Halloween and spooky poems

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.

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She is, indeed, chilling.

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!

QPF 2018

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?

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Winter news

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:

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I also loved hearing Claire Keegan talk hypnotically about short stories at Avid Reader — on “the elegance of knowing when you have enough”.

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 BarnesPam BrownQuinn EadesToby FitchMitch 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.

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🌿☀️

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Entries for the Newcastle Poetry Prize close soon, on 11 June, while all of Queensland Poetry Festival‘s poetry prizes are open until July.

Forever – is composed of Nows –

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 7.2StylusPressure Gauge Press, Red Room CompanyScumWoolf 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.

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(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.

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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.

Web Surfin’ Time

It’s raining poems on the World Wide Web this week (and raining, well, actual rain in Brisbane). This is poor timing for me – our new unit’s NBN is glacial, so we’re struggling to read poems/load gifs while haunted by the smooth white-noise of 1997 modem sounds.

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I’m so glad to have a poem out today with Red Room Company called “Bramble Terrace” – one of my blueprint poems, about a now-demolished house in Red Hill. This was commissioned following the Red Room Poetry Fellowship short-listings, and it’s something I’ve been tinkering with for some time. I seem to have lost most of the the photos I took inside the house, unfortunately, but this was the mosaic in the bathroom:

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#brisbanalia #redhill #mosaic #demolished

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Earlier this week, the Australian Book Review published the Queensland wing of their States of Poetry anthology, now in its second year. Thank you Felicity Plunkett for your deft editing and for bringing us all – Anna Jacobson, Pascalle Burton, me, Sam Wagon Watson, David Stavanger and Liam Ferney – together.

This week, catch poets and writers from all over Australia from the comfort of your own bed at the Digital Writers Festival (if you aren’t reliving ’97 download speeds). Don’t miss Brisbabes Rae White, Rebecca JessenQUT Lit Salon (feat. Emily O’Grady, Rebecca Cheers, Mindy Gill, Annabelle de Paola, and more) – and download yourself a sick new zine while you’re there.

What’re you waiting for? Get On-Line!*

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*It took over an hour to upload these gifs… but Neopets still loads okay. 👌

Queensland Writers Fellowship

I’m writing to you through the gentle fog of a well-earned hangover. I’m still in stunned disbelief, but I have the certificate now, and it says I won a Fellowship at the Queensland Literary Awards.

This is absolutely life-changing stuff. Let’s be real: I’m a postgrad student writing poetry in Australia. Making ends meet and saving energy for creative work is a challenge, especially in what has been a varied and strange year. But through 2017 (I guess I’m allowed to toot my own horn on today of all days?), I feel I’ve been writing bolder, sharper poetry – my best yet – and I’m so, so grateful (and relieved and amazed and flabbergasted) to receive a prize that both legitimises my work and buys me real time to write in 2018.

It’s especially wonderful to be recognised by the Queensland Literary Awards – Brisbane is the most consistent character in my writing. This prize means I’ll actually have the time and means to make the various daft paeans to my city I’ve been desperately wanting to: poetry travel guides to lost and uncanny Brisbanes across zines, collages and digital artefacts. I can finish my second manuscript. And I am going to find that damn Dragoncoaster.

Last night was also the night I felt like I finally “emerged” after several years of occupying a strange grey space between “emerging” and “established” writer. Thank you so much to the QWF judges for thinking of me as a grown-up, and thank you for helping me pay my rent and go to the dentist so I can write in a room of my own, with all my teeth.

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Congratulations to my fellow winners and finalists of this year’s Queensland Literary Awards. I hope you, too, are eating cheese jaffles in bed with your cat this morning. (Pictured above are my co-Fellows, Linda Neil and Mirandi Riwoe.)

Many, many thanks are due. Each of these thanks comes wrapped in a very sparkly ribbon, but if you hold it in your hand it is cool and has weight, like a river-stone:

  • The Queensland Literary Awards and State Library of Queensland;
  • Sarah Holland-Batt and Rohan Wilson, my champions and cheerleaders at QUT;
  • Francis, the best and most precious of all humans, whose voice got me (and gets me) through this year;
  • My loving parents, Kathy and Derek, who put Babette Cole’s Princess Smartypants in my young (probably sticky) hands;
  • Tamryn Bennett and the Red Room Poetry Company, who’ve always supported my work;
  • My long-time collaborator and beer pal, composer Timothy Tate – it has been a pleasure to share each success over 15 years of friendship;
  • Woolf Pack‘s Rebecca Cheers, Cordite‘s Kent MacCarter, and my Voiceworks Magazine editors and co-editors;
  • The QUT poetry crew, with special congratulations to my fellow Fellow, Mirandi Riwoe, Queensland Premier’s Young Publishers and Writers Award winner Mindy Gill, and finalists Emily O’Grady and Anna Jacobson (who was also shortlisted in the Emerging Writer Manuscript Award);
  • Sally, for the impromptu writing residency in your home (and perfect NY woods) earlier this year;
  • Kentucky Route Zero and Cardboard Computer, for expanding and challenging the way I think about poetry and space (and working-title inspiration); and
  • Every friend, support person and cat who has believed in me. You keep me afloat.

Here, as a reminder to myself forever, are the judge’s comments:

It was the ambition and design of Zenobia Frost’s proposed poetry collection A Museum of Dwellings that impressed the judges. The collection aims to examine some of the most pressing concerns in our relationship with space and place in the 21st Century, including psychogeography, travel, urban development and displacement, and this with a very Queensland focus. Frost’s poetry is both elegant and philosophically sophisticated and the panel agreed she is likely to produce a work of lasting significance.

Philosophically sophisticated! Me!❣️

Here is a final important gif expressing my feelings today:

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February 2017

Woolf Pack vol. 8 is out and stuffed full of leafy greens! Rebecca Cheers and Talia Enright produce this beautiful Brizzo femzine, which Rebecca launched this month at Festival of the Photocopier in Melbourne.  I love Rae White‘s butterfly-plague poem , ‘blizzards expected’. My erasure poem/collage is an actual fold-out in the centre, so I guess you could Blu-tak it up on the back of the toilet door? Pick one up at Junky Comics or download a digital copy here.

I also had a few little poems make their way into the world in January, in Forage (UK/USA), Veronica, and Small Packages. I’m keen as heck to begin my MFA next week at QUT, researching the poetics of urbanism and intimate spaces. (It’s all an excuse to talk about Kentucky Route Zero for a year and a half.)

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#KR0

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Zen 101

Want to dip your toes into my words? Here are a few of my favourite poems and performances:

I wrote ‘Auf Wiedersehen Spiegeltent’ in response to Cantina, a circus-cabaret show developed by Strut & Fret for the 2011 Brisbane Festival Spiegeltent. This poem won third prize in the 2011 John Marsden Awards for Young Australian Writers.


auf wiedersehen spiegeltent

1.

the circus is gone
big top
stripped to bone

wide-load giraffe
skeleton canters

in smoke and hammers
collapses collapses
ghosts of their shimmering
crushed into clay

at first light we steal glances
carnies disguised as men
unravel canvas

for one last act
The Great Vanishment

2.

we return
to one-hearted one-steps

preacher calls to his lambs
bowler tumbling downarm
and we come

their suicides unwind
from sky-held ribbons

our strongest men
are not strong enough
our women cannot fly

that man is a tin soldier
he is all moving parts
that woman hovers
en pointe en tightrope
their drunken limbs forget
the ways they should not bend

we swallow whole words

and the lion obeys
with a wink in the glint of its fang

we cannot contort
our mouths
back into grins

they fold back into boxes
like costumes like paper
with string and bells secured to their toes


‘Civic Duty’ was commissioned by The Red Room Company for their 2013 Poetry Object Project.

Civic Duty

Rosalie, Brisbane

Each day’s late fee
is one more day
in business. Walk the aisles
making mantras of titles,
shuffle worn carpet,
thumb static horror
blurbs in Papyrus:
finite options; infinite terror.

Stocked with boxed ways
to avoid going out,
our last local refuge of
streetpress dregs and special
favourite-members’ deals.
We no longer need to flash our card
to revisit films we rented once
or just once more — their covers,
like windows or tombstones.

But one day Civic Video
will close and on that day
there will be nothing:
neon-gone — a glowing
museum set piece.

Whatever killed the dinosaurs
is killing Civics. Already paleozoic,
Blockbuster never saw Rosalie
craft an ark of empty video cases.

A little more home
with each hole punched
in that loyalty card
we never end up
cashing in.


Here’s a performance from the 2014 Queensland Poetry Festival: a visceral poem about a Parisian cemetery exhumed for resources. This poem was published in Ricochet’s Flashback edition.



An oldie, but a goodie: ‘Bathing with Neil Gaiman’, a poem about reading in the bath, included on the 2009 Queensland Poetry Festival Anthology CD.


And, finally, here’s a growing-up-in-Brisbane poem, previously published in Southerly.

 

early rituals 

unfold the box

first day of school holidays
mulberry hair dye at the chemist
$4.95 for six weeks of tinted revolt

the uniform
absurd plastic gloves

rip open
the first juicy tang of chemicals
the tattered robe   skyclad beneath

plum juice   beetroot juice
combed to the roots
your mother wipes red from your ears

you stalk the timer’s tick
inspect the oil slick of scalp
metamorphose into grown up

you can dye your hair  do anything

at last
in the shower dye bruises water

six weeks pass   back at school
brown hair flaunts summer’s last jacaranda
you hope secretly for the detention


Each of these poems is included in Salt and Bone, published by Walleah Press in 2014. A full publication list is available here, with my performance CV here.

Salt and Bone

ArtStarted

It’s real! My tickets to Germany are BOOKED!

I’ve not been to Europe since I lived in Cambridge for a couple of years as a kid. I remember mountains flashing past my Gameboy Colour from the back of rental cars and getting in trouble with security at a castle for fishing coins out of a grand wishing fountain. I was very privileged to also see a lot of art and eat a lot of delicious food. My parents are nothing if not adventurous.

This will be my first time travelling overseas in six years (New Zealand doesn’t count, right?). Thanks to the fairy godmother that is ArtStart, I’m travelling to Freiburg for two weeks in the Black Forest studying poetry. Whaaaaaaaat! I almost don’t believe myself, but now that I’ve paid for real actual existing tickets, reality is finally sinking in.

my feels right now

my feels right now (the whole video really)

I’ve been working my booty off at my fave home-away-from-home, Lush, so with my savings I’ll also be able to see Munich and Berlin; go hiking in Sorrento; make limoncello on a lemon farm; and say hi to some dead people in Pompeii. (I had a list of cemeteries and catacombs I dearly wanted to visit, but that’ll have to be next time.) I hit the road (or the air, really) for a month in July.

Meanwhile, back in Brisbane, I’ve finally made my first poetry subs of the year. I’m challenging myself with new themes — fewer graveyard poems this year; more poems about fury and desire. I spent this morning peeling drafts out from under the cat (of course she sat on whatever I was working on), and made breakthroughs with some tricky poems started last year. (Thanks to Bronwyn and Francis for critique time.)

I can also officially announce (last time I mentioned it, it was actually embargoed — whoops) that Salt and Bone was commended in the FAW Anne Elder Awards. Hooray! Congratulations to Cathy Altman for her winning collection, Circumnavigation (Poetica Christi Press). The judges, Anne Elvey and Garth Madsen, had the following generous things to say in their report:

Salt and Bone shows intelligent writing with a brilliant use of metaphor, poems that twist their way and are always surprising.

I’m currently rereading Jeanette Winterson’s Sexing the Cherry, which for me has always felt like a big velvet poem. Not that you ever really finish reading a poetry book, but Patricia Lockwood’s Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexual has continued to be rewarding and confronting. I also read the whole of Kristin Hannaford‘s Curio in the bath a little while back and it was a damn fine bath.

I also finally scored a copy of Woolf Pack‘s fourth issue, celebrating a year in print, and let me tell you it is a gorram ripper of a zine. I especially loved Dashurie’s gorgeous and empowering comic “Rise of the Merbabes”, editor Rebecca Cheer’s confronting personal essay “Vagina Christmas”, K. Queene’s Spice Girls collage and basically any image drawn by Talia Enright. You can find out how to buy a copy here.

Woolf Pack: Issue #4

Woolf Pack: Issue #4

This post shouldn’t end without saying I had the immense privilege of seeing Hot Brown Honey Burlesque at the Judith Wright Centre earlier this month. On a personal level, this cabaret burlesque combined exactly the right blend of rage and joy I needed that night. On a critical level, Queensland is so bloody lucky it is to have this performance collective making great art and fighting the power right here, right now. I wish I’d had the space in my work-life that week to write a thorough review (and to see it more than once), but I had cider and a dance-at-the-end instead. Hot Brown Honey Burlesque is technically polished, politically informed and artistically confronting. As always, hell yeah to the Judy for supporting challenging new work.

That’s about all from me. If, by chance, you’re reading this from London, my oldest and probably most genius-y friend, RAM composer Timothy Tate, has a show on at St. Marylebone Parish Church on April 22. Like on the Monopoly Board.

Zenobia x