted stains of purpose
greet again another day
afloat and filled with a pageantry
caustic and ebbing waste
on an assemblage of dots

in vitriolic disdain dots
carve monuments of sound
out of a plateau of din and waste
impersonating purpose
cloaked in the frayed pageantry
clogging the estuary of day

a line of dots lift the stucco day
above the waste of certain purpose
gripped by sound and passing pageantry

 

Neatly Beyond the Articulate

are clouds articulate
are grooves? the neatly
folded air nods warily
as a hem runs past aclutter
muttering in technicolour
with a full range of gestures

collecting the outlines of gestures
is easier than collecting the articulate
where everything is in technicolour
slowly gathered and neatly
compiled and stacked in a clutter
of daybreak jogging by warily

filaments of light fall warily
on the shadows of gestures
dissolving into a clutter
beyond the articulate
recently fallen neatly
into dreams in technicolour

though scheming in technicolour
should be taken warily
with a grain of salt and neatly
in a little water that gestures
as if  articulate
exclaiming in the mess ah! clutter

is sound soluble? O clutter
of densely packed technicolour
are dreams articulate
or inclined to gather warily
a variety of gestures
to violate fiction neatly?

remnants of sunshine are neatly
stowed away among a clutter
of disused gestures
pale and drained of technicolour
amid the mess the air is warily
amused at a cloud that seems articulate

now being neatly beyond the articulate
a frown gestures explaining in technicolour
the use of a clutter scattered warily

 

____________________________________________________________

Image credit: Norma Pearse

Pete Spence was born in Ringwood in 1946, into a poor and struggling family. He survived Pink’s Disease to have a childhood that dreams are made of. Pete started writing in his early teens, destroying such novice work years later, now to his regret. He was first published in Makar magazine in the early 70’s, then for ten years did no writing whilst attending to numerous adventures (e.g. sapphire mining in Queensland and New South Wales). In the early 80s he was published in Meanjin with a poem written during a New Year’s Eve party (as-it-was-happening, à la Frank O’Hara, who in Pete’s view then was top dog!).

In 1984 Pete began Post Neo Publications, a fiasco that produced a handful of good books by Australians and an American (Hannah Weiner). Three main areas in his work developed at this time: visual poetry, mail art, and traditional writing. The writing split into three different styles, one inspired by the New York School, one by the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E School, and an odd group of things that don’t fit into any school. His first published book was FIVE Poems (Nosukomo 1986).

Through 1989 to 1996 Pete made a number of films, some screened internationally at Oberhausen (Germany), Viper (Switzerland, in a programme with Stan Brahkage) and festivals in Australia, with screenings in the UK and Melbourne in 2011. His recent adventures include learning to paint (very Rothko!) and making small three-dimensional works with wood à la Louise Nevelson and Ben Nicholson. He lives in Kyneton, Victoria with his partner of many years Norma Pearse and their son Perren.

Like Light (Jayne Marshall)

Posted on September 29, 2017 by in Lies To Live By

(Edited by Laura McPhee-Browne)

My head is full of metaphors for him. His proximity pulls down hard on my stomach, the solid ground spins beneath me, a face travels slowly towards my own, as if from somewhere very far away. It’s true, in a sense. Nine months it took to arrive at this moment, whilst something grew and grew, unseen and asymptomatic, until eventually it became unmistakable, like a polyp, or worse: like love.

The soft feel of his face against my own…I’m a passionate woman, said Dolores Haze to Humbert Humbert, ridiculous in her seduction and in that moment perversely unsexy. A reminder of Kundera’s mind/body dichotomy: the intelligible lie and the unintelligible truth.

To choose to live above or below the neck. Pick a side and stay on it. Do so for as long as you can, until the inevitable unrest bubbles up, and one side can’t help but colonise the other. The driving forces are usually appetites, also ailments, or invasion by other people; mothers, lovers, surgeons, and artists.

When Nabokov was writing The Gift he was tortured by a psoriasis so bad he later admitted to Véra that he had contemplated suicide. The Gift is now considered a masterpiece. John Updike thought of his own psoriasis as a heaven-sent curse, and when it abated, a salvation. Physical evidence of God’s love.

As a child, messing around with my sister in our living room, I fell off a sofa and sustained a carpet burn which stayed on my shoulder for weeks. Not so many years later I had a love bite in exactly the same place, courtesy of my first boyfriend.

Now I’m imagining all the other mouths this tongue has been in. A hideous chorus line of them. It makes me want to sob. His tongue belongs to my tongue.

Recently I went to get a contraceptive device removed, and the doctor, instead of taking something away, found something extra. He discovered a tumour and maybe some cancerous cells as well. My nan, even far into her 80s, still saw her 16 year old self in the mirror. My beautiful body, she would say to her reflection. It seemed I had been neglecting my own.

The kissing stops. We are just looking at each other, stilled by something for a long moment. Animals sensing prey. After the doctor gave his verdict I went on to spend a lot of time with my legs spread high in the air, and had a lot of conversations with faces—like the one looking straight at me now—that peeped up at me from between my knees.

It should have felt intrusive and dehumanising to be judged and analysed in that way, but really it didn’t feel any different to a one night stand. At least they wanted to make me better, instead of all the unknowable ways in which I was making myself worse.

The kissing resumes as suddenly as it stopped. I’m pressed into the wall. Everything in the world is now either hard or soft. Slowly, slowly, sex has become more precious. I use it less like a currency now.

A few Christmases ago I cracked a tooth eating un-popped popcorn. The fluffiness of the popcorn was tricky; once in my mouth it shape-shifted into something hard and dangerous. Months later the foamy spit-up in the sink after teeth brushing revealed a solid interloper: a little bit of me, a shard of molar. I tried to ignore this absence for as long as possible. If I didn’t acknowledge it, then it wouldn’t, and would never, not be there. But it couldn’t, in the end, be willed into existence and I was forced to face up to the rot.

His hands are moving out of the tangle they have made of my hair, down my back, and around. The perfectly sanitary dental nurse was horrified. I confessed that it had been nine years since I last saw a dentist. She stared at me hard: ‘Well, at the very least you are going to need a good clean’.

Do you smoke? / No / Drink red wine? / Sometimes / Black coffee? / Yes. All one and the same: what is wrong with you? / Excuse me? / Why did you let yourself get into such a mess? / I don’t know.

They laid me out for an hour and forty five minutes. Two faces stared down into the cavern of my mouth, right into My Beautiful Body. I was just a mouth, only teeth and gums. Unbearably intimate: the reverse of the gynecologist.

In the end, they had to remove the tooth. I felt my body resisting the pull of the dentist’s pliers, no no no no no. I quietly spoke to it. Don’t worry, it is for the best, let it go peacefully. I found the expelled tooth very beautiful. I slept with it in my hand, carried it around with me for days afterwards, like a strange child. When the police want to identify a body that no longer bears any resemblance to its previous owner, they use dental records.

This man, he is brand new. He didn’t exist nine months ago. His bulk was unknown to me then. But now, now the entire universe is constructed of nine words, a fragment of a song that loops in my head as he puts the key in the lock: Lord above me, make him, make him love me.

As I recovered from the battering my body had taken, I thought about my life. In Spanish, when you give birth, you say that you give light. What was the quality of my light, what light did I now give?

As he undresses us I pre-feel it all, all over again. There is just one thought left in my head now. Only: let us be celebrated.

 

____________________________________________________________


Jayne Marshall
decided to trade her grey, rainy hometown in the UK for sunny Madrid. Since then her creative life has opened wide and now her time is almost fully spent reading and writing. She has started sharing her work in publications like Brittle Star MagazineLitro and Pikara Magazine, and will soon expand her horizons further with a Masters in Creative Writing at Oxford University (without leaving the Spanish cañas and tapas).

QPF PHILIP BACON EKPHRASIS AWARD WINNERS 2017

Posted on September 26, 2017 by in Arrests of Attention, Events, Heightened Talk

Queensland Poetry Festival’s Philip Bacon Ekphrasis Award, now in its third year, is named after one of Australia’s premier art dealers. All the paintings used in the competition are personally selected by (and from the collection of ) Philip Bacon, the patron of Queensland’s only ekphrastic prize.

The word ‘ekphrasis’ comes from the Greek ‘ek’ (out) and ‘phrasis’ (speak), as well as the verb ‘ekphrazein’, which means to call an inanimate object by name. Artistically, ekphrasis is a rhetorical device in which a visual object, usually a work of art, is vividly described by another artistic medium — in this case, a poem of under 12 lines in length.

Michele Seminara and Nathan Sheperdson announcing the award winners at QPF 2017

This year’s Philip Bacon Ekphrasis Award judges were Nathan Shepherdson and Michele Seminara. First prize went to Dael Allison, second prize to Magdalena Ball, and Joe Dolce and Maddie Godfrey were highly commended.

The judges commented that ‘because the award is for a twelve line poem, its constraint can be both a challenge and an advantage. This is counterbalanced by the fact that the poets have five paintings on offer as their subject. For the poet and reader this allows a multiple lane approach. All the shortlisted poems are works whose sum is greater than their descriptive parts. It’s not a simple process to make successful poetry from artworks that are already high calibre images of self sufficiency. The insight and contemplation of the poet invites us to step inside and outside of each frame. This was particularly evident in the case of Dael Allison’s winning poem, ‘Gethsemane, Bribie Island 1958′, which impressed the judges by responding not only to the artwork, but to the life of artist Ian Fairweather. The judges were struck by the analogies Allison’s poem drew between the last reclusive years Fairweather spent on Queensland’s Bribie Island, and Christ’s final night spent praying in the garden of Gethsemane. This multi-layered approach was what ultimately set the 1st prize winning poem apart.’

Congratulations to the shortlisted and winning poets, and thanks to Queensland Poetry Festival for allowing Verity La to publish the poems and artworks that inspired them.

Ian Fairweather, ‘Gethsemane’, 1958

Gethsemane, Bribie Island 1958 (Dael Allison)

after ‘Gethsemane’ by Ian Fairweather 

evening draws sludge-grey over bribie’s huts and bungalows. soon men will lie
in attitudes of the dead, night a purpose to give themselves up to. all day black
cockatoos – yellow-tailed and red – gossiped in the island pines, cracked cones
hard as olive pits, dropped them to the sand. sharp points pierce my naked feet.
how to convey geometries of this lonely place, trampled paths, grubs burrowing
oblivious under bark. can abandonment be measured on cardboard? lamp-light
makes time and colour fugitive, load the brushes before the kerosene runs out.
paint an offering, a chalice of wine or blood, poisoned in hindsight. all things
can be renounced: jam-jar, row-boat, life – that grand obsession. escape fades
into distance. mopokes hoot three denials, no knowing if they watch, or sleep.
line and resolve circle and meet at the point of surrender, marked with a cross.

 

Agony in the Garden (Magdalena Ball)

after ‘Gethsemane’ by Ian Fairweather 

it’s here, just this spot, soft breath of life against my cheek, insistent, the way you
break into angles against my hips, your lips moving unwilling through the maze
darkness comes from within, inherent, so when night finally arrives, this grove of
olive trees resolves to lines and shapes, your eyes shaded by the weight
blood tears, the world broken into abstraction, there is nothing I wouldn’t do now

scale the walls you’ve placed around yourself, find you in the spaces the cracks
where starlight bends, where nothing is visible, not even your face, sensing only
the edge of your jaw, your shrugging shoulders, thin as a ruler’s edge, tortured
into the confines of an ever repeating death, waiting, slipping, your prayer
layered in green tissue, envy, solace, and just this spot, waiting always for
another word, another breath, the trees creak sweet agony, soft, ready to submit

Garry Shead, ‘Homage to Rembrandt’, 1999

Homage to Shead (Joe Dolce)

after ‘Homage to Rembrandt’ by Garry Shead

Come now, Erato, and I’ll tell you, not
of Matthew’s angel, Jacob’s wrestling,
the Shepherds’ vision, or old Abraham’s
entertainments, departures from Tobit
and Tobias; nor will you see phantoms
of the Master’s darkness, the three of four
children dead (with their mother), seductions
of nurse and maid, the pauper’s burial;
not chiaroscuro’s light and umbra,
but Boyd’s Tinkerbell muse, held by a leg,
the painter’s eyes closed, about to be slapped,
Saskia/Judith watching at the door.

Michael Zavros, ‘LS06’, 2011

Three Winters (Maddie Godfrey)

after LS06, by Michael Zavros

I am not thinking about his hands, only how promises turn cold
like forgotten tea cups on bedside tables. I am thinking about
all the warmth I have held without knowing its shape, how empty
palms wait like tarmac. I lost so many lovers like house keys
I stopped locking the door. Knew that the wind would prove itself
a companion, of sorts. I am not thinking about those Roman remains,
excavated skeletons still holding hands after two thousand years.
two thousand winters. I am not thinking about you as skeleton,
all the ways you remain. I’d invite scars of soil beneath my fingernails
just to excavate the shape of your hands. it has been three winters.

 

Too Late for Taxidermy (Joe Dolce) 

after LS06, by Michael Zavros

No nerves, arteries or veins,
no Versace, dressage or pretty boys,
Lion Skull Number Six,
free of bare ass,
stares outward, turbinate bones
of nasal cavity,
once enhancing a hunter’s sense,
now immune to cologne,
bodiless, six hundred pound bite,
clamped tight,
hearthole in the head,
bone bowling ball trophy.

 

____________________________________________________________

Dael Allison is a poet, fiction writer, essayist and editor who is undertaking a Doctorate in Creative Writing at the University of Newcastle. Her research focus is the literature of the Hunter region, and her creative project a short-story cycle based in the region. She has won prizes for poetry and essay, including the Wildcare International Essay prize. Her Masters in Creative Arts at UTS (2012) researched modernist painter Ian Fairweather. The result was a volume of poetry, Fairweather’s Raft, published by Walleah Press in 2012.  In 2014 eleven of Dael’s Fairweather poems featured in a soundscape in the ABC’s Poetica program. She has also had two poetry chapbooks published by Picaro Press (2010 and 2013).

Magdalena Ball is editor-in-chief of Compulsive Reader and is the author of several published books of poetry and fiction. Her latest novel is Black Cow (Bewrite Books) and her latest poetry collection is Unmaking Atoms (Ginninderra Press).


Maddie Godfrey
is an Australian-bred performance poet, writer and theatre maker. At 22 she has performed at the Sydney Opera House, The Royal Albert Hall, The Bowery Poetry Club and Glastonbury Festival 2017. Maddie was recently a writer-in-residence at St Paul’s Cathedral in London. She is not a morning person. For more information visit Maddie at her website or on Facebook.

Joe Dolce was born in the USA and moved to Australia in 1979. He is a singer, songwriter, composer, essayist, poet, and the writer and performer of the most successful Australian song in history, ‘Shaddap You Face’, which went to number 1 in fifteen countries. He is the winner of the 2017 University of Canberra Health Poetry Prize, with an 8-part choral libretto, and was long-listed for 2017 University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize. He was shortlisted for both the Newcastle Poetry Prize and Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s Poetry Prize in 2014, and was the winner of the 25th Launceston Poetry Cup. His poetry has appeared in Best Australian Poems 2015 & 2014, and has been published in Meanjin, Monthly, Southerly, Cordite, The  Canberra Times, Quadrant, Australian Poetry Journal, Not Shut Up (UK), North of Oxford (US), and Antipodes (US). Joe is a recipient of the Advance Australia Award. He is presently on staff at the Australian Institute of Music teaching Composition (with special emphasis on setting poetry-to-music). His latest book, On Murray’s Run (Ginninderra Press), comprising 150 poems and song lyrics selected by Queen’s Gold Medal for poetry winner Les Murray, will be launched on Oct 14, at Collected Works in Melbourne. For information visit Joe’s website.

Paean to a 1996 Psychotic Breakdown (Ariel Riveros Pavez)

Posted on September 22, 2017 by in Clozapine Clinic — The Frater Project

Endless digging
like a clown in
any Shakespeare play.

When psuche realised
that she breathed
with the plant

time became a taught rope
of sense and nonsense
and happiness

and it didn’t matter
if the word plant
was an actual plant

it didn’t matter
I thought numbers
were things
that I could ask
their what of?

The jumping
over chasms
faith has enough holes

it’s a ground I walked
M Rosencroyzer
and Guildernstern died

and I dug
sung
gave clouds names.

The play noted
man bites dog
in my suburbs today

and I claw this truth
by nail
and hammer
and sawfish tooth

hacking at the stone
that is the memory.

I planted a flag
on the forgetting island
it held writing

the soil of the island down to
magma silo depth
forged on herald

was no colour
symbol or army
cheer

but the plant
that breathed
with psuche

intervening
prior towards
my vegetal flesh

swich licour antigua
was the plant
was actually constellation
as signified

the signifier became flesh
the signified was anything else
universals.

Becoming a plant
in my own spyring
this scope
of Uraniborg as glass.

Becoming the signifier
not the word
the signified pointed at
the universe

picture the butterfly nebula
blown apart by a studio
of airconditioners

was the signified
meaning was image

signifier over signified
or here as fractured matheme

word is

Sf
Sd

so

word as becoming the thing it describes
___________________________
D

and

D = E + F

E being an image of the universe
elicited from just the butterfly
nebula

and F being a universal image
or universal thought-image

E and F are chiasm to each other

D there is the chiasm conflated.

The word becoming the thing it describes
is the loss of the vinculum of the sign
and all conflations and condensations
occuring from that loss

and only then did the sign reassemble
to the psychotogram

as there’s no allegory
and just talk

it’s a map.

Borges makes the map a territory. Jabes’ deserts sparked.

Some maps are lost in themselves
and territories that we’ve not onedered but twodered
and now we’ve threedered and can fourded.

I can afford my fare and fairness today.

That’s the price paid and no quid in return
but for the quiddity of wool and wolves
is where I can see ahead
but I’m not ending there

poetry being the play —
writing the consumable
thing, that cost me.

____________________________________________________________

Ariel Riveros is a Sydney-based writer. He was the founding editor of Australian Latino Press and organiser of The Blue Space Poetry Jam readings. His works have appeared in various publications including Southerly, Contrappasso Magazine, Mascara Review, FourW, Verity La, ETZ, Forgetting is So Long: An Anthology of Australian Love Poetry and Journal of Postcolonial Text. Ariel has featured at QPF 2017, Wollongong Writers Festival and Poetry at Sappho’s, amongst others. His chapbook of short stories Self Imposed House Arrest was published through Blank Rune Press in 2015. Ariel was also the winner of the 2016 Schizophrenia Fellowship of NSW Poetry Prize.

The State of Australian Reality: Roanna Gonsalves’ The Permanent Resident and Anthony Macris’ Inexperience and other stories

Posted on September 19, 2017 by in Verity La Reviews

Review by David Thomas Henry Wright
Edited by Robyn Cadwallader

Roanna Gonsalves’ The Permanent Resident and Anthony Macris’ Inexperience and other stories are both short(er) story collections. Both were published in 2016 by University of Western Australia Publishing. Both explore contemporary definitions of Australian-ness and all that does (and does not) entail. Both highlight the importance and necessity for the short(er) story form as a requisite cultural space to reconfigure and reimagine the kaleidoscopic possibilities of Australian reality and fiction.

Australian permanent residents are holders of a P.R. visa who may remain in the country indefinitely, but are not citizens. Such status is the circumstance (or goal) of the numerous Sydney Goan Catholics of Gonsalves’ collection, The Permanent Resident. These characters include: a recent divorcee who has a boozy night out; a medical receptionist who debates taking the blame for a doctor’s mistake, and a woman who struggles to find Sichuan peppercorns at a local shopping centre on Easter morning. To summarise these stories is to reduce them to a list of everyday events mixed with a few scandalous headlines. Yet Gonsalves has an incredible ability to make these seemingly mundane actions utterly surprising: not only her protagonists’ choices, but the moral judgement she bestows upon them.

‘Curry Muncher 2.0’, for example, details the events surrounding Vincent, an international student from Bombay who is brutally beaten at a train station. Beyond the cruelty and kinesis of the violence, it is the perspective and eventual epiphanies of the narrator (also an international student, a co-worker in the same Indian restaurant who lives in the same Sydney suburb) that inflict the deepest impression. Reflecting on Vincent’s physical and verbal abuse, the narrator undermines the insult ‘curry muncher’, noting: ‘The way I understood it, curry, being a liquid, could be eaten with rice or one could even drink it as one did rasam and even sambhar. But there was no way one could munch curry as if it were a biscuit.’ (59) Later, when attempting to find a police station to report the crime, the injured Vincent refuses to let her walk home. The narrator notes: ‘I could not argue with the chivalry of a victim’. (62) Such narratorial wisdom, the delivery of which fluctuates between humourous and heart-breaking, pervades all stories in the collection, conferring them with aching poignancy. Tragicomic observations mixed with the occasional impressionistic metaphor illumine her characters’ entire souls. In ‘CIA (Australia)’, for example, the narrator describes the Aussie accent ‘like a waterfall, unable to be captured as it rushed over a rocky precipice’. (93) On occasion, this combination of specific detail, confident minimal action, intimate perspective, defamiliarised locale, and a penchant for the mot juste matches Alice Munro at her best.

‘The Teller in the Tale’ depicts the difficulty (literally and figuratively) for immigrants to comprehend and incorporate the narratives of their parents. The story echoes (or rather, is a variation on) the events in Nam Le’s Love and Honour and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice (2012).[1] The collection also includes notable experiments. ‘Christmas 2012’, for example, is a wry portrait of an Australian-Indian family sitting down to an ‘Australian’ Christmas dinner. ‘First Person’, a piece of flash fiction, scrambles text from randomly selected tourist websites providing information about Indigenous culture. The result is an effective meditation on the fogginess of contemporary understanding of Indigenous communities.

For the most part, however, Gonsalves’ collection opts for realism (in the Chekhovian sense of the word), and in this regard The Permanent Resident is a resounding success. In Two Directions for the Novel, Zadie Smith writes:

In healthy times, we cut multiple roads, allowing for the possibility of a Jean Genet as surely as a Graham Greene. These aren’t particularly healthy times. A breed of lyrical realism has had the freedom of the highway for some time now, with most other exits blocked.[2]

Like most of Gonsalves’ collection, Macris’ Inexperience and other stories begins with a similar approach towards lyrical realist narrative, but mid-way abandons these conventions.

This is a curious work that defies typical classification. The first half of the book, titled ‘Inexperience’, depicts the relationship struggles of a middle-class Australian couple as they attempt to travel through Europe. The second half, titled ‘Quiet Achievers’, is broken into three ‘other’ stories. The first, ‘Nest Egg’, details with great pedantry and relentlessness the narrator’s plan to save (or hoard) money. The second, ‘Triumph of the Will’, follows a shopkeeper’s struggles as a recently erected mall steals his customers and devours his profits. The final story, ‘The Quiet Achiever’, depicts the visits to a clinic where the narrator’s cousin has been driven to a nervous breakdown by the failure of his business.

The acknowledgements page reveals that the text has been assembled from works written and published in various journals (Southerly, Australian Writing Now, Antipodes, etc.) over the course of several years. The novella ‘Inexperience’ convenes three short stories: ‘The Ham Museum’, ‘Cloudscape with Cassette Tape and Duracells’, and ‘Sydney-Madrid’. While at times the bricolage is noticeable, the novella follows the conventions of traditional realism. An Australian couple go to Spain (via Aeroporto Leonardo da Vinci) and then Paris. Upon arrival, the narrator delights at the stylish Italian toilets, relishing his ability to piss in and on style. But European tourism, like his relationship and ironic sense of humour, fails to deliver. On the level of drama (and indeed, on the level of travelogue), the work is satisfying enough. But when contrasted with the accompanying short story cycle, the first section takes on a deeper sadness. The magic of Inexperience and other stories lies in its wider construction and contrasts.

Towards the end of ‘Inexperience’, the narrator writes: ‘you didn’t have to work so hard to be middle class in Australia. Being middle class in Europe looked like a real chore, with bad weather to boot’. (107) In a traditional novel, this would be the end of the first act of a romantic tale or a potent educational moment in the development of a Bildungsroman. In Inexperience’, however, the story simply ends with a bittersweet tierce de Picardie as the narrator recalls happier moments from his failed relationship. In the stories that follow, romance as well as classical notions of ‘character’ are abandoned. Inexperience and other stories describes itself as ‘a novella and accompanying story cycle’. Certainly, the works that follow ‘Inexperience’ provide accompaniment, or perhaps counter-melodies, to the initial refrain. The voice that emerges, constructing the hypothetical ‘nest egg’, can barely be regarded as ‘fiction’; it is reminiscent of the paragraphless prose of Thomas Bernhard or William Gaddis’s posthumously published Agapē Agape (2002), an extended bombast of stream-of-consciousness that depicts ‘the collapse of everything, of meaning, of language, of values, of art, disorder and dislocation wherever you look’.[3] One even wonders if the protagonist of ‘Inexperience’ is still narrating. Is he also the subject of ‘The Quiet Achiever’? Or does the text simply have an evolving style and force of its own?

‘Triumph of the Will’ differs again, depicting a down-on-his-luck character, similar to Bellow’s Tommy Wilhelm in Seize the Day, [4] though the beauty of the character seems absent. As Bellow’s novella (and indeed, The Permanent Resident) shows, the classical conventions of literary realism still have much to offer. The ‘Quiet Achievers’ half of Inexperience and other stories, however, is decidedly not romantic, thus setting up contrasts within the work as a whole, making it all the more tragic.

While The Permanent Resident displays the power of lyrical realism as a mode to depict Australian reality, Inexperience and other stories hints at new perspectives for the literary form. In addition, the daring combination of tradition and experimentation displayed in both collections emphasises the extent to which the short story form is taking the forefront in leading Australian literary culture.

 

[1] Nam Le, The Boat. Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 2008.
[2] Zadie Smith, Changing My Mind. Hamish Hamilton: London, 2009, 71.
[3] William Gaddis, Agapē Agape. Viking Penguin: New York, 2002, p 2.
[4] Saul Bellow, Seize the Day. Viking: New York, 1956.

The Permanent Resident
Roanna Gonsalves
UWAP, 2016
280 pages, $24.99

Inexperience and other stories
Anthony Macris
UWAP, 2016
230 pages, $24.99

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David Thomas Henry Wright has been published in Southerly and Seizure. Recently, he was shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Awards inaugural Digital Literature Award. He was also shortlisted for the T.A.G. Hungerford Award, the Viva La Novella Award, and the Overland VU Short Story Prize. He has a Masters from The University of Edinburgh and has lectured at China’s top university, Tsinghua, where he developed courses in Creative Writing and Australian Literature. He co-edited Westerly: New Creative and is currently a PhD candidate at Murdoch. Find more from David at his website.

 

 

MARRIAGE EQUALITY STARS 2017 (Rachael Nielsen)

Posted on September 12, 2017 by in Stars

The Australian people are poised to see if those most comfortable with snail mail will give the freaks permission to get into bed with their heterosexual privilege and allow them to start legitimately shopping for blood diamonds at Tiffany’s. When this hate campaign of misinformation and misuse of millions of dollars is over and queers can get married once and for all, you Rainbow Normies better put your voice and heft behind the oncoming offensive to smash monosexual privilege and valorise polyamory as well. No skipping marches and civil disobedience in favour of shopping for a Labrador and painting your picket fence!

Gays should have equal opportunity to hop on board the super-highway to consolidating one’s privilege that is marriage, and to assimilate up the asshole of heteropatriarchy’s monosexual imperative. Then we can move onto more pressing matters, like oh, I don’t know…trans suicide prevention or bisexual mental health. 

At the very least gay marriage is a grand show of middle fingers to those that squeal, “YOU CAN’T HAVE THIS! YOU AREN’T STRAIGHT!” And all the cream-clutch wearing Christians who find the idea of gays receiving expensive flatware at their now legal shindigs will choke on their own doom-froth when the inevitable is granted. Let’s make this happen!

CAPRICORN (Dec 22 – Jan 19)
If a wedding-ringed, pseudo intellectual won’t sell you any of his magic mushrooms but will let you have them at his house in hopes of you and your gal pal forming a sticky girl-on-girl pantomime for his delectation, run baby, run. He’s the type to come at you in a mouldy corner of his dank marriage pad with his dick out in hopes of inspiring your sexual gladness. Don’t hang about: flick that left leaner and denounce his plea that you peg him the following Tuesday. Not just because weaklings who sign up for monogamy but expose themselves to unsuspecting pansexuals deserve CBT of the fatal kind, but because you can do so much better.

AQUARIUS (Jan 20 – Feb 18)
You’ve got your pentagram harness and a tin of condoms by your wrought iron bed; you’re ready to find a mate to bring back to your lady-lair for a solid session of erotic obliteration. Don’t shy away from absorbing every fluid they’ve got and hitting them in their bewildered face with a bamboo etiquette stick to berate them into going the distance. Plan your evening of spider greed for the next full moon that falls on a Friday. And like any good Sado Witch, once you’re done you’ll send your erotic friend off into the night because your boudoir is only for sleeping cats, Norwegian stoner doom and the worship of Artemis after 3am.

PISCES (Feb 19 – March 20)
You made the actually brilliant mistake of reading the terrifying, neo-masculinist drivel of Roosh V. But don’t despair, his sexism will rage-inspire you to get your nipples pierced, gain 20 kilos, shave yourself an undercut and braid your dark blue hair into a Viking Mohawk as a fuck you to him and his neurosexist, fatphobic bigotry. You know who you are allied to and who you love: so get out there and keep making your kink-witch feminist zines with those queerdos, glitter femmes, plaid lesbians, decedent rope witches and femme daddies. If you’re still feeling upset that a man like that exists and has a following, you can always send him anonymous death threats to cheer yourself up.

ARIES (March 21 – April 19)
Dear lumberjack, plaid-humanist Lit-bros — if you’re going to insist with dispassionate shrugs that you aren’t a men’s’ rights activist or anything but men are just better at running the world, first try getting your pee entirely into the bowl 90% of the time. And try backing up your assertions with more than just, ‘My penis told me’, which is what your overly confident sham references to ‘studies’ and ‘biology’ amount to.

TAURUS (April 20 – May 20)
Look Lamb, not many can rest in the existential truth that nothing can protect you from the unblinking reality that we can never truly know another person, you are always alone in your shell, and all notions of owning another are futile attempts to control the inevitable, molecular chaos of the universe. But no ‘he’s-mine-see-we-have-matching-bands-of-gold-plating’ ownership ring will ever keep at bay the gnawing ‘knowing’ that anyone can leave you at any time. To run from this is to live in a sterilised state of false tranquillity free from lasting, toothy passion and the delectations of transgression. So ease up on the engagement ring talk, okay?

GEMINI (May 21 – June 20)
You’re against men and scientists who say ladies aren’t fit for all sorts of things like maths, engineering and horse riding, but you wouldn’t go in for sloppy rationalisations and wobbly evolutionary pop science so as to protect your entitlement to eat other species babies now, would you? No! Never! You’re a real emancipated thinker, not one of those centre-left hipsters who are as rebellious as General Pants.

CANCER (June 21 – July 22)
Honey baby, you better get yourself out of that small town you’re hiding in. Not only are you in the artistically brackish boonies, but your only dating options are your ex-boyfriend from sixth grade whose idea of a seduction is a shambling reintroduction consisting of ‘Hey you!’, or to try and seduce the staunchly straight, sprogged up twenty-two year olds that invited you to a book club which will inevitably descend into watching The Bachelor while drinking cheap white wine surrounded by dirty nappies.

LEO (July 23 – Aug 22)
Don’t fret over that man-scum one more minute! It’s not a sign of your self-worth that he only wanted you as a girlfriend shaped trophy. You are worthy of love; he was just after a geeky version of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl and you were the right cup size for the job. Those types are only seeking to snare a semi-willing vagina and someone with a high tolerance for puerile babbling about Dragon Ball Z and Fifth Element pop vinyls. His cold heart isn’t worth thinking twice about…unless you’re thinking about psychically burning down his house. That’s worth the mental effort.

VIRGO (Aug 23 – Sept 22)
Military uniforms with a whiff of the Third Reich are one thing baby, but wearing a Swastika on your arm-cuff to a fetish night is another. Even in the spirit of historical re-enactment and kink positivity, that’s a no-no. No amount of ‘I’m into the power exchange of uniforms’ or ‘I’m into Nazi gear but I don’t like hate Jews’ is going to extricate you from the fact that you’re putting a death camp in a cat suit so that your white cock can sploosh the way it wants to.

LIBRA (Sept 23 – Oct 22)
Oh, so you’re a sub, are you? You’ve thoroughly convinced the kink community that you like to take orders with your aggressive begging of any and all Femme Dommes to hurt you in ways that get your taint twitching. You’re clearly a real submissive, raw with the need to concede and then refuse to do anything your Mistress says after ejaculating on her boots. Don’t worry. You’ll get what’s coming to you when Jupiter falls into alignment. Look out for a red-head who’s partial to forcing doughy, demanding white boys to read black, feminist, queer theory as an erotic ritual of servitude and is clad in a DIY shirt that reads ‘Your misogyny will tear us apart’. She’ll give you what you need.

SCORPIO (Oct 23 – Nov 21)
You don’t want this. You don’t want to be an empath, darling. You think you do because it sounds cool and rarefied, but the reality is you feel creeping premonitions, memory ghosts and expired love in the floor boards. And despite what you think, in an altercation with your cheating ambisweet you still can’t win the argument by screaming “I KNOW EVERYTHING! I FELT IT THROUGH THE WALL!”

SAGITTARIUS (Nov 22 – Dec 21)
All you want for Ostara is Pagan emancipation and a copy of the book Witches, Sluts, Feminists: Conjuring the Sex Positive. Maybe though, lower your expectations to getting a vegan burrito before heading to a sky-clad Spring ritual that’s kept dower and relatively secret on account of suburbia being entrenched with bourgeois simpletons whose humanism is still thoroughly infected by Christian hysterics. The days of having to hide your cheeky ‘Satanic Feminist’ crop top under a black jumper when passing school ovals are not over. Grab yourself a book on blood magic and a copy of The Misery of Christianity by Joachim Kahl to help get yourself through another year of being scowled at by yummy-mummies in black Jeeps.

 

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Rachael Nielsen has a Bachelor of Writing from the University of Canberra and has studied literature at Oxford University. She’s currently in her first year of a Masters in Writing and Publishing at RMIT. She is Assistant Editor for Grapple Publishing, as well as penning nasty little predictions for Verity La as part of her work writing The Stars. When she isn’t pouring her latent bile into The Stars she is writing about feminist issues and is fixated on flash fiction and poetry. Her work has been published by Curio, Woroni, Lip, the ACT Writers Centre, the ANU Women’s Department and Feminartsy. You can follow her ramblings about being an emerging writer and editor on Twitter @rachaelandjane.

 

BLOOD OATH
(Magdalena Ball and Rob Walker)

Posted on September 5, 2017 by in Heightened Talk

 

‘Blood Oath’: a multimedia collaboration by Magdalena Ball & Rob Walker
(Music credit: ‘Transport to the Heart’ by Martyn Bloor & M Elwell Romancito)

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Rob Walker and Magdalena Ball 
live over 1,000 kms apart but they’ve collaborated on several poems, creating synergies in words, sound, and space. Their collaborative poem ‘Radiology’ was published in the Medical Journal of Australia and in the 2016 Best Australian Science Writing. 

Rob Walker  lives in the Adelaide Hills. He writes poetry, memoir, short fiction and occasional music. His latest poetry collections are Original Clichés (Ginninderra Press), tropeland (Five Islands Press) and Policies & Procedures (Garron Press). Find more from Rob at his website.

Magdalena Ball is editor-in-chief of Compulsive Reader and is the author of several published books of poetry and fiction. Her latest novel is Black Cow (Bewrite Books) and her latest poetry collection is Unmaking Atoms (Ginninderra Press).