Ship-Shape

We’re nearly half way through the year! May brought all sorts of adventures, including two of my favourite-ever poetry line-ups.

Rachael Briggs, Eleanor Jackson and I had great fun reading poems about sex and logic beside the picture-books section in the Wynnym Library at Poets Up Late.

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The next week, the band got back together for Sophie Tarrant‘s brain-child, Below Deck. Angela Peita, Eleanor Jackson, Ross Clark and I performed, with Rachael Briggs popping up on the open mic. This is literally a list of my favourite Brisbane poets, and that’s not hyperbole.

Even if that word makes you think of Chris Traeger.

Angela delivered a heart-stopping performance piece, Eleanor subbed in as my boyfriend for a poem (it was Rachael at Poets Up Late; I move fast), while Rachael and Miranda Sparks battled it out as performers reading from books on pet care. Fuck yeah, diverse poetry spaces! I’m definitely looking forward to next month’s Below Deck.

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Thank you, also, to Anna Jacobson for the awesome photos.

In the end I had a bit too much fun that week, health-wise, and now I’m back to writing poems in bed with tea. Fortunately, Warsan Shire was able to join me last week (via Skype) for a PJ party/mentorship sesh.

I’m gearing up (and resting up) for my July trip to the Black Forest Writing Seminars in Freiburg. The government’s massive budget cuts to the arts are hugely distressing to hear about; without ArtStart‘s support, there’s no way this chronically-ill weirdo poet would be able to take in this year’s travelling and mentorship opportunities, so it sucks to know that the future of support for artists in Australia is endangered.

Of the Moment

1. Blue Mountains, November 2012 

This garden’s fruits
(a continent, and decades
away) are not by any stretch
the fruits of his labour.

Yet under the balm
of afternoon herbs
and snapdragons,
lemon peel heating up,

I hang washing
and, with each breath,
fabricate memories.

 

2. Kenya, December 1941

Here’s the promised adventure, lads.

Against jungle backdrop,
red-fezzed vendors peddle fruit, sewing
machines, sweet grasshopper pancakes,
and (soldiers claim) their wives.

For a while, #5775477
is a boy from Edmonton.

Orchids take in the drunken spectacle
of white men dragging their own rickshaws

to USS Mount Vernon — ark of fresh goods:
papaya, tomato, eggs, sides of buffalo
like piano wire, live monkeys, dogs,
and finally a sailor leads
an elephant up the gangplank.

This elephant would not go on
to Singapore.

 

3. West Batu Parhat, January 1942

Camouflaged
as pantomime trees
and black-faced,
his first enemies pass by,

close enough to challenge.

You said (and you never said
much) you were more concerned
with self-preservation
than reporting them.

That day you realised
you’d been left talking
to the dead
beside you.

 

4. Changi, February 1942

“You are, of course, sole judge of the moment.” Churchill to General Wavell, 14 February 1942

How the quiet
must have struck them in the night,
all documents signed —

70,000 men surrendered.

Tin helmets in a silvery pile
and weapons stripped,
they march on Changi
to erect their own barbed wire
and bury masses of freshly butchered.

This part
Harold never talked about.

 

5.  Tha Khanun, June 1943

A rare scent: meat roasting.

Men who weigh like children
salivate into evening’s prison.

No dinner in sight;
cholera victims
burning.

 

6. Thailand, Christmas 1943

Breakfast: sweet
porridge, two sausages, corned beef,
pork and beans, buttered biscuit,
sweet milky coffee.

Tiffin: rice, curried fish
and veg, jam tart, buttered biscuit,
sweet and milky tea.

Dinner: roast beef, fried steak,
brown gravy, jam tart, pork pie,
fish on biscuit, four different veg, fried
potatoes, Xmas pudding, sweet sauce,
and sweet milky coffee.

 

7. Sydney, February 1946 / October 2012

In your pocket:
a notebook and a photo
of 100 Norfolk men dressed
in the last of their skin.

Decades apart,
our first look at the Harbour Bridge.

You once won
and kept
a cigarette card
with this view.

In ’32, the longest
single-arch bridge
in the world — a great
silver swell across water.

As a child, this seemed
such a miracle.

100 Norfolk Men

Harold Frost, my grandfather, is ninth from the right in the third row

 

Envoi

dredge the bones
from the river

shroud the bodies
in rice sacking

by boat or foot
the years go on


From Salt and Bone (Walleah Press)
Shortlisted for the Overland Judith Wright Prize 2013

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

March Here

I tried really hard to make a good pun on “March Hare”, but I failed. I’m so sorry.

It’s been a quiet start to the year. I moved house, fell in love with the neighbour’s cat (Sable, pictured), and have spent a lot of time re-scaping my fish tank.

Sable_Jan15

I received happy news yesterday: Salt and Bone has been commended in the FAW Anne Elder Awards. So chuffed! I look forward to reading the winner’s work. (Last year it was Vanessa Page’s excellent Confessional Box.)

I’ve had the great pleasure of spending time with Bronwyn Lea, my Australian ArtStart mentor for the year. Bronwyn is so sharp, and so lovely; it’s wonderful to have her brain turned towards my poems.

It’s high time I booked tickets for my European adventure. A week or so ago, I put two and two together and realised that the Roxane Gay giving a nonfic/personal-essay course at the Black Forest Writing Seminars, where I’ll be studying poetry, was the one and only Bad Feminist Roxane Gay. I rushed to sign up! What followed was basically credit-card kink; my wallet’s sore from the exercise, but both my wallet and I are prettty satisfied. I can’t wait to learn everything I can from Roxane.

I was so, so sad to hear of Terry Pratchett’s final meeting with Death yesterday, and will be blogging my goodbyes this week after it’s sunk in better.

Zenobia x

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

The Invisible Puppeteer

Over the last year, I’ve been privileged to work with linguist Kit Loke on her collection of poems exploring her experiences with chronic neuropathic pain, spasm, disability, and illness. To kick off 2015, I’m very pleased and proud to help Kit launch her poetry blog, The Invisible Puppeteer. This project was made possible by Access Arts and arts-worker/performance-maker Nathan Sibthorpe.

What I love about Kit’s poetry is the way it engages the reader’s empathy and sense of hope. Ultimately, her work chronicles her decade-long journey to mentally triumph over the chronic pain and illness she experiences.

I hope you’ll visit, follow and share The Invisible Puppeteer.

ArtStart: 2015

It’s been a big week — and 2015 has its claws around the door.

I’m thrilled to announce (I’ve been bursting with the embargoed news) that I’ve received an ArtStart grant!

Australia Council’s ArtStart grants can be used to kickstart creative careers. After the launch of Salt and Bone, I’ve wondered where to go next with poetry. ArtStart will help me spend a year learning under awesome mentors: Bronwyn Lea in Brisbane, Warsan Shire in London and Adrianne Kalfopoulou at the Black Forest Writing Seminars in Freiburg.

Holding off on planning till after this crazy Christmas, but I’m excited to share this explosion of exclamation marks with you: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks, OzCo!

Z. xo

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

 

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.