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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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

Hares, Hyenas and Home

Just dragged my suitcase in the door after a whirlwind week in Newcastle (at National Young Writers’ Festival) and Melbourne (for the Melb. launch of Salt and Bone at Hares and Hyenas). I met so many fantastic writers and readers at NYWF, thoroughly enjoyed lording it as a judge at the Epic Word Nerd Battledome (pictured, with Jane Howard and Adolfo Aranjuez), and relished reading Foreign Soil on the beach.

Word Nerd Battledome JudgesHearty congratulations, also, to Scum Mag on the launch of their first print zine. It comes with TEMPORARY TATTOOS. What’s cooler than that? Zero things. The zine fair was a highlight, as was getting up on stage at the launch orgy in a nightie to perform Blood Spells with the Scum gals. (Photo below by Alan Weedon.)

I’m so grateful to ReVerse Butcher and the team at Hares and Hyenas for hosting the Melbourne launch of Salt and Bone. Thank you to everyone who came along. Here are the lovely Broede Carmody’s words on the book (and thanks, Broede, for the launch snap):

“Zen describes herself as an expat of the Voiceworks editorial committee, for which she read and edited poems for a number of years before she turned 25 and we realised she was not just too old but also too disgustingly talented to be involved in the magazine any more.

“But seeing as we’re here for the launch of a poetry collection and not a memoir I should probably talk a little about Zen’s work itself and not just her pretty face.

“I think it’s appropriate that this book is called Salt and Bone because not only does the powerful imagery in Zen’s poetry leave a taste in your mouth but it also affects you physically. Poems like ‘Aftershocks’ deal with sexual assault but importantly use the language of survival. Similarly, other poems celebrate women, sex, polyamory and the queer identity. A lot of poetry out there—particularly the kinds we are introduced to in high school or that are available in book stores—are by old, white men and Zen’s poetry really strikes a chord with me because it’s different. It’s so important that queer Australians see themselves reflected back on the page.

“So with that I would like to say fuck you to the patriarchy, and consider this book launched.”

Hares and Hyenas launch

WUNDERKAMMER: Less than one week to go

Less than one week to go until WUNDERKAMMER: the co-launch of Curio and Salt and Bone. Kristin and I are doubly excited! And so relieved that Avid is taking care of everything.

If you’d like to come, please RSVP via Avid Reader (for free!). This ensures we have enough free wine and nibbles for everyone to get sufficiently jolly.

If you can’t make the Brisbane launch but would still like a copy of either book (or both!), here’s how:

WunderkammerPosterA5_Revision3-page-001

Total Eclipse of the Zen

Well! I’m about to go undercover (read: do a lot of poem-writing and grant-applying in bed) to prepare for upcoming festivals and new work. Salt and Bone is ready to launch (!) and I’m ready to zoom up and down the east coast (including a Lushie work retreat in Sydney). Here’s some of what’s coming up:

  • Queensland Poetry Festival: Celestial Monsters, 31 Aug @ 11am
    Judith Wright Centre shopfront space (FREE): Rachael Briggs and Zenobia Frost have been places humans shouldn’t tread. And they’ve returned with poems, song cycles and the lingering smell of graveyard dirt.
  • Queensland Poetry Festival: Into the Warmth, 31 Aug @ 1.45pm
    Judith Wright Centre performance space (FREE): Poetry can be sung from the rafters, and it can be an intimate act between strangers. Join us for this very special Sunday Poetry Yum Cha session – come in, find a seat, grab a snack, open your ears and your heart. Featuring Candy Royalle, Max Ryan, Cyril Wong, Zenobia Frost and Adam Hadley
  • Wunderkammer: The launch of Salt and Bone and Curio, 18 Sept @ 6pm
    Avid Reader (FREE): Kristin Hannaford and Zenobia Frost co-launch their new WALLEAH PRESS poetry collections. Join us for drinks and nibbles as we celebrate confluence, quolls and possums — and send Hannaford’s CURIO and Frost’s SALT AND BONE into the world. Bookings essential.
  • National Young Writers Festival: Newcastle, 2–5 Oct
    Program launched soon — watch this space. Basically lots of this:
    212dance
  • Salt and Bone: Melbourne launch, 7 Oct
    Salt and Bone launches in good company at Hares & Hyenas. Details TBC.
  • Sleep: Oct–Nov

 

Salt & Bone: A Blog Hop

Ms Kaitlyn Plyley, poet and comedian extraordinaire (also generally a great gal and my true Harry Potter Scene It! adversary), invited me along to her bloggy sock-hop. This is a selfie-interview — a chance to reflect on (and, perhaps, pitch) a current project; then, I tag a few more bloggers and send the blog hop on its way.

  1. What are you working on at the moment?
    My big announcement for 2014 is that Walleah Press will soon turn my manuscript, Salt and Bone, into a living, breathing, spine-y paper thing. We’re hoping to launch the book around July. I’ve finally stopped fiddling with punctuation and order-of-poems. (Ralph at Walleah has been very patient with me.) Bettina Marson is working away at the cover design, which — in keeping with the books Brisbaniness — will feature possums, curlews, stilts and mud. (You can see Bettina’s designs for my 2009 chapbook in her ink portfolio.)
  2. How do you think your work differs from that of other writers in your genre?
    I like to think — I hope, at least — that I’ve developed a distinct poetic voice: a Brisbane voice, concise-but-not-sparse, flexible enough for both page and stage. That would be the answer as far as poetry as concerned. As regards nonfiction, I hope my writing is getting more precise and, if I’m lucky, funnier.
  3. Why do you write what you write?
    I write poetry because choosing the lowest-paying category of arts (and in this budget climate) just seemed like fun! Jokes aside, I find poetry compelling as a craft that’s impossible to perfect; each poem is an impossible puzzle. I can work on them infinitely, chipping away. It’s satisfying in an it’ll-never-be-satisfying sense. I also write poetry because a) I enjoy reading poetry and b) it’s short. Creative nonfiction gives me space to research and mull over and really get my teeth into a topic. It’s very different from writing poetry, and that’s good.
  4. What’s your writing process, and how does it work?
    I write a terrible first draft very quickly and then I spend millennia editing, fiddling, editing, proofing and putting-the-final-touches-on. This usually happens in the wee small hours, in bed with a good notebook.

Enough navel-gazing! Thank you for reading. Up next:

Michael Gerard Bauer: Michael is one of my favourite children’s/YA writers. His books are currently sold in over 20 countries including the USA and UK and translated into nine languages.

Sarah Gory: Sarah directs the Queensland Poetry Festival. Her blog, Highgate Hill Kitchen, started “as a way to document my cooking ventures, stay motivated to keep on trying new things in the kitchen, and share my daily stories.”

Eleanor JacksonEleanor is a performance poet who casts spells with her silky voice. Her most recent work, Now You See Me, was an interactive installation exploring the theme of queer visibility in visual art.

While we’re here, here’s a newish poem in Cordite’s No Theme III.

Voiceworks launch: Brisbane edition

 

A rare Brisbane Voiceworks shindig — in one week’s time! Helllls yeah! This is editor Kat Muscat‘s and designer Elwyn Murray‘s final issue — and my final spin on the editorial committee — so make sure you come along to raise a toast to the end of an era and the start of a glorious new one. Welcome VW’s new ed, Elizabeth Flux.

Features: VW Perspective contributors James Butler, Sophie Overett, Emily O’GradyKhalid Warsame and Zenobia Frost; John Marsden Prize-winner, Jeremy Poxon; and the launch of new FREE Brisbane femmo zine, WOOLF PACK.

When: 6pm for 6.30pm, Friday 28 March 2014
Where: Avid Reader, West End
Tickets: Bookings essential online or on (07) 3846 3422. $7.50 entry fee includes a free drink.
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