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:

Ruckus! (and a poem)

Ruckus! Slam, having left its beloved Hideaway, has found rad new digs at the New Globe Theatre. The Whitny Kapa Band and I feature — and there are 16 coveted open mic spots. See you there at 7pm, 25 June.

In the meantime, I’ve chucked a new recording up on soundcloud for your listening amusement: “Cimetière Des Innocents, 1786” (previously published in Ricochet Magazine). No, I have no idea if I’m pronouncing the French bit right. But the gory details therein are a true story. Human-fat soap. Good times.

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!


REVIEW: Live on Air (Anywhere Fest)

Live on Air is the only Anywhere Fest show this year to truly go anywhere. Comedy-poet Telia Nevile’s pirate radio show streams from her lounge room into yours, wherever you are. 

Logging into Live on Air feels like checking in to Skype with a friend. Nevile turns on her webcam and broadcasts live from a homely couch in a Melbourne living room. Black-and-white posters of writer-rockstars plaster the rear wall; Oscar Wilde features, along with his epigram: “I have nothing to declare but my genius.” Nevile wears a homemade shirt that says, “Rimbaud Built My Hotrod”. From the get-go, we know this is erudite comedy. Bring it on.

Relia Nevile

Live on Air takes the format of a radio variety show, interspersed with power ballads, pop and even a bit of grammar grindcore (“Apostrophe Apocalypse”). Nevile’s poems form the heart of the show. Each follows an extended metaphor (e.g. “‘Eros’ is Just ‘Sore’ Spelled Backwards”) via one-liner witticisms. To the tune of Satie on piano, Nevile explains that she’s “deep (in thought)” but you’re deepest “when you’re six foot under.” As well as poems, there’s fiction — both flash and slash (West Wing fan fiction, to be precise).

Nevile is a strong performer and the setting (from her couch to yours) makes for an intimate performance. Rather than feeling tucked away in the privacy of home, I keep forgetting that the video is only one-way. It feels rude not to respond with, at the very least, applause. Perhaps we need a talkback line.

Comedy is an incredibly subjective beast. Nevile’s poetic brand of funny doesn’t quite tickle my funny bone, but I do appreciate her commitment to satirising form. The “poetry cabaret” variety show, delivered here via webcam in the manner of radio plays, is a fantastic format. Live on Air also proves that performance can be just as intimate online as on stage.

LIVE ON AIR ran from 8 to 16 May, 2013. Anywhere Festival.

Review: Growing Pains (Anywhere Fest)

Review by Nerissa Rowan

When you think of poetry, do you think Shakespearean sonnets or bush ballads? In Growing Pains, four writers show us there’s a lot more to spoken word than rhythm and rhyme. This is “poetry”. It touches on themes of ethnicity, relationships, religion and the trials of growing up.

They’ve taken over the Bird Gallery, a cosy space permeated with the smell of coffee and packed with chairs, cushions and beanbags. On the wall is a work in progress — a collage of baby photos and memories. The audience and cafe patrons are encouraged to add their own memories to the wall. Prompters like “what did you want to be when you grow up” and “what smell do you remember” are designed to inspire us to share our stories too.

“Herein you will find instructions on being an adult.” Martin Ingle’s hilarious piece about the rules of adulthood sets the tone for the next hour. He is confident and funny, bringing a stand-up comedy feel to the show, particularly when he asks the question: is it love or food poisoning?

His work is interspersed with that of the three other performers. Vuong Pham is quiet and reflective, bringing haiku and faith into the mix. The soft spoken but powerful words of Jo Sri make it obvious why he was the Queensland winner of the National Poetry Slam in 2012. His words are heartfelt, personal, humorous and often political.

We have to wait a little while before Josh Donellan takes the stage, but he brings more great slam and storytelling filled with wordplay and emotion. He’s the only one who comes close to fitting the traditional stereotype of a writer, with his 1984 t-shirt and a hat that, at first glance, looks like a beret.

There’s some creative metaphor, amusing wordplay and jokes at the expense of poetry. The audience laps it up.

The finale is a well-constructed collaborative piece which wraps up the show nicely. It brings the performers, their styles and themes together into a cohesive whole. Words are my thing, and I enjoyed this show immensely.

Growing Pains ran at Bird Gallery on 16 May, 2013. Anywhere Festival.

Nerissa Rowan is a poet, performer, Arts Hub reviewer, and former OffStreet PressGang member.

Anywhere Fest: Chosen Family

Poets Eleanor Jackson and Betsy Turcot (The Belles of Hell) wowed Brisbane at last year’s Anywhere Fest with She Stole My Every Rock ‘n’ Roll. This year, they’ve got a new poetic dialogue in store: Chosen Family.

Q. Describe your show in under 25 words.
A. Two women trading poetry about the strange, painful-beautiful of family, piecing together a montage of grainy family photographs and giving them a glossy finish. Photoshop for the soul, so to speak.

Q. Anywhere Festival is about making art everywhere. What makes your venue unique?
 The venue (the beautiful back deck of Justice Products) is the perfect place for a Queensland family Christmas, complete with tin roof and timber decking. Spiral Community Hub, which operates Justice Products, is not just a beautiful shop, it’s an amazing community space that runs training, community workshops and supports local people to develop more sustainable lives. Might be a little cold though at night though, so we’ll try to warm you up with some tea. BYO bunny rug if you get chilly!

Chosen Family

Betsy and I are particularly interested in the Anywhere Theatre Festival for the way that it partners performers and community spaces, with great support from venues. It’s why we held She Stole My Every Rock ‘n’ Roll at Jet Black Cat — to support a queer local business, and this time at Spiral/Justice, because it’s got a great local community connection.

Q. If you could have your show run absolutely anywhere in the universe and at any point of history, where would you run it (after West End, of course)?
 Well, There’s no time like the present, so Betsy and I would love to hit the Big Apple where her family could see us perform. Time to start fundraising!

Q. You and Betsy have brought the poetic dialogue to the fore in Brisbane — and perfected it. What does Chosen Family bring to the form?
A. (blush) In writing Chosen Family, we have thought about the simplest and clearest way to create space and connection between people — not by shouting each other down but making space for everyone to whisper. Because sometimes only when it’s quiet can you say true things.

CHOSEN FAMILY runs at Justice Earth Building, 192 Boundary St, West End from 16 to 18 May, 2013.

Anywhere Festival: MaXimal

Anywhere Festival is about to kick off in Brisbane! To celebrate the making of art all over Brisbane — outside, inside, on the airwaves, in the elevator, in the streets, in your pants — OffStreet Arts will feature super-rad Q&As with some of the festival’s most exciting acts. To begin with, I chatted with Scott Sneddon, aka Darkwing Dubs, about his show, MaXimal!

Q. Describe your show/s in under 25 words or fewer.
A. A very stupid idea: pooling together spoken word, hip-hop, songwriting and comedy into an hour of crazy. It’s awesome.

Q. Anywhere Festival is about making art … anywhere. What makes your venue unique?
A. I got a river view, at The Edge — right on Southbank next to the library. With boats n stuff going past. Plus The Edge is awesome and I’d do anything to support them!

MaXimal — Darkwing

Q. If your show were a new My Little Pony, what would it look like? What would its superpower be?
A. It would have a ninja outfit and jump out — like HOOYA — and you would say that it wasn’t a good ninja because you saw it coming but then you would start choking and the My Little Pony Ninja would be like, “Or am I the best ninja ever?” But you’d never get to answer the question cos you’d be dead.

Q. What is maximalist poetry?
A. Maximalism is everything you’re not meant to do in poetry — it’s not earnest, serious or clever. It’s basically a pisstake of the whole thing and heaps of fun and something that tends to make people cry with laughter. Therefore it is my favourite thing ever invented by me.

MaXimal! runs on the lawn, level 3, The Edge (SLQ) from 10 to 11 May, 2013, as part of Anywhere Festival.

Can’t Be Artsed #5: All The Things

This week, while I should have been attending to The To-Do List, I instead attended a diverse bunch of artsy gigs. It was pretty rad. I should be studying/working/poeting/editing, but I wanted to at least jot down some thoughts before I lose ’em.

Henry Rollins, May 3

I’d never heard of Mr Rollins, nor his career with punk band Black Flag, before friends gifted me a ticket for my birthday. I decided to head in blind and find out what this spoken-word maestro has to offer on the fly.

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