On Death

Ten days ago I woke to find that Terry Pratchett had died, surrounded by family and with his cat on the bed.

I’ve read stacks of Discworld but I certainly can’t claim to have read them all. When I’m in the library and feel in need of wisdom, wit and lolz, I usually head for “Pr” in the fiction section and choose at random. To me, Discworld books read like nutritious comfort food — that one soup recipe your mum always made when you were sick that was somehow both delicious and good for you.

Despite all this I was surprised to find myself waking to the news of Terry’s death at 5.30 am and weeping. And sobbing and weeping. A fairly stoic friend texted me to say they were sobbing at their desk at work. It felt like the collective sense of loss in the world had magnified itself and everyone affected by Terry and his work was swept up in this shared grief. It was a weird experience.

terry DEATH

I got to meet Terry once, at a signing in a school hall. I asked him what must have been a very tiresome question about getting stuck on a plot point — I was drafting a fantasy novel at the time — and he told me about a scene in Monstrous Regiment he couldn’t puzzle his way past, where the main characters are all imprisoned. His advice to me — to himself — was to let the characters figure it out. You’ve given them personalities and strengths; they’ll know what to do. I went home and read that book and that scene, and had the profound backstage experience of imagining Terry at his writing desk giving real agency to the people he’d created.

This was a major revelation to me as both a writer and a reader: writers have the power to create people who themselves have the power to invent and to love. As a reader, I thought about this throughout The Hunger Games recently travelling with Katniss as she develops and uses her singularly irreverent problem-solving skills. I remember struggling with shame as a nine-year-old whose only friend was Buffy; looking back — thinking of the team of writers and the actor who gave that character life and agency — I was bloody lucky to have such a resilient friend. Terry changed the way I thought about fiction.

At that signing, I gave Sir Terry a copy of a zine I’d made at school called Schrödinger’s Shoe. It was a collection of poems, comics and drawings by me and my school friends (including Bettina Marson). He took it very graciously and I always presumed it’d find its way to the recycling. Years later, my friend and fellow poet ReVerse Butcher travelled from Australia to the UK and visited London College of Communication’s Zine Library. Upon her return, she contacted me with a bizarre story: the very first thing she’d pulled from the huge sliding shelves, at random from thousands of zines, was Schrödinger’s Shoe.

Terry saw enough value in our work — made by 16-year-old girls in Macromedia Freehand — to donate it to a library.

Terry did not go gentle into that good night — and rightly so — but Death is very, very good at his job. Like millions of others, I’m grateful for Sir Pratchett — for the world and people he created and nurtured; for his irreverence; and for the 10 influential minutes he gave me a decade ago.

The Voyage, revisited

In 2009, SweetWater Press published my first chapbook, The Voyage. Bettina Marson (who designed the cover of Salt and Bone, too) illustrated the booklet, and we launched it at Metro Arts on my 20th birthday. The Voyage is out of print now, so I thought it might be fun to have a digital copy — or, at least, highlights — online. I’ll roll 10 poems out on tumblr, with a table of contents here.

Sky Fishing by Bettina Marson

Poems reprinted with gratitude to Ross Clark and SweetWater Press. By way of a writing exercise to get me into the new year, I’ve given these ones a gentle edit. (I’ve excluded poems that found their way into Salt and Bone or were too, er, of-their-time.) I hope you enjoy The Voyage as a digital chapbook.

The Voyage

From the Ferry, Looking Out
Stalking the Moon/Skyfishing
Fiji Five
Glass to Sea Junk: A Sacrifice
How Do You Do, Tuatara?
Cicada Duet
Onwiththings
Evolution
18 Warrengate Road
Without You

At last: SALT AND BONE

It’s here! It’s real! It’s got a spine and an ISBN!

Salt and Bone (Walleah Press) will be available for sneaky pre-sales at Queensland Poetry Festival, with a Brisbane launch in mid-September. Then, if I’m lucky, a little touring!

Melbourne-based artist Bettina Marson designed the beautiful front and back covers (and tolerated me emailing her about 340 million photos of curlews being weirdos). I think this cover is about as Brisbane as it gets:

SALT AND BONE

Here are some very nice things that Cordite Poetry Review‘s Kent MacCarter said about Salt and Bone:

“Frost’s are fearless poems, engaging with and confronting the intricacies of our sex-then-life-then-death eddy. Treacle, black pepper and clove, the weight of Atlas: these are poems Bertolt Brecht would delay his first morning coffee or crossword to consume … Their alchemic moods forge a contemporary age of bronze, one that, somehow, already sports your fingerprint embossed into its folds. Salt and Bone is her own Epic Theatre.”

If you’re super-duper keen, you can preorder the collection from Walleah.

Poems and Possums

July is here; we’re at the halfway mark of 2014 already.

I had a great time last week reading new poems at Ruckus! Slam and a few of 2014 Arts Queensland poet-in-residence Warsan Shire‘s poems at Riverbend Books. And today Scum Mag has published one of the poems I debuted that night: “Blood Spells“.

Lots of projects will come to fruition in the year’s second half: Rachael Briggs and I will trouble you with two-voiced monster-poems at Queensland Poetry Festival; my friend Kit Loke will launch the poetry blog we’ve been working away at together; and Walleah Press will launch my book Salt and Bone.

Here’s a sneaky preview some of Bettina Marson‘s cover art for Salt and Bone, partly to celebrate the half-year and partly because I can’t wait to share Bettina’s amazing work:

by Bettina Marson

by Bettina Marson

Stay tuned for launch deets — coming soon!

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.