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:

WunderkammerPosterA5_Revision3-page-001

INTERVIEW: Fetish Fridays

Fetish Fridays celebrate their second successful year of bringing kinky shenanigans to the Brisbane stage. This Friday, Brisbane Leather Pride’s vice president, Lucero, clues me in on next Friday’s big playdate.

ZENOBIA FROST: Last year’s Fetish Fridays series were a great success, blending performance and play. What has changed as the event’s concept has developed through 2014?
LUCERO: The success of last year’s Fetish Fridays meant that we didn’t want to change much about the events themselves. What we’ve done is have the events at three different venues including holding one on the Gold Coast to make them more accessible to those living outside of Brisbane.

ZF: FFs are developed in collaboration with Brisbane Leather Pride. How important has it been to create a wholly inclusive space?
L: Incredibly important. Part of the Brisbane Leather Pride mandate is to be inclusive of all genders, orientations, lifestyles, etc. We aim for these events to be entertaining, educational and sometimes challenging but we endeavour most of all in making them accessible to everyone.

ZF: What will make even newbies feel at home?
L: The Fetish Fridays events are a great introduction due to the performance nature of the events. Many kink related events are promoted solely as ‘play’ parties, which implies that you must be an active participant to attend. While I know from experience that this is not the case, it certainly can make people nervous about attending. What you will get with Fetish Fridays #3 is a night of entertainment that will show a newcomer to the scene some of the things possible in the kink world — a showcase if you will. The BLP committee members in attendance will also be available to answer any questions people may have.

BLPZF: Tell me about the performances planned for FF #3. What will be your highlights?
L: Redbear and his beautiful partner Namaiki are seasoned performers who will no doubt put on a very moving rope performance. Dolly de Ville is spectacular on pole and fresh from competing in Miss Pole Australia. Reigning ‘Miss Burleque Brisbane’ Magnolia Knife will add some sass, while you can expect something dark from self-proclaimed Old Guard Goths Rex and Ruby.
I will be doing a suspension piece with the amazing Nix, but the highlight — for me at least — will be Master Pierre, who has something very special indeed planned with his pup Jolt. I do not want to give the game away before the night, but Master Pierre’s show will be both entertaining and challenging.

ZF: Your speciality is rope — though it’s not your only area of expertise. How do you make rope-play performative?
L: Honestly? By having an amazing rope bottom, Nix, who does all the hard work and makes me look good. Match this with some theatre, great music and costuming, and I find it is possible to transform a fairly simple rope suspension into something that will take the audience on a journey. Like most performance-based art I truly believe it is about telling a story and having the audience engage.

ZF: Tell me about FF’s newest space. How will it transform from performance to play space?
L: For the final Fetish Friday of 2014 we have chosen a secret location in the heart of Milton. Due to the successful nature of the shows last year, the chosen venue was practically at capacity, so this year we picked a bigger venue with plenty of space.
As the performances come to a close the lighting will dim and the music will start to change the atmosphere of the venue into something of a more underground club feel. As with all kink events, it is the people that make the most prevalent changes and I would expect to see the kinky regulars to start playing almost straight away. Non-active participants are encouraged to stay, watch and ask questions or if they feel comfortable get involved in a safe environment under the watchful eyes of staff and dungeon monitors.

ZF: The event also has a charitable side. Tell me about FF’s support of the Queensland AIDS Council (QuAC).
L: Proceeds from the event will go to support Brisbane Leather Pride this year, as we have just applied to become incorporated after our Inaugural General Meeting in May. While BLP is a not-for-profit venture and all non-performers donate their time voluntarily, there are of course some costs involved. That said, we have a long running association with QuAC and so we donate all monies raised from the excellent raffles held at each Fetish Friday to them. So far, over the first two events, we have raised over $500 for QuAC.

ZF: What’s the number-one thing that makes Fetish Fridays a highlight of Brisbane’s kinky calendar?
L: The kink scene is by its very nature is a somewhat underground place and still taboo in many people’s minds. This is one of the few times that the kink-curious can meet with the experienced and ask real people real questions in a safe and well-managed space.

FETISH FRIDAYS #3 runs from 7pm – 2am on 5 September 2014 in Milton, with the show itself starting at 8pm. (The exact location is sent with your ticket confirmation, but it’s close to Milton train station.) Tickets $30.

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

 

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.

THEATRE REVIEW: 1984

Cremorne Theatre, QPAC
17 July 2014

Photos by Dylan Evans

In the intimate (even stuffy) Cremorne, we are blinded by roaming searchlights. A huge screen looks down upon us from the bleak stage. Shake & Stir immerse their audience in George Orwell’s 1984 — a draconian future where “war is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength.” Here, the past is malleable and even private thought is public property.

Bryan Probets is compelling as Winston Smith, the quietly sharp, nervous dissident who works in the Ministry of Truth rewriting records of the past. The telescreen — a two-way television that both broadcasts and monitors — dominates his home and life. Winston’s internal struggle against Big Brother is broadcast to us even while, in person, he hides from prying cameras. His monologues induce doublethink in the audience: we know this is private; we know we are watching.

Set designer Josh McIntosh has stashed the past in crevices and under floorboards. The unfolding of a secret, museum-like room is a special delight. But it’s Optikal Bloc’s visuals that are at the heart of this production. (Ironically, they edited 2013’s season of Big Brother for Nine Network.) Matched with Guy Webster’s suitably overwhelming sound design and Jason Glenright’s always-clever lighting, Optikal Blok evokes a claustrophobic sense of constant surveillance.

1984 — photo by Dylan Evans

Unfortunately, the cast can’t quite maintain this sense of dread. Ross Balbuziente, Nelle Lee Julia and Nick Skubij — company co-artistic directors — each seem miscast as cartoonist iterations of their characters: keen patriot Parsons, secret rebel Julia and elderly antiques-peddler Charrington respectively. David Whitney as O’Brien brings a gravity essential to the double-agent role; he is the production’s much-needed metronome, keeping the pace even.

There’s a particular bleak resonance in Orwell’s vision: in 2014, we enact doublethink every day; we willingly cling to the devices that monitor and data-mine us. Michael Futcher makes note of these phenomena in his director’s notes. Yet scenes in 1984 that ought to remind the audience of its role in its own panopticon are often played lightly enough for laughs. Winston’s prison experience is at one point reduced to toilet humour. And, significantly, there’s a bitter-sweetness lacking from his frantic connection with Julia. Even the live rats meant to signify terror are, well, really cute.

Shake & Stir’s production faithfully follows the plot and text of Orwell’s 1948 novel (I did my homework and read it last week), yet something is missing. No amount of audio-visual saturation can stand in for genuinely felt fear. Opening night, if I understand correctly, was the 101st showing of this particular adaptation; after 124 days on the road, perhaps 1984 is going through the motions. Still, Orwell’s inventive language alone reminds of our tenuous grasp on memory; our disconnection from inconvenient histories; and how easily we might be complicit in our own enslavement.

“If you want a picture of the future,” says O’Brien, “imagine a boot stamping on a human face — for ever.” Shake & Stir has long since found its feet; during 1984’s QPAC run, I hope it’ll find its steel-capped boots.

1984 plays until 2 August 2014 at Cremorne Theatre, QPAC.

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!