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.

Review: Disney’s ALADDIN

No Disney magic is spared in the touring adaption of Broadway musical hit, Aladdin, based on 1992’s blockbuster animation.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Aladdin runs until 3 June at the Lyric Theatre, QPAC. You can also enter a lottery, Broadway-style, for cheap tickets throughout the season.

Photos by Jeff Busby.

 

 

 

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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Exercise: windows

April writing exercises on suburban Brisbane windows*

Reading “An Ordinary Evening at Hamilton” (Malouf, 1974): “The garden shifts / indoors, the house lets fall / its lamp light, opens / windows in the earth”.

 

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outside in

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Shrödinger’s verandah
the house seeding its elements
built-in and building out

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everything gone but the fingernails

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after the demolition
just the fingernails

a lightbulb inside
an avocado

I seesaw in the skylight
alien in rust and oil
not waving but wavering

* Except for that bloody “hamburger” window, which was in St Marys, Tasmania, next to a discrete window for “savs”.

Freiburg on My Mind

FIVE SLEEPS TILL EUROPE!

Naturally, my immune system has sensed that I’m on holiday and gone on a holiday of its very own, leaving me with a pile of prescriptions to take overseas. Typical.

Aside from a hearty regime of being a doona spoonie and topping my PB on Theme Hospital, I have been writing. Lots. I’m very privileged to have the guidance (and inventive writing prompts) of poet Warsan Shire via her online workshops, so I’ve been challenging myself to write in new ways: to music, to films, or by recording furious rants onto my iPhone (thanks KP for that tip) and seeing what can be salvaged. Taking risks in poetry sometimes feels genuinely scary, which probably means the experiments are worth it even if the end results fizzle out. We shall see.

More excellent challenges ahead: two weeks in Freiburg for the Black Forest Writing Seminars (which I continually mix up with Black Phoenix Alchemy Labs), bookended by adventures in Munich, Naples, Sorrento, Rome and Berlin. Eeeeeeeee. One person in my life isn’t very impressed, though:

I have ArtStart to thank for these incredible opportunities. As a direct result of Brandis’ massive arts funding cuts and restrictions, ArtStart grants no longer exist. I want other people to have these opportunities too! If you’re bummed about the government’s stranglehold on arts funding, you can join the fight to Free the Arts.

I look forward to checking in from the University of Freiburg, where I’ll be taking Adrianne Kalfopoulou’s poetry workshops and Roxane Gay’s nonfiction workshops, and hopefully writing and writing and writing, eating a lot of spätzle, and flexing my high-school German. I’m travelling with a bestie and with the protection of this little Brisbane friend:

Tschüss!
Z.

CIRCUS REVIEW: Scotch and Soda

Company 2’s Scotch and Soda began its life at Woodford — and that grassroots festival vibe stays with it, even confined to a theatre. The Judith Wright Centre again proves itself to be a chameleon space: Dan Black’s clever lighting design makes use of colourful string-lights to evoke the big top. Company 2 (known for Cantina) conjures an immersive speakeasy atmosphere in the round through simple design, costuming and music. In this case, the Crusty Suitcase Band binds the production together and takes it from great to unforgettable.

Scotch and Soda features circus staples — acrobalance, aerials and slapstick — but what sets Company 2 apart is that, while each performer is at the top of their game, there’s a larrikin sense of chaos and play. It reassured me (just in case I was wondering if I was having a great time or not) to see two of Limbo’s cast members (Danik Abishev and Heather Holliday)* in the audience, having a damn good time. If international circus talent of that magnitude loves your show, it’s definitely good stuff.

Scotch and Soda by Sean Young (SYC Studios)

Scotch and Soda photographed by Sean Young (SYC Studios)

Chelsea McGuffin (co-director), whose signature move is to tiptoe across wine bottles, could balance her way out of any dilemma; David Carberry, Daniel Catlow and Ben Walsh bring chemistry to adagio and vaulting; and Mozes is hilarious on roller-skates but gobsmacking on trapeze. But Scotch and Soda is more than spectacle: the Crusty Suitcase Band is a vital part of the performance, with weird sax breaks and percussion-offs definite highlights. They even play the plastic bag, to great effect.

The only time Scotch and Soda takes a dip in energy is during a sequence featuring budgerigars, whose unwillingness to play along is comic, but ultimately overlong — and it’s unclear how keen the budgies are to keep us company. (There was also a puppy at the start that didn’t reappear — alas!)

Company 2’s last production, She Would Walk the Sky (World Theatre Festival, in collaboration with Finegan Kruckemeyer), struggled with incorporating sluggish prose. In Scotch and Soda, the company returns to its strengths, and the result is sheer delight.

SCOTCH AND SODA played at Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts from 24 to 27 September, as part of Brisbane Festival. Company 2 returns to JWCoCA in November with Sediment.

*BTW, Strut and Fret’s LIMBO is completely astounding and I spent all my BrisFest dollars on seeing it twice.

 

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:

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