Interview with Australian Writer Zenobia Frost

Blogger Geosi Gyasi interviewed me for his blog, Geosi Reads:

Geosi Reads

Credit: Raw Bones Credit: Raw Bones

Brief Biography: Zenobia Frost is an Australian writer and editor whose debut poetry collection, The Voyage, was released in 2009. Zenobia (Brisbane) is the assistant editor of Cordite Poetry Review. Her work has been published in Voiceworks, Overland, Southerly, The Lifted Brow and Rave Magazine. Zenobia was shortlisted in the 2013 Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize and won second place in the 2013 John Marsden Prize for Young Australian Writers. Her debut collection, Salt and Bone, is forthcoming from Walleah Press.

Geosi Gyasi: Between Page and Stage, which one is your first love?

Zenobia Frost: Page, I think. Writing poetry was how I learned to be happy with my own company. I can fiddle with one line or one piece of punctuation for hours on end. Sometimes, when I write a new poem, I’m excited to wake up the next morning just to see it with fresh…

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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.

Interview: BRISBANE (A DOING WORD)

Writer David Burton and director Claire Christian team up for Vena Cava’s latest production, BRISBANE (A DOING WORD). I caught up with David and Claire to find out more.

 

ZENOBIA FROST: People like to denigrate Brisbane as a place to live or make art, but it sounds like this play identifies the ways in which Brisbane has much to offer. Is that correct? Tell me about the play’s relationship to Brisbane.

DAVID BURTON: The play’s relationship to Brisbane is complex. Every artist I know has a complex relationship with this city. I’m a big Brisbane fan too, and a large part of this play is showing that Brisbane has a lot to offer but that it also has a lot to overcome. Brisbane’s main challenge is the relationship it holds with its artists, many of whom are looking to book a flight to Melbourne or Sydney! I was interested in why that it is — not on a political level, because that’s discussed enough — but on a personal, emotional, creative level. That’s what the play explores.

CLAIRE CHRISTIAN: I like to think that the play metaphorically high-fives Brisbane in a way too. And that by the very making of the work, Brisbane artists are doing their thing in Brisbane and loving on Brisbane.

 

ZF: Tell me about the play’s protagonist, Matty. What sets his story apart from your average coming-of-age?

DB: We’ve all met Matty. He’s the hopelessly ambitious, idealistic artist who believes theatre can change the world. He’s loved, funny, and imaginative, but he’s sadly lacking some sensitivity. I think he’s an interesting protagonist because he’s recognisable, and not necessarily likeable. Not likeable, but loveable. I’ve been Matty, I’ve been friends with a lot of Mattys, and I’ve watched many grow up, and many stagnate in a Matty-state. It’s funny and interesting to me.

CC: I think those of us in the arts all have an inner Matty at some point of our career: the people in our lives loving us, us hating ourselves, being a wanker about our art — perhaps that’s part of the process.

 BRISBANE (a doing word)


ZF: Matty explores comedy, slam, theatre, therapy and Jesus. Which part of his adventure is most memorable/resonant for you as writer and director, respectively?

CC: Matty’s overall journey, but the people around him are also on a journey because of him and his impact on their lives. He’s a pretty blissfully unaware of the ripple effect he causes. I hope audiences just wanna give him a hug — and tell him he’s okay. I think all artists need that. Scrap that, I think everyone needs that.

 

ZF: JWC is a distinctly Brisbane venue (and definitely a doing-wordy place). How does “Brisbane (a doing word)” use the space?

CC: We’re in the shopfront space, which has its challenges and limitations, but is also forcing us to be creative. I’ve done a show in this space before — I love the intimacy it forces, the proximity of the actors to the audience. Plus, I think it’s fantastic that Vena Cava are getting away from their home turf and spreading their wings. I think it makes a great comment about how they see themselves within the Brisbane landscape and about the work they want to make.

 

ZF: Vena Cava is a student theatre company; have the play’s themes resonated with the cast? In what ways?

C: I think so, yeah. I think it is spinning a few of them into an existential art related crisis. It’s a little confronting in that Matty’s essentially on their path, in their classes, possibly them — even though I think they all hope not. It’s probably inspired a whole lot of reflection about why they do what they do, and how they talk about what they do. I think it’s nice to be reminded not to be a dickhead. I think they get that now.

 

ZF: Does the play reveal anything unexpected about Brisbane?

DB: I don’t know what people’s expectations are of our city! I think we all have different perspectives on our town, and the play looks at that. None of the characters have the same relationship with this place.

CC: I don’t know, I’d like to think the play speaks more about being a young, confused twenty something — which could be applicable in any town. I think what makes the play speak of Brisbane is the ‘plight’ of artists here and their questions about where to place themselves for success. Maybe it speaks about the perception of success as an artist and how place and space contribute to that.

 

BRISBANE (A DOING WORD) plays at the Judith Wright Centre from 20 to 22 March.

 

INTERVIEW: Fetish Fridays

Much more fun than Casual Fridays, Frankie Vandellous (curator of Alchemy) has collaborated with HazyinSeptember (from Brisbane Leather Pride) to run a trio of evenings celebrating Brisbane’s kink communities: Fetish Fridays. Over three consecutive weeks, Number 29 Club has been home to all sorts of playtimes for public consumption. The final show is coming up — this Friday, 6 September. I spoke with Ms Vandellous herself (on the night of the second show) to find out a little more.

Words: Zenobia Frost
Photos: Stuart Hirth

ZF: Take me on a tour of the venue on Fetish Fridays; walk me through that front door and describe the atmosphere you wanted to create.
FV: Fetish Fridays is being held on the lower level of the Number 29 Club, a male-only club — so already, we are staging a revolution! An open-air courtyard leads to a dark room with a small stage at the other end. It feels like a “back room” performance: alternative, underground, where anything could happen (and does)!

Photo by Stuart Hirth

ZF: It sounds like FF#1 was an electrifying success with audiences. Tell me about your goal: to create a safe space to blend fetish with theatre.
FV: With established Doms, burlesque dancers, and drag performers in our program, we turned kink into performance. My aim was to provide an opportunity for the “kinky and the curious” to celebrate Brisbane’s vibrant kink community, showcase its diversity, and to show how technique can be elevated into artistry. I hoped to provide a launching pad for discussion and a desire to engage further in the community.

ZF: Do you think FF#1 was successful in those goals — did it educate and titillate?
FV: I walked away from FF Part I feeling that this event was one of the best I have worked on in a long while. There was not a single heteronormative performance on the first night, and the energy of the room was one of celebration and community. I know that some audience members walked away feeling a renewed interest or hunger. I hope that they find satisfaction.

ZF: Tell me about the crowd — I bet they were a well-dressed bunch.
FV: There was such diversity! There were corsets and fetish-wear, suits and sweatpants — even leather harnesses and jock straps! We also had a diversity of ages and experiences with kink. We had attendees who had never even attended a burlesque show sharing the room with established members of the kink community. This was a truly inclusive event.

Photo by Stuart Hirth

ZF: How has the BDSM community in Brisbane taken to these gigs? What kind of feedback have you received?
FV: Both the performers and the audience have given me great feedback; there is a lot of excitement about this project, and I have heard that it has been spoken about extensively in the BDSM community over the weeks leading up to it. As our first attempt, we are improving each week, and certainly looking to enhance the viewers’ experience in the future. The team involved in this project are already planning our next step… Stay tuned…

ZF: FF#2 focused on gender-bending, drag and burlesque. What were the highlights?
FV: There were so many performers that I was excited to watch last night. I love Vivienne VSassy’s burlesque performances and appreciate RedBear’s passion for rope. I knew that Miss Gen had been working extensively on her rope routine and she is a true rope artist, and I was excited to see Tara Raboom Deay perform her drag strip routine. I was also very excited to see Labrys perform — the last show of the night. She blew me away with her aesthetic vision, safety precautions, attention to detail, and performance. I will just say that it involved a hospital bed, needle play, a violet wand, a camera projecting live onto a television screen, a Whitney Houston song, and an actual female orgasm.

Photo by Stuart Hirth

ZF: Each FF has raffled prizes in support of QAHC — a damn good cause. Do you feel it’s perhaps time for Brisbane’s queer and kinky folks to rally together against potential consequences of the coming election?
FV: It is always the time to rally together. That is the short answer. Certainly, events such as Leather Pride are perfect expressions of the interplay between the kink and queer communities. However there are a number of aspects to this issue that Brisbanites will need to negotiate in order for there to be consolidation allowing for political action. It is my hope that FF can create a place for intersection and good-will.
My reasoning in creating a raffle for QAHC was the concept of what constitutes a “healthy community”. I truly believe that a healthy city has both a vibrant creative culture and sexual culture, where participants can express themselves in dymanic and healthy ways. QAHC has a history of supporting the kink community. For example, they have allowed Peer Rope to utilise the QAHC space for monthly workshops.

ZF: The final event samples kinky delights. What kind of advice would you give a curious beginner.
FV: Have an open mind. We are offering an event in the spirit of community building, fundraising, and hospitality. Everyone is welcome. Certainly, elements of the evening may be shocking for some viewers. It is vital to understand that those involved in the show are rehearsed, and experienced individuals versed in Risk Aware Consensual Kink (RACK), they know exactly what they are engaging in, and have the ability to stop at any time. Not all performances will be on that side of the spectrum, however; we have moments of comedy, dance, and lots of fun as well.

The final FETISH FRIDAY, Part III, takes place on 6 September, 2013. Tickets are $15 on the door.

From the Vaults: QWeekend

Back in August of 2010, Frances Whiting interviewed me for a story in the Courier Mail’s QWeekend. Standing amongst such heavyweights as Bruce Dawe, David Robotham, Graham Nunn, John Tranter and Felicity Plunkett, I represented Emerging Poets; it was thrilling — and definitely nerve-wracking. But it was a lovely article: a six-page spread that came out just in time for the 2010 Queensland Poetry Festival. Russell Shakespeare photographed me in Toowong Cemetery (about a year into my graveyard obsession), and kindly allowed me to reproduce some of the photos that didn’t make it into QWeekend.

You can still download and read the whole article: The Thrill of the Quill.

Toowong Cemetery by R. Shakespeare (2010)

Toowong Cemetery by R. Shakespeare (2010)

Toowong Cemetery by R. Shakespeare (2010)

Toowong Cemetery by R. Shakespeare (2010)

Meet: Zenobia Frost

Tash D. of the Factory Diaries interviewed (and filmed!) me last week. Here are the results!

Factory Diaries

Tash D met up with local poet and writer, Zenobia Frost for a lovely chat about Brisbane’ macabre history, happy acorn socks and poetry.

DSC_5696

Photo by Tash D

Firstly, why don’t you introduce yourself to our readers:

I’m Zenobia Frost. I’m a local poet and editor of things. I guess those are my two primary hats. I also sometimes run events and, what else do I do? What else do I do Tash?

Be Awesome?

I do lots of things. I have happy acorn socks, perform stuff. I promised to be eloquent and now I’ve lied to you!

What kind of style would you describe your poetry as being?

It’s always a tricky question. I remember one of the first people that asked me that and I really had to think about it was as an interviewer at Subway. It’s like how do you describe poetry to someone who’s going…

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Palatal Liquid sought to cure Voiceless Fricative

Newsliness: I’m in Famous Reporter! See below.

Welcome to the second summer of the year. Well, my second—the first was the bipolar (seriously—0 degrees to 30 in a couple of days?!) Wisconsin summer way back in May/June. I’ve been dreading the Australian variety because that means Sweating and Christmas Decorations and…well, that’s about it, isn’t it?

Anyway, it’s here. This morning the front lawn had exploded into dandelions. A red dragonfly approximately the size of France flew by. Nesting birds have spent the last three weeks using my skull as target practice.

I have put my togs on. Not being I like swimming, or because I’m going near any kind of body of water, but because it seems like the only appropriate uniform for the sort of day when I’m going to be doing a lot of overdue housework—and homework—and my little Queenslander maintains a steady temperature of Surface of the Sun.

But! I do have reason to celebrate. I have a huge bucket of finest gelati (nectarine, lemon, cardamom) and I have finished the linguistics class I should have dropped out of months ago. The only thing I got out of it was a variety of phonological puns (see blog title)—they were good. Beyond that, good riddance.

And today I have a date (another one! she came back!) with Simone de Beauvoir. Taking the phone off the hook, kids.

Last but certainly not least, Ralph Wessman at Famous Reporter has published a chat we had regarding poetry and Stuff and Things. You can read it here. In it I claim that dead poets are copying me, amongst other things. And, re-reading it now, I realise I had (another) Gillam fangirl moment in the interview, too. Ah well, it happens.

Bucketsfull of amazing poets can be found in Issue 40, including Geoff Page (squee!), Graham Nunn, Max Ryan, Nathan Curnow, Ross Donlon, Kent MacCarter, Cameron Hindrum, Sarah Day, and Anthony Lawrence. But you’ll have to buy the journal to get all the goods—and you should.

There’s also a poem from yours truly in the print version. (You might have seen it before if you’ve got my chapbook, but I think it’s twice as nice to see it in Famous Reporter.)

Stalking the Moon

We sail under the moon
and it sails through the sky
oblivious—or not wanting
us to know that it has noticed us.
We neither lag nor gain, passing under
the arched backs of bridges
(lazily curious or curiously lazy
in our skyfishing).

We lace backwards and forwards
across the waist of the river,
tying ourselves to the city in case
the moon should dive
(we’ll be a steady net to catch it)
or turn and lift us up
(looking into its face would surely be
too like a mirror)
and swing our steamboat from its anchor
like a censer in a dark cathedral.

The moon only looks over its shoulder
and hurries when morning comes
(with torchlight strong enough
to scan a row of beds for stragglers)
to urge its late body, full with travels,
into a slow descent.

And there is no doubt that the sun
is gaining on us, too.

  (Still, we follow.)

Good luck with summer, guys. Haul out the barbeque, roll out the slip ‘n’ slide and put ice in the kiddy pool. Then send me photos of you in your cossie and silliest apron, in the backyard, covered in suds and eating a burger. Don’t forget your hat; plovers and sunshine want your brains.

Er, signing off.

—Z