Queensland Writers Fellowship

I’m writing to you through the gentle fog of a well-earned hangover. I’m still in stunned disbelief, but I have the certificate now, and it says I won a Fellowship at the Queensland Literary Awards.

This is absolutely life-changing stuff. Let’s be real: I’m a postgrad student writing poetry in Australia. Making ends meet and saving energy for creative work is a challenge, especially in what has been a varied and strange year. But through 2017 (I guess I’m allowed to toot my own horn on today of all days?), I feel I’ve been writing bolder, sharper poetry – my best yet – and I’m so, so grateful (and relieved and amazed and flabbergasted) to receive a prize that both legitimises my work and buys me real time to write in 2018.

It’s especially wonderful to be recognised by the Queensland Literary Awards – Brisbane is the most consistent character in my writing. This prize means I’ll actually have the time and means to make the various daft paeans to my city I’ve been desperately wanting to: poetry travel guides to lost and uncanny Brisbanes across zines, collages and digital artefacts. I can finish my second manuscript. And I am going to find that damn Dragoncoaster.

Last night was also the night I felt like I finally “emerged” after several years of occupying a strange grey space between “emerging” and “established” writer. Thank you so much to the QWF judges for thinking of me as a grown-up, and thank you for helping me pay my rent and go to the dentist so I can write in a room of my own, with all my teeth.

giphy

Congratulations to my fellow winners and finalists of this year’s Queensland Literary Awards. I hope you, too, are eating cheese jaffles in bed with your cat this morning. (Pictured above are my co-Fellows, Linda Neil and Mirandi Riwoe.)

Many, many thanks are due. Each of these thanks comes wrapped in a very sparkly ribbon, but if you hold it in your hand it is cool and has weight, like a river-stone:

  • The Queensland Literary Awards and State Library of Queensland;
  • Sarah Holland-Batt and Rohan Wilson, my champions and cheerleaders at QUT;
  • Francis, the best and most precious of all humans, whose voice got me (and gets me) through this year;
  • My loving parents, Kathy and Derek, who put Babette Cole’s Princess Smartypants in my young (probably sticky) hands;
  • Tamryn Bennett and the Red Room Poetry Company, who’ve always supported my work;
  • My long-time collaborator and beer pal, composer Timothy Tate – it has been a pleasure to share each success over 15 years of friendship;
  • Woolf Pack‘s Rebecca Cheers, Cordite‘s Kent MacCarter, and my Voiceworks Magazine editors and co-editors;
  • The QUT poetry crew, with special congratulations to my fellow Fellow, Mirandi Riwoe, Queensland Premier’s Young Publishers and Writers Award winner Mindy Gill, and finalists Emily O’Grady and Anna Jacobson (who was also shortlisted in the Emerging Writer Manuscript Award);
  • Sally, for the impromptu writing residency in your home (and perfect NY woods) earlier this year;
  • Kentucky Route Zero and Cardboard Computer, for expanding and challenging the way I think about poetry and space (and working-title inspiration); and
  • Every friend, support person and cat who has believed in me. You keep me afloat.

Here, as a reminder to myself forever, are the judge’s comments:

It was the ambition and design of Zenobia Frost’s proposed poetry collection A Museum of Dwellings that impressed the judges. The collection aims to examine some of the most pressing concerns in our relationship with space and place in the 21st Century, including psychogeography, travel, urban development and displacement, and this with a very Queensland focus. Frost’s poetry is both elegant and philosophically sophisticated and the panel agreed she is likely to produce a work of lasting significance.

Philosophically sophisticated! Me!❣️

Here is a final important gif expressing my feelings today:

scully2bfollows2bher2bdreams

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

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

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

Hares, Hyenas and Home

Just dragged my suitcase in the door after a whirlwind week in Newcastle (at National Young Writers’ Festival) and Melbourne (for the Melb. launch of Salt and Bone at Hares and Hyenas). I met so many fantastic writers and readers at NYWF, thoroughly enjoyed lording it as a judge at the Epic Word Nerd Battledome (pictured, with Jane Howard and Adolfo Aranjuez), and relished reading Foreign Soil on the beach.

Word Nerd Battledome JudgesHearty congratulations, also, to Scum Mag on the launch of their first print zine. It comes with TEMPORARY TATTOOS. What’s cooler than that? Zero things. The zine fair was a highlight, as was getting up on stage at the launch orgy in a nightie to perform Blood Spells with the Scum gals. (Photo below by Alan Weedon.)

I’m so grateful to ReVerse Butcher and the team at Hares and Hyenas for hosting the Melbourne launch of Salt and Bone. Thank you to everyone who came along. Here are the lovely Broede Carmody’s words on the book (and thanks, Broede, for the launch snap):

“Zen describes herself as an expat of the Voiceworks editorial committee, for which she read and edited poems for a number of years before she turned 25 and we realised she was not just too old but also too disgustingly talented to be involved in the magazine any more.

“But seeing as we’re here for the launch of a poetry collection and not a memoir I should probably talk a little about Zen’s work itself and not just her pretty face.

“I think it’s appropriate that this book is called Salt and Bone because not only does the powerful imagery in Zen’s poetry leave a taste in your mouth but it also affects you physically. Poems like ‘Aftershocks’ deal with sexual assault but importantly use the language of survival. Similarly, other poems celebrate women, sex, polyamory and the queer identity. A lot of poetry out there—particularly the kinds we are introduced to in high school or that are available in book stores—are by old, white men and Zen’s poetry really strikes a chord with me because it’s different. It’s so important that queer Australians see themselves reflected back on the page.

“So with that I would like to say fuck you to the patriarchy, and consider this book launched.”

Hares and Hyenas launch

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.

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.