May news

Everything always picks up in May. I spent my birthday hanging out with this crew:

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I was completely over the moon to be shortlisted for the Red Room Poetry Fellowship this week, alongside this wonderful collection of humans: Elizabeth Allen, Ivy Alvarez, Nandi Chinna, Ali Cobby Eckermann, Stuart Cooke, Michael Farrell, Toby Fitch, Bella Li, and Kent MacCarter. The final announcement is just over a week away!

Cordite launched their No Theme IV issue last week, edited by Judith Beveridge. Here’s one of the poetry “blueprints” I’ve been working on, about the first room I lived in out-of-home, in Toowong. I loved Chloe Wilson’s “The First Four Hours” and Alexis Lateef’s “Procedure”.

As a final treat, I spotted this guy in Noosa:

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My patronus.

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YOOF ARTS NEWS

I nearly called this YOOF ARTZ NYOOZ and I’m sorry. Maybe it should have been “They Have It Coming”. Anyway. It’s been a fortnight of arts-work by the young and the restless. This is definitely more of a discussion than a series of reviews. I especially welcome input from others who’ve seen or are involved in these shows.

BRISBANE (A DOING WORD)

Brisbane (a doing word)

Vena Cava has outgrown QUT’s Woodward Theatre; the student theatre company launches its new season in the Judith Wright Centre’s intimate Shopfront space. Here, we meet Matty (Patrick Hayes) and his share-housing frenemies, negotiating their place and purpose as 20-somethings in Brisbane. This coming-of-age story unfolds in pieces, benefiting from writer David Burton’s structural experimentation.

Burton’s characters are painfully relatable but never sterotypes. Claire Christian directs a strong cast; we’ve all lived or studied with these eager, energetic, argumentative people. We’ve probably been them. Overall, a little more polish and restraint will allow Brisbane (a doing word) to deftly handle the sensitive topics it tackles without losing its sense of absurd humour.

BRISBANE (A DOING WORD) ran at the Judith Wright Centre from 20 to 22 March 2014.

PERSPECTIVE/WOOLF PACK

Khalid Warsame at Brisbane's VOICEWORKS Launch

Express Media (or its Queensland representative … me) launched Voiceworks #96, the Perspective issue, at Avid Reader. Voiceworks Mag publishes and offers professional development of the work of Australian writers under 25. This was such a great night with superb readers (pictured: Khalid Warsame). Avid put on the ritz for us — what a wonderful venue. Wine all round! We also launched Woolf Pack, a new feminist zine edited by super-cool Brisbane ladies. Good times.

VOICEWORKS and WOOLF PACK launched at Avid Reader on 28 March 2014.

HOMOS IN KIMONOS

Homos in Kimonos

James Halloran and Will Hannagan’s double-bill cabaret (Melbourne Festival Comedy) has come under fire this week regarding its title, which some feel appropriates Japanese culture in a way that is racist. I’m hesitant to weigh in personally — as a white person I realise my privilege means I have blind spots — but I felt the creative team gave a measured, respectful public response in which they apologised and clarified their intentions. It was disappointing to see uncritical responses on both sides of the fence (personal attacks on the young performers and, on the flipside, tiresome attacks on “the PC brigade”).

I rarely feel qualified to comment, but I think there’s space right now in Australia for lots of context-based, critical discussion on cultural intersection in art. I hope that the show’s run stimulates more thoughtful, respectful discussion and fewer facebook shitstorms.

HOMOS IN KIMONOS runs at Melbourne Comedy Festival until 13 April 2014.

BOY&GIRL

Boy&Girl by Oscar Theatre Company

Oscar Theatre Company presents “a steamy cabaret of musical theatre, contemporary and pop where gender is bent and rules are broken” at Brisbane Powerhouse, after a season at Lightspace. Boy&Girl features 25 talented and diverse cast members with a Broadway/contemporary jazz vibe. Jason Glenwright’s moody lighting sets the right tone for a trip down the Weimar rabbit hole.

Now, I can’t call these thoughts a review, as I did not stay for the full show. For me, the highlight of the first half was a 40s wartime swing rendition of “Call Me Maybe” by three charismatic male performers, followed by an emotive solo covering Rizzo’s “That’s the Worst Thing I Could Do” from Grease. Overall, though, Boy&Girl only flirted with the idea of gender-bending: pronouns were swapped, sure, and the boys (but, curiously, not really the girls) dabbled in drag. The jokes were about as cheap as the lingerie. All up, a pretty conservative affair, with the cast unable to nail the sense of sexy-grotesque integral, in my opinion, to queered cabaret.

But none of this would be a fair reason to walk out. Generally, I think it’s pretty poor form to leave a show’s opening night midway. However, just before the interval, 10 men (plus the male host and four men in the onstage band) performed Chicago’s “Cell Block Tango”. This is a song that deliberately subverts language used against female victims of intimate and sexual violence; its power, humour and sense of the uncanny succeeds because, in the context of the song, women have what is normally masculine power. In Boy&Girl, “Cell Block Tango” becomes a deeply unsettling song about domestic violence. In Australia, where one woman a week is murdered by an intimate partner, loosely “gender-bending” the song puts the power back in the hands of those who already have it. I left because I couldn’t sit with an audience that found that funny.

BOY&GIRL runs at the Visy Theatre at Brisbane Powerhouse until 19 April 2014.

Window Shopping

In a Lush store window in London yesterday, a very brave woman — Jacqueline Traide — consensually underwent torture in protest against animal testing in the cosmetics industry.

An article in the UK’s Daily Mail published photos of the event here. (Whether you call it a stunt or endurance art is up to you.) I post that link with a trigger warning; the photo series is (for me, at least) extremely upsetting. But that’s the point. It’s easy for us to distance ourselves from the pain of animals. We can call them dirty vermin or test subjects. They can’t speak up, and their deaths happen quietly, out of sight.

We wouldn’t let the same torture occur to our friends or our pets. There would be outrage. Charges would be laid. Yet industries that practise animal testing or factory farming continue to torture conscious, feeling creatures — and we continue to rationalise it.

Take a look at that link. Be horrified, disgusted, upset, anxious, nauseous, sad — whatever you feel. Then, in future, think about the products you buy, how they are made, and what you condone when you purchase them.

Traide’s 10-hour ordeal challenged London window shoppers. Who, of course, are the real animals, when we make these kind of nightmares commonplace?

Lush, as one example,  proves that the testing of cosmetics on animals is unnecessary. It is a thriving global business that acts ethically and works to minimise impact on the environment. (They also fixed my face.) This is my chance — as a recent convert — to sing their praises without being dull and telling you Things About Soap.

There are lots of horrifying things going on in the world, and often it feels overwhelming. But every little thing you do to help counts, so do even the little things when you can.

A Poet in Every Home

Monty Python’s Flying Circus: Episode 17

Mrs Potter ‘Ere, there’s Alfred Lord Tennyson in the bathroom.
Mr Potter Well, at least the poet’s been installed, then.
Cut to an officious-looking man in Gas Board type uniform and peaked cap.CAPTION: ‘SALES MANAGER EAST MIDLANDS POET BOARD’
Sales Manager Yes, a poet is essential for complete home comfort, and all-year round reliability at low cost. We in the East Midlands Poet Board hope to have a poet in every home by the end of next year.
ANIMATION: an advertisement.
Voices (singing) Poets are both clean and warm
And most are far above the norm
Whether here, or on the roam
Have a poet in every home.
Cut to middle-class hall. The front doorbell rings. Housewife opens door to Gas Board type inspector with bicycle clips, rubber mac and cap and notebook. In the background we can hear muffled Wordsworth.
Voice I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high…
Inspector Morning, madam, I’ve come to read your poet.
She Oh yes, he’s in the cupboard under the stairs.
Inspector What is it, a Swinburne? Shelley?
She No, it’s a Wordsworth.
Inspector Oh, bloody daffodils.

Thanks to Ib Rasmussen for the script excerpt.

NZ: North Island

My childhood in New Zealand has long since faded into a pastiche of greens: long car trips through the mountains with the windows down; the lowset jacaranda in my grandparents’ front yard and Granddad’s maze of fruit trees out the back; Nana’s lavender hedge and its cult of bees; and the smell of feijoa from my aunt’s verandah, overlooking Hawke’s Bay.

Last time I flew overseas, it was alone — to America. I certainly haven’t travelled with my parents for years. On board, we’re a pressurised mess of sound, light and bacteria. An inordinate number of Continue reading

Going Wrong in the Mindtank, etc.

Or: Scattered Study-Rambles

The trouble with being Zen is that when I latch onto a topic, I want to learn it from head to toe, only pausing to linger on erogenous zones. I read obsessively, and then I ruminate, and then—usually—I write and write until I feel like I’ve got it figured out. So it is a pity that SlutWalk (and all its associated debates) has taken off around the world right when I’m meant to be studying for English Lit. and Ancient History exams.

As much as Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Ancient Greek magical papyri are indeed fascinating (and I say that with no sarcasm), right now I want to be reading and writing about consent, sluttery, and the way our societies define appropriate relationships. I’ve got a whole folder of essays and blogs just waiting to be devoured.

Meanwhile, I’ve also had to take a crash course in water chemistry after setting up a fish tank on a whim without—naughty me—doing any research at all. There are now several matchbox-coffins buried in the garden. Turns out tank-ecosystems are just as complicated as human ecosystems. But there’s one significant difference: you can buy testing kits for water, and they tell you exactly what your fishies need.

Yes, I’m about to use this as the lamest analogy ever. I’m so sorry.

Perhaps one of the biggest issues surrounding consent is the question of how much communication—verbal and nonverbal—is sufficient to equal “yes” or “no” in any relationship: new, old, monogamous, polyamorous, long-term, short-term, one night stand, poly, married, unmarried, straight, queer, vanilla or kinky.

I could write mountains, but why when the wonderful Jaclyn Friedman has done the job for me in her Yes Means Yes article on Enthusiastic Consent and its “(nonexistent) terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” consequences. I thought it was time to repost that link; it’s compulsory reading for anyone who loves others and/or has sex.

There are no Aquarium Testing Kits for human relationships (yep, still sorry for that analogy). Fortunately, all you have to do is ask. Unfortunately, all you have to do is ask. Navigating relationships—of any kind—requires trust, honesty, clarity and all those other pesky things we don’t want to think about when we’re feeling nervous, awkward, embarrassed, guilty, ashamed, or any of the other negative emotions we tend to learn in our earliest years.

I feel like I’m getting better at it, but like cycling my fish tank (honestly, Zen?), it takes time. And often, salt.

SlutWalk’s best effect, globally, has been to raise questions. I hope critics and supporters alike keep on asking. If we open a public dialogue on consent and relationships, so to might dialogues open up in private.

Keep up the momentum. But filter everything you read through that brain of yours, and don’t forget to come up for air now and then.

Back to Ovid…

(P.S. The Scavenger published my SlutWalk blog. Yay!)

Empty Quests

Bizarre search terms that somehow led Googlers here
(perhaps they’d make good writing prompts)

cemetery man top hat

fizz de mitology

dandelion and driftwood

freak scientist

accordion walls

she’s a rat trap if i ever seen one

iggy pop body fat

james bond hat guy

Jason Webley Married?

buried up to neck and stoned

big orange tits

skylarking in the workplace

palatal voiceless fricative

most common search term: Tupperware (268x)

Nuns, Punks, and Iggy Pop dressed as 007

The other day I was passing through Queen St Mall and observed the following:

  • A young boy in a home-made cardboard top hat with a big orange flower attached on a spring.
  • A man who, from the neck up, looked like Iggy Pop on a bad day but, from the neck down, looked like James Bond in a perfect black formal suit and bow-tie.
  • A punk asking a flock of querulous nuns in blue questions about Jesus.

This is irrelevant. I think all low-fat milk tastes like it’s gone off. I am having treacle cake and a glass of milk for brunch.

If you like poems, you can find something called I Dreamt You Were Dead and It Was Grand (A Love Poem) by me, over at Black Rider Press (come along with the Black Riders, etc.). Even if you don’t like poems, it will still be there. Even if you don’t like treacle cake, I will still be eating it.

No one in my house likes treacle. I would like to find someone else who likes treacle, and give them a hug. But I won’t give them any of my treacle. It’s English, don’t you know.

In other news, I’ll be doing performing at a poetry event called ‘Not Aloud in the Library’ at the Brisbane Square Library on the 16th of April. I will be reading other people’s erotica. Fuzzy-tingle times are not allowed aloud in the library, unless you are one of my housemates. Darkwing Dubs will also be performing, along with burlesque and circus acts.

In other other news, that same weekend I’ll be a busy bee at the state library on the 18th, doing a poetry workshop as part of Express Media’s Mini Publication Ride. It’s so awesome to have an Express Media thing happening up here in Queensland. If you don’t know them and their publication, Voiceworks, you ought to. Anyhoo, this is a four-week series of workshops. They will be on short stories (Chris Somerville), poetry (me), opinion (Benjamin Law) and zine making (Tiara the Merch Girl) – and if you do all four you’ll have your own zine at the end of it. You can book here if you want to come, which you really ought to. If you don’t, I’ll still be eating treacle cake, though I might be sick of it by then and have moved onto a different kind of cake.

Happy Easter. Avoid invoking the fertility gods today unless you really want to. Eat a lot of chocolate, though. Food babies are safer.