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.