Some thanks are in order!!
Alongside the talented Yen-Rong Wong, I’ve won a 2020 Queensland Premier’s Young Publishers and Writers Award. I’m immensely grateful to the Queensland Literary Awards, Arts Queensland, State Library of Queensland, and of course the judges. Thank you to the family, friends and colleagues who support me – in particular my partner Bec, my mum Kathy, my publisher Kent at Cordite, and treasured friends (especially Justin & Tam, Tim & Anna, Rebecca, Caitie, and the Poet Pals).
Congratulations to shortlistees, Ellen Wengert and Sara El Sayed – and congrats especially to Sara, Anna Jacobson and Amanda Niehaus who won Queensland Writers Fellowships. These awards change lives – and get books written (as proven by the wonderful Mirandi Riwoe winning the UQ Fiction Book Award for Stone Sky Gold Mountain, written during her Fellowship).
I’m also very lucky and grateful to have received a Lord Mayor’s Young and Emerging Artists Fellowship this year to travel to the Frost Place Poetry Seminars and New York Poetry Festival, among other adventures. Unsurprisingly, those activities have been postponed for this year – and I’m grateful to Brisbane City Council for extending the fellowship timeframe into 2021. I cannot wait to revisit these travel plans next year!
Katy O’Brian joined Z Nation in its final season as George, a soft-spoken, soft-butch badass who leads post-zombie America towards social unity.The dystopian vibes of the current pandemic seemed like the perfect time to ask: What Would George Do? 🧟♂️ 💪 🌈
Z Nation was such a fantastic series – a real genre standout as a zomcom with a diverse cast, centred around friendship, compassion and mercy. I’m a big fan of the whole cast – what a kind bunch! – but the introduction of George gave me the courage to finally get into boxing/growing biceps. Katy is a lot of fun on instagram, as are fellow cast members Kellita Smith, Anastasia Baranova, Keith Allan, Russell Hodgkinson, DJ Qualls and Ramona Young.
I’m also all about letting people know that you don’t have to be a stacked powerhouse to be able to defend yourself and that women can be strong without bulging muscles or, conversely, appearing fit at all. I think it’s important to show a variety of bodies manifesting strength on the screen. A great character hopes to inspire through resilience and perseverance, and not physique.Katy O’Brian (Z Nation, Black Lightning) in Archer Magazine
‘Blueprint: Bramble Terrace’ (interactive edition)
Explore an abandoned house in Red Hill, Brisbane before it is demolished. Created in Twine, this interactive poem was recently featured in Backslash Lit (and originally commissioned for Red Room Poetry). 🤖🏚
Art Starts Here: 40 Years of Metro Arts
Now that Metro Arts has moved into its new West Village home, I’m thrilled to say that the history book I was privileged to research and edit (and which Sean Dowling and Ash Jacobsen designed) will be available from 11 September. Featuring the voices of over 40 Metro community members, Art Starts Here: 40 Years of Metro Arts charts the living history of Metro Arts, from its gutsy DIY beginnings to its bright future. As a teaser, here’s a photo I took at 109 Edward Street just as Metro moved out, capturing the light and warmth of those studios:
QPF2020 Film+Poetry Challenge
I hope all you poets, filmmakers and filmmaker-poets will send a video poem or two into Queensland Poetry Festival’s new* Film+Poetry Challenge. There’s a total prize pool of $2800 and we’ll screen ’em and have the best time. (*Technically this prize is a reimagining of Francis Boyle’s wonderful video poem prize of QPFs past – and I’m glad it’s back!) Entries close 10 October.
It’s only a matter of time until someone releases an anthology called In Strange and Uncertain Times. Still, in these, uh, strange and also uncertain times we’re somehow all busier than ever — this is keeping my brain Very Active (for better or worse). Here’s some news:
Red Room Poetry have created a wonderful thing in In Your Hands, an anthology of work by writers whose 2020 gigs and book tours have been affected by COVID-19. It’s free to download, share and enjoy. (My poem ‘Conversations at the Mojave Phone Booth’ is included.)
After the Demolition
After the Demolition was recently shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry. This blew my mind — to be shortlisted alongside Peter Boyle, Lisa Gorton, Joanne Burns, Natalie Harkin and David Malouf was a dream! Congratulations to winner Peter Boyle.
Each poem in this collection demonstrates cerebral questionings of what it means to occupy, and destroy, space. Frost is unafraid of gaps and the poems often find their strength in what is left unsaid.Judges’ comments
After The Demolition is a collection that opens with an ode and closes with love: the centre of the opening poem ‘before/ now’ being ‘\\oh//‘ and the ending a rejoicing ‘/sing//‘; and the closing poem, ‘Peripheral Drift’, telling us ‘you can still pash in a graveyard / at 28’. This is a breaking down, a demolition, of the daily grind, and a rejoicing in relationships, past and present. As Bachelard says: (When the peaks of our sky come together/ My house will have a roof).Tony Messenger, The Houses That Hold Us
Ask Me About the Future 🔮
In a flurry of iso-nervous energy, I collaborated with geniuses Shastra Deo and Bec Jessen to code a bot to represent Bec’s new book, Ask Me About the Future (UQP) on twitter. The AskMe_Oracle generates tiny poetic fortunes from words and themes in Bec’s book, and will reply with either a personalised fortune or straight-up lesbian flirting if you @ it. Thank you to Cheap Bots Done Quick for the infrastructure and to Shasta for making the Magic 8-Ball logo (as well as a fortune-dispensing Instagram filter!).
Queensland Poetry Festival has, like many arts orgs, taken the show online during iso. I’ve had the pleasure of curating Panacea Poets, a YouTube series of short readings (twice a week), and Couplet Poetry Online (monthly). Panacea Poets drops a new video on Mondays and Thursdays and features poets from Australia and beyond:
What a busy year for poetry! I could not have done it without the Queensland Writers Fellowship from the QLAs, which gave me space and time to work. Thanks to these funds, my next manuscript is just about done. A little trip to Varuna at the start of 2018 should polish it off! Watch this space. 😏🚀💫
But it’s also been the trash-fire year in which I lost my Dad, which has been a strange and lonely time. (Though I’d say that organising a funeral while writing/rehearsing a spoken word show is probably the most uncanny feat my stress hormones have ever performed.) Thank you to the loved ones who’ve supported Mum and me. I’ve played a lot of Stardew Valley in the months since.
Here is this year’s haul of printed poems. I hit some milestones that I’m proud of, but wish I could tell Dad about. So it goes. Thank you to the lovely editors, poets and readers who keep these journals humming along:
- “Blueprint No. 6: Rosemount Street“, Red Room Poetry
- “Peripheral Drift“, Overland
- “Lepidopera“, Rabbit: Belonging
- “Bathers”, Gallery of Modern Art (temporary installation) and Australian Poetry Journal v. 8.2
- “Chivalry’s Not Dead (It’s Just Been Criminalised)”, Cordite: TRANSQUEER
- “Reality on Demand”, Cordite/Queensland Poetry Festival: Val Vallis Awards
- Three poems, Ibis House
- “The Tophouse”, Meanjin
- “Distractions at Rental Inspections”, Concrete Queers
- “Census Night”, Rabbit
- “Surigao del Sur”, Woolf Pack
Congratulations to Emily O’Grady and Ella Jeffery on the continued success of Stilts this year. Check out Issue 3, which recently launched. And hearty congratulations to Bec Jessen and Anna Jacobson on their contracts for upcoming poetry collections with UQP. Warm feelings to Rebecca Cheers and Talia Enright as they shut up shop on Woolf Pack.
Wishing you a breezy festive season in gentle company. Be kind to retail and hospo folks! Here’s hoping 2019 has lots of good stuff in store.
It’s been a hectic little time both for spooks and for poetry. I’m currently drowning in a pile of Trolli Halloween candy courtesy of my housemate and a lack of trick-or-treaters. Is it any coincidence that my cat (Sable) looks exactly like Salem, but more Australian – i.e. more goofy than gothic? I think not.
Anyhow! Today (Nov 1) the Digital Writers Festival begins, with so many amazing online (and telephonic!) activities to read, click, listen to, play with, and learn from. I took part in Poem Phone, a dial-a-poem phone number you can call for the duration of DWF. I can’t wait to get my claws into my favourite kind of festival (one I don’t have to leave bed for) over the weekend.
You can call 07 3184 4332 (or +61 7 3184 4332 from outside Australia) to hear poems by Claire Albrecht, Alex Creece, Norman Erikson Pasaribu, me, Harry Josephine Giles, Leyla Josephine, Karen Rigby, Nhã Thuyên, and Rae White. My poem is about the Mojave Phone Booth – something I’ve been wanting to write about ever since I listened to the 99% Invisible episode of the same name.
In poetry news, I recently had a poem published in Meanjin for the first time, called “The Tophouse”. You can read it in the Spring 2018 edition. As well, Overland recently printed a love poem of mine called “Peripheral Drift”. Thanks so much to the editors for including this work.
I have a collage poem called “Chivalry’s Not Dead (It’s Just Been Criminalised)” in Cordite’s TRANSQUEER issue (out today!), using text from a Miranda Devine column of the same name. This issue has an overwhelming list of amazing poets included, from Eileen Myles to the late Candy Royale. Congratulations to the guest editors Stuart Barnes and Quinn Eades. I started reading as the issue launched at midnight and now, at the time of writing, it’s well past my bedtime. I started with Broede Carmody’s poem for Kat Muscat (“Blue“) and couldn’t just stop there; I felt too many big feelings.
This Friday’s Couplet is a special queer edition to celebrate this month’s anniversary of marriage equality in Australia. This event features Kate Mackie, Lucinda Shaw (Silver Sircus), Torrey Atkin, and a special excerpt from The Bachelorette: A Song Cycle from Bec Jessen and I. (While we’re here, shout-out to Bec for being nominated by Impossible Archetype for a heckin’ Pushcart Prize!)
I just nearly signed off “kind regards”, so it’s clearly time to finish up here. Belated happy Halloween!
Somehow it is August, which means Queensland Poetry Festival is upon us.
I’m thrilled to say that at opening night last night I won the Val Vallis Award! Thank you so much to judges Alison Whittaker and Angela Gardner, and extra thanks to the Auslan interpreter who had to sign the puns/filthy bits. I’m so excited for Anna Jacobson, very deserving winner of the Thomas Shapcott Prize for an Unpublished Manuscript.
This QPF I’m really looking forward to hearing more from poets in residence Yona Harvey and Alison Whittaker, the return of Ray Briggs to Brisbane to read Kinky Sevenlings, the Radical Imagination panel on queer utopias, and the launch of Rae White‘s Milk Teeth.
I’ll be on at The Big Read on Saturday (Alison Whittaker, Tricia Dearborn, Fury The Poet, Laniyuk Garcon-Mills, Stuart Barnes, Zenobia Frost and Rae White). Then, Bec Jessen and I debut The Bachelorette: A Song Cycle on Sunday at Bloodhound Bar. Are you ready to fall in love?
It’s finally chilly enough to cart a jacket around on hot busses all day in readiness to look cool in the evenings, so you’ll see a lot more of me out and about. There’s been so much great poetry on in Brisbane recently, with folks like Rae White, Ella Jeffery and Shastra Deo at Saturdays; Pascalle Burton and Mindy Gill at Riverbend Books; and, just last week, Bec Jessen and Jarad Bruinstroop (below) at Couplet:
I have a poem out this month in Rabbit‘s new LGBTQIA+ issue, in extremely good company. This is a really worthwhile issue to have, with work by many of the poets mentioned above (Rae, Bec, Jarad), as well as Stuart Barnes, Pam Brown, Quinn Eades, Toby Fitch, Mitch Tomas Cave and Rory Green (my ol’ Toolkits pals), Angela Gardner, Jessica Wilkinson, and many more.
I also have a poem, “Civic Duty“, in Red Room Poetry‘s POEMS TO SHARE II. This educational resource features 40 poetic activity cards to spark imagination and creative writing. Inspired by original commissioned, student and educator poems from Poetry Object, this interactive resource is designed to enliven poetic learning through language, literature and literacy.
Coming up in worryingly few weeks (where did the year go?), my QUT postgrad poetry pals and I will be reading work responding to Gertrude Stein at QUT Art Museum’s Salon de Fleurus on 19 June, from 6.15pm. Salon de Fleurus is an artwork, a contemporary reconstruction of Gertrude Stein’s Parisian salon that existed at 27 rue de Fleurus from 1904–34.
It’s a month ago now, but I spent my birthday very pleased with myself at Taronga Zoo, and thence became a blushing fan of both Sydney’s Newtown and our president, Eileen Myles. Carriageworks was a sublime venue for a writers’ festival, made all the better by being visible from our AirBnB window. I also found out that Sydney green-thumbs grow some truly great pot plants, as below.
Thank you again to Queensland Poetry Festival, Festival 2018, and Queensland Art Gallery for hosting Moving Words — such a warm, welcoming event. I hope we see more inter-arts collaborations in Brisbane — there was so much energy in the gallery, and clearly the stimulus created fantastic work. (It definitely drove me out of my comfort zone; I loved the challenge.) Special thanks to Melinda Busch from Deaf Services Qld for signing our poems.
You can read the ekphrastic poems of Lionel Fogarty, M.T.C. Cronin, Jarad Bruinstroop, Nathan Shepherdson, Theresa Creed, Angela Gardner, David Stavanger (and me) here. I loved hearing the different forms our responses took, and especially enjoyed Jarad’s “Bribie Island, 1965” and David’s “Bad Dad”.
My poem, “Bathers“, is in two parts, the first set at the time the poem was painted, and the second a century later.
We loved having the scaffold-bar at Southbank – like a big deconstructed Queenslander. We even watched a bit of the athletics. The Festival bar set-up should be there always — what a great view. Also digging the Flowstate Jem light installation, which we lay under for close to an hour.
I’m heading down to Sydney next week to hear Eileen Myles, Carmen Maria Machado, A.F. Harrold, and others at Sydney Writers Festival – my birthday reward for getting a draft of my exegesis sorted this week. (Credit for good taste must go to my girlfriend, who put Myles’ and Machado’s books in my hands recently.)
No Disney magic is spared in the touring adaption of Broadway musical hit, Aladdin, based on 1992’s blockbuster animation.
The first stars of the show are set designer Bob Crowley and costume designer Gregg Barnes. There’s enough glitz in Aladdin to completely re-sand the South Bank beach with glitter and crystals. No detail goes un-bedazzled, and the result is a spectacle that overwhelms like, well, the proverbial Aladdin’s cave. The pyrotechnics are quite literally dazzling, and even my cold, miserly heart lights up for Jim Steinmeyer’s illusion design.
It’s no surprise; Aladdin is delivered by the studios with perhaps the world’s tightest hold on their brand. Yet Disney leaves wiggle-room for some local touches – delivered with wit by our fourth-wall-defying Genie – that warm the audience right up. (“Where do you think I’m from?” he asks Aladdin. “Ipswich?”)
Aladdin successfully translates rather than replicates the film. In fact, the theatrical production gives the show a New York rags-to-riches feel, blending big band and tap into the mix. Instead of Aladdin’s monkey pal, we have three loyal buddies: Kassim (Adam-Jon Fioentino), Babkak (Troy Sussman) and Omar (Robert Tripolino). These guys have great chemistry – their numbers together are a blast (particularly “High Adventure”). It’s a shame most of Babkak’s characterisation comes back to fat jokes.
Hiba Elchikhe and understudy Graeme Isaako are perfectly plucky as Jasmine and Aladdin, and they fill the big shoes of their filmic predecessors in sweet duets like “A Whole New World”. George Henare is an endearing Sultan, and understudy Dean Vince demonstrates that English accents always sound more evil, but it’s Aljin Abella as Iago who really steals the show with his comedic timing – and wicked laugh. Genie is such a charismatic character, and we can forgive understudy Anthony Murphy when his shrill-camp dialogue and singing is often hard to understand. Murphy sure looks the part, and Genie is certainly the character whose freedom we’re rooting for with the most vim, and who earns the biggest applause.
The ensemble deserves kudos, too, as a tireless, dynamic bunch under the supervision of director/choreographer Casey Nicolaw and a team of associates.
Danny Troob’s orchestration is a highlight, led by music director Geoffrey Castles. There’s plenty of nostalgic earworms from Disney past, with the most striking new songs coming from the original team (music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, with book and additional lyrics by Chad Beguelin).
It will likely not shock you to know that Disney still has a gender problem (not to mention, famously, an exoticism problem). Where Aladdin’s monkey is replaced with three men with distinct personalities, names and songs, Jasmine’s tiger companion is replaced by nameless women from the ensemble, who march off to leave her alone in her room with an unwelcome intruder. I was disappointed, given the number of thrilled kiddos in the audience, to see Aladdin tap his cheek to request a kiss and tell Jasmine, “Don’t you owe me something for showing you around?” Why not take the opportunity, when you wield such epic influence, to normalise language that supports a culture of consent and nurturance? Shout out, by the way, to Milagros Medina-Cerdeira (make-up design) and Natasha Katz (lighting design) – the only two women listed in a creative team of 22 people.
It all works out okay: Aladdin gets a new tragic backstory and in the end Jasmine’s dad tells her she’ll be equal ruler once she’s married. These aren’t new criticisms. I might not know how Aladdin’s magic carpet works (no, really, it’s going to keep me up at night!), but the structure of a Disney production is a tale as old as time. So it goes. Ol’ Walt sure puts on a hell of a show, and it was fun watching parents trying to unravel their children from reams of gold streamers.
Photos by Jeff Busby.
My QLA Queensland Writers Fellowship year is already a whirlwind.
I wrote more poems than ever before in 2017 — avoiding my exegesis is great motivation – and published 14 poems, in States of Poetry, Australian Poetry Journal 7.2, Stylus, Pressure Gauge Press, Red Room Company, Scum, Woolf Pack and more.
This year I have a forthcoming commission for Moving Words (a QPF/QAGOMA/Commonwealth Games Festival collaboration), called Bathers, after a Robert Bunny painting in the Aus. Collection at Queensland Art Gallery. There’ll be an Auslan-interpreted live poetry walk through the gallery in April, where an excerpt from the poem has also been installed.
(I saw a lot more Bunnys on my trip to the Gallery of South Australia, and expect I might continue writing queer revisionist poems about them.)
I also have poems printed or forthcoming in Woolf Pack #10, Rabbit and Foam:e, with a poem recently shortlisted in the Judith Wright Overland Poetry Prize. Congratulations to Evelyn Araluen and Rae White on their much-deserved wins.
I’m particularly proud of a recent review I wrote (on the plane back from Adelaide) of Dickinson’s Room. This one’s up on Daily Review, but you’ll find my scrappier, on-the-fly Adelaide Fringe Reviews here. (I was meant to be on holiday.) Please go see it, if you’re in Adelaide — and please tour everywhere, Bad Neighbour Theatre.
Emily [Dickinson] is no madwoman in the attic; Bad Neighbour Theatre realise her as a complete and complex woman. Just as Dickinson made her solitude rich and full, we experience how expansive she made her life in this tiny space.
I’ve joined the editorial team of a refurbished Stilts, with Ella Jeffreys and Emily O’Grady. The journal has a wonderful history, and we’re proud to bring it back to its Brisbane roots and refocus its attention firmly on Australian poetry. The first issue of Stilts is curated from commissioned poets (future issues will be open subs), and we have a truly fine crop of poems to share soon. All the action begins soon; keep an eye on the Stilts website or facebook page for updates.
Longstanding Brisbane femmo zine Woolf Pack will launch its 10th (!!) issue in March – keep an eye out for their next event. WP #10 (founders Rebecca Cheers and Talia Enright pictured below) features poems by Rebecca Jessen, Rae White and moi, plus heaps of gorgeous art and prose.
Somewhere in all this, I’m working on my manuscript and MPhil at QUT, and watching a lot of soothing renovation shows (and finding there’s not a dry eye in the Queer Eye house). Pray 4 me.