2020 Round-up

This was, we can all agree, something of a concertina year, in which time contracted and expanded with surreal inconsistency. When are we now? What is yesterday? Did I do anything this year except hand-wash masks? How many more times can we hear the phrase ‘strange and uncertain times’ before it is just meaningless sounds?

Wherever you are, I hope you and yours are safe, and feeling as secure as one can during, well, ‘strange and uncertain times’.


Art Starts Here: 40 Years of Metro Arts

I was extremely fortunate this year to be able to mine the archives of Metro Arts (definitely a COVID-safe zone), and to spend many weeks making art-affirming phone and Zoom calls to artists, performers, producers and arts administrators whose work has impacted Brisbane any time between about 1974 and now. The end result, beautifully designed by Sean Dowling and Ashleigh Jacobsen, is Art Starts Here: 40 Years of Metro Arts. If you’re interested in Brisbane, or artists’ communities, or architecture, or anecdotes about terrifying lifts — this book is for you. I’m very proud of it and very grateful to Metro for letting me steer it as editor.


Recent publications

‘Ghost Light’ (Red Room)
Find the ghost light in a closed-for-good arts centre. (This piece, unsurprisingly, emerges out of my time in the old Metro Arts building and archives.) This psychogeographic poem/piece of interactive literature is best enjoyed in full-screen with headphones. Thank you to Red Room for publishing this piece as part of their 2020 Fellowship shortlistee commission series.

Meanjin: What I’m Reading (essay)
On queered reading, video games, and seeing ourselves in happy endings.

Archer Asks: Katy O’Brian, actor and martial artist (interview)

Griffith Review kindly included my little poem ‘Quince Season’ in their Generosities of Spirit issue. Backslash Lit included an interactive Twine version of my poem ‘Blueprint: Bramble Terrace‘ in their first issue. Earlier in the year, Scum Mag printed two iso poems, Blue Bottle Journal let me wax lyrical about the moon in ‘Eight Phases’, and just recently Overland kindly printed a prose poem called ‘sandwiches‘.


Sourdough starter

All things considered, it’s been a huge year. (It just doesn’t feel like it, because the year feels like one, long, never-ending day.) My book, After the Demolition, turned one in September, and this year I received the Wesley Michel Wright Prize for an excerpt from it. Like everyone else this year, I had plans scuttled—I didn’t get to visit the USA for poetry adventures. (One. Day. I’ll. Get. To. The. Dang. Frost. Place. Seminars!) But I’m grateful that I’m able to start over in plotting out 2021: thank you to the Brisbane City Council for allowing an extra year to fulfil Lord Mayor’s Young and Emerging Artists Fellowship plans.

I also got to spend this year working with absolute legends at the Queensland Poetry Festival: Michael, Anna, Angela, and Amanda. It may not have been the year we originally planned! But we delivered nearly 100 online performances and workshops, and got to hang out with lots of amazing poets from our community—and further afield. Poetry workshops are really the best use of Zoom!

I didn’t learn to make sourdough. I did learn enough basic coding (thank you, Yarra Libraries, for amazing free workshops with Tegan Webb!) to spend every bit of spare time this year making poetry toys/text adventures in Twine, and also this poetry oracle Twitter bot (to represent Bec Jessen’s Ask Me About the Future online):


Zombie utopias & other news

Some thanks are in order!!

Alongside the talented Yen-Rong Wong, I’ve won a 2020 Queensland Premier’s Young Publishers and Writers Award. I’m immensely grateful to the Queensland Literary Awards, Arts Queensland, State Library of Queensland, and of course the judges. Thank you to the family, friends and colleagues who support me – in particular my partner Bec, my mum Kathy, my publisher Kent at Cordite, and treasured friends (especially Justin & Tam, Tim & Anna, Rebecca, Caitie, and the Poet Pals).

Congratulations to shortlistees, Ellen Wengert and Sara El Sayed – and congrats especially to Sara, Anna Jacobson and Amanda Niehaus who won Queensland Writers Fellowships. These awards change lives – and get books written (as proven by the wonderful Mirandi Riwoe winning the UQ Fiction Book Award for Stone Sky Gold Mountain, written during her Fellowship).

The 2020 QLAs winners, as drawn by Kathleen Jennings.

I’m also very lucky and grateful to have received a Lord Mayor’s Young and Emerging Artists Fellowship this year to travel to the Frost Place Poetry Seminars and New York Poetry Festival, among other adventures. Unsurprisingly, those activities have been postponed for this year – and I’m grateful to Brisbane City Council for extending the fellowship timeframe into 2021. I cannot wait to revisit these travel plans next year!


Recent publications

Archer Asks: Katy O’Brian, actor and martial artist (interview)

Katy O’Brian joined Z Nation in its final season as George, a soft-spoken, soft-butch badass who leads post-zombie America towards social unity.The dystopian vibes of the current pandemic seemed like the perfect time to ask: What Would George Do? 🧟‍♂️ 💪 🌈

What better reminder to vote, USA pals.

Z Nation was such a fantastic series – a real genre standout as a zomcom with a diverse cast, centred around friendship, compassion and mercy. I’m a big fan of the whole cast – what a kind bunch! – but the introduction of George gave me the courage to finally get into boxing/growing biceps. Katy is a lot of fun on instagram, as are fellow cast members Kellita Smith, Anastasia Baranova, Keith Allan, Russell Hodgkinson, DJ Qualls and Ramona Young.

I’m also all about letting people know that you don’t have to be a stacked powerhouse to be able to defend yourself and that women can be strong without bulging muscles or, conversely, appearing fit at all. I think it’s important to show a variety of bodies manifesting strength on the screen. A great character hopes to inspire through resilience and perseverance, and not physique.

Katy O’Brian (Z Nation, Black Lightning) in Archer Magazine

‘Blueprint: Bramble Terrace’ (interactive edition)

Explore an abandoned house in Red Hill, Brisbane before it is demolished. Created in Twine, this interactive poem was recently featured in Backslash Lit (and originally commissioned for Red Room Poetry). 🤖🏚


Art Starts Here: 40 Years of Metro Arts

Now that Metro Arts has moved into its new West Village home, I’m thrilled to say that the history book I was privileged to research and edit (and which Sean Dowling and Ash Jacobsen designed) will be available from 11 September. Featuring the voices of over 40 Metro community members, Art Starts Here: 40 Years of Metro Arts charts the living history of Metro Arts, from its gutsy DIY beginnings to its bright future. As a teaser, here’s a photo I took at 109 Edward Street just as Metro moved out, capturing the light and warmth of those studios:

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QPF2020 Film+Poetry Challenge

I hope all you poets, filmmakers and filmmaker-poets will send a video poem or two into Queensland Poetry Festival’s new* Film+Poetry Challenge. There’s a total prize pool of $2800 and we’ll screen ’em and have the best time. (*Technically this prize is a reimagining of Francis Boyle’s wonderful video poem prize of QPFs past – and I’m glad it’s back!) Entries close 10 October.

Iso-poems

It’s only a matter of time until someone releases an anthology called In Strange and Uncertain Times. Still, in these, uh, strange and also uncertain times we’re somehow all busier than ever — this is keeping my brain Very Active (for better or worse). Here’s some news:


Recent publications

Yesterday Scum Mag kindly included two new poems, one about iso and a fun one about queer joy. I also have a little poem about grief included in Writ‘s new issue. Thank you to the editors. 💗

Red Room Poetry have created a wonderful thing in In Your Hands, an anthology of work by writers whose 2020 gigs and book tours have been affected by COVID-19. It’s free to download, share and enjoy. (My poem ‘Conversations at the Mojave Phone Booth’ is included.)


After the Demolition

After the Demolition was recently shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry. This blew my mind — to be shortlisted alongside Peter Boyle, Lisa Gorton, Joanne Burns, Natalie Harkin and David Malouf was a dream! Congratulations to winner Peter Boyle.

Each poem in this collection demonstrates cerebral questionings of what it means to occupy, and destroy, space. Frost is unafraid of gaps and the poems often find their strength in what is left unsaid.

Judges’ comments

Tony Messenger at Verity La and Kylie Thompson at Reviewers of Oz have each written generous reviews of After the Demolition.

After The Demolition is a collection that opens with an ode and closes with love: the centre of the opening poem ‘before/ now’ being ‘\\oh//‘ and the ending a rejoicing ‘/sing//‘; and the closing poem, ‘Peripheral Drift’, telling us ‘you can still pash in a graveyard / at 28’. This is a breaking down, a demolition, of the daily grind, and a rejoicing in relationships, past and present. As Bachelard says: (When the peaks of our sky come together/ My house will have a roof).

Tony Messenger, The Houses That Hold Us

Ask Me About the Future 🔮

In a flurry of iso-nervous energy, I collaborated with geniuses Shastra Deo and Bec Jessen to code a bot to represent Bec’s new book, Ask Me About the Future (UQP) on twitter. The AskMe_Oracle generates tiny poetic fortunes from words and themes in Bec’s book, and will reply with either a personalised fortune or straight-up lesbian flirting if you @ it. Thank you to Cheap Bots Done Quick for the infrastructure and to Shastra for making the Magic 8-Ball logo (as well as a fortune-dispensing Instagram filter!).


Panacea Poets

Queensland Poetry Festival has, like many arts orgs, taken the show online during iso. I’ve had the pleasure of curating Panacea Poets, a YouTube series of short readings (twice a week), and Couplet Poetry Online (monthly). Panacea Poets drops a new video on Mondays and Thursdays and features poets from Australia and beyond:


QPF 2018

Somehow it is August, which means Queensland Poetry Festival is upon us.

I’m thrilled to say that at opening night last night I won the Val Vallis Award! Thank you so much to judges Alison Whittaker and Angela Gardner, and extra thanks to the Auslan interpreter who had to sign the puns/filthy bits. I’m so excited for Anna Jacobson, very deserving winner of the Thomas Shapcott Prize for an Unpublished Manuscript.

This QPF I’m really looking forward to hearing more from poets in residence Yona Harvey and Alison Whittaker, the return of Ray Briggs to Brisbane to read Kinky Sevenlings, the Radical Imagination panel on queer utopias, and the launch of Rae White‘s Milk Teeth.

I’ll be on at The Big Read on Saturday (Alison Whittaker, Tricia Dearborn, Fury The Poet, Laniyuk Garcon-Mills, Stuart Barnes, Zenobia Frost and Rae White). Then, Bec Jessen and I debut The Bachelorette: A Song Cycle on Sunday at Bloodhound Bar. Are you ready to fall in love?

Bachie_giraffe.jpg

 

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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Entries for the Newcastle Poetry Prize close soon, on 11 June, while all of Queensland Poetry Festival‘s poetry prizes are open until July.

QPF 2017

The program for Queensland Poetry Festival 2017 has dropped. I cannot wait to see Patricia Lockwood and Hera Lindsay Bird on stage for Viral Verse.

I’m stoked to appear on the program on Friday, 25 August in the Judith Wright Centre shopfront, alongside two poets I admire so much:

1–2pm Deep North: Poetry Reading
Free event co-presented by QUT Creative Industries
Readings by Zenobia Frost, Red Room Poetry Director Tamryn Bennett and one of QLD’s foremost contemporary poets, Bronwyn Lea.

This event comes after a great-looking panel on poetics in Australia, What Even Is OzPo. For QPF, I’m refining some very Brisbaney poems. I spent a month in NYC recently – went to a slam in Manhattan, bought a lot of books, etc. – but mostly I sat in a rocking chair on the back porch of this house upstate (below) and read a lot. There is so much poetry going on in NY/America at large; I’m really looking forward to this particular QPF panel, after the contrast of seeing how alive poetry publishing is in other places. On which note, have a read of Kent MacCarter’s recent essay on OzPo in Overland.

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

 

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!

That Golden September

“I thought I had found my golden September in the middle of that purple June.”
— Glen Richards, Augie March

A little Stranger Music foreshadowing can’t hurt, right? It’s not quite a golden September yet, but it’s shaping up to be a good ‘un. Here’s some news:

At Queensland Poetry Festival, just last weekend, I learned I’d been shortlisted for the Thomas Shapcott Prize. This is super, super exciting! Congratulations to the worthy winner, David Stavanger; the runner-up, Jonathan Hadwen; and the other shortlisted entrants: Chloe Callistemon, Stuart Cooke and Nicola Scholes. It will be fantastic to have David feature (as Ghostboy) at the Ruby Fizz Salon in October. I also caught fantastic sets from Matt Hetherington and Betsy Turcot at QPF, before I had to dart back to work.

Brisbane Writers Festival, Sunday, 8 September, 12–1pm: Voiceworks Magazine punches the the Red Room’s lights out with wordsmithery and coolness, led by our editor, Kat Muscat. Features Gianina Carter, Daniel Dixon, Zenobia Frost, Tasha Llewellyn, and Sam George-Allen. Check out the event page here.

Voiceworks: Fighting Trousers

Lyre is a new e-journal from Brisbane, and I’m very glad to have had three poems included in the inaugural issue.

Cordite: Masque, edited by Ann Vickery, is out, and includes poems/words by Jordie Albiston, Paul Summers, Santo Cazzati, Kristin Hannaford, and me.

Rabbit #9, the open issue, launches on 11 September, 6.30pm, at Embiggen Books, 197–203 Little Lonsdale St in Melbourne. I wish I could be there! This is my first poem in Rabbit, and I’m very excited to be included alongside Ali Alizadeh and Jordie Albiston.

There’s a plethora of great stuff to catch at BWF this weekend — here’s a list of highlights to help you out. (She Stole My Every Rock and Roll is my pick, for Saturday.) Then there’s Brisbane Festival and the Spiegeltent and wayyy too much coolness. My favourite month! Goldenness ahoy!

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First Thunder Spoke (then, other voices)

A curious thing: we moved into our new digs in January, and suddenly summer’s swinging around again (interrupting spring — how rude!), yet we still haven’t had a housewarming. The year has been pulled out from under our feet. Also it’s hard to leave this library:

Marlinspike Library

We all have to leave the books alone now and then — and there are a bunch of things coming up I’ll even put pants on for.

This weekend, the Queensland Poetry Festival stirs up the Judith Wright Centre, with three days’ worth of poetry and spoken word over two stages. I’m joining Rob Morris to give voice to Ynes Sanz‘s poems (along with Ynes herself) at First Thunder Spoke: 10.30am, Saturday 24 August.

Then, on Sunday, I’m playing a little trumpet at Lady Marlene‘s wonderful cabaret burlesque (Disney-themed, this time!) at The Loft:

Finally, I’m super excited to announce the return of the Ruby Fizz Society in October, hosted and supported by the wonderful Bird Gallery and Studios (who share space with Bean.) You can tell us you’re coming here, but I’ll tell you all about the Ruby Fizz Salon in another post soon. It’s gonna be so spiffy.

It’s all go at the moment — lots of work, writing and über-rehearsals for The Ragtag Band. But I’m finally recovering from whooping cough (whaaaaa — I don’t even!); my singing voice is coming back; I’ve had two poems accepted this week in two different Aussie journals; I just opened a brand new malty Assam blend; and there’s a friendly cat paw obscuring my keyboard.

See you on the flipside — or hopefully at some of these events!

Lucifer