Poem: Lighthouse

A coast line of abandoned lighthouses,
the last extinguished darkens the most.
Those who come from across the seas still
search for boundless plains in the absent light.
Lighthouse keepers now man artillery,
the harsh coast without warning.

But the tide turns, inland to coast,
urging the boats safely to shore,
small crowds guide them by candlelight
lighthouses are occupied, keepers are usurped
a people’s lighthouse can always be relit

broken bodies is out now, online, at select bookstores or you can buy it off me in person. I will still continue to write about asylum seekers, because as the above shows, there is still so much to be done. I’ll be launching the chapbook on August 4, from 4pm at Under the Hammer Arts Hub, 158 Sydney Road with guests Santo Cazzati, Amanda Anastasi, John McKelvie and Les Thomas.

Also, I encourage you all to get out to the next refugee rally next Saturday, 1pm at the State Library.

New Chapbook coming soon

I’ve moved within a bunch of literary ‘scenes’ and my writing is fairly broad from novels and short fiction, to non-fiction, personal essay and cultural commentary to poetry and spoken word, although the later seems quite separate from the other forms of writing and the people that inhabit that world.

Anyway, I move within the ‘spoken word scene’ a lot, it’s a close knit community in Melbourne, almost their own world of publishing and norms. It’s very inclusive (which led me to start Melbourne Spoken Word). Anyway, my path toward ‘publication’ seems to be a bit different or more accepted within this scene. I sometimes submit to journals and magazines, but most of my poetry is consumed by me performing in live shows. I put out a spoken word album with Santo Cazzati last year and get up on a lot of open mics.

I’ve noticed that self-publishing is much more of a done thing within this world and poetry in general. Poetry publishers tend to be smaller, and most people end up just putting out their own collections and albums, and it’s less seen as a second class of publication. I also love the culture of poets releasing ‘chapbooks’ or zines with a small bunch of poems, to sell or hand out at gigs.

One day I’m going to release my own book or collection, with an album, but for now, I’m working on a small chapbook, made by myself, collating all of my poetry themed around refugees and asylum seekers.

A couple of years ago, I was burned by the self-publishing experience. I put together a collection of my early writings as an eBook and sold a total of 5 copies. There were a number of reasons for this, but one of them was mainly that it wasn’t the quality of writing to release out into the world, and I believe my reputation was damaged by that experience.

But this time, I believe my writing has improved, many of the pieces have been tested in the live performance environment and I’m receiving editorial assistance. One of the great things about the spoken word scene is the range of skill sets that we can share with each other and I think we’re quite capable of being self-sustaining, running things ourselves like we do. The other reason I believe it to be different, is as I said before, the different perception around self-publishing but the scene also makes self-publishing better in terms of distribution.

Some have been quite successful at getting collections into local bookstores, but most people sell their books and CDs at gigs in person. I like that there’s more of a connection between the writer and audience. You get their reactions to your work and there’s something less alienating and satisfying about someone buying something off you in person.

The chapbook will be out in a month or so. Not decided on whether I’ll have a ‘launch’ or not but I think there might be an accompanying visual art piece. I’m still decided on trying to get my other writing published the traditional way, but I believe this is the right decision for this area of my writing.

Brand Fixing

For World Refugee Day, I posted a few poems by myself and others on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtags #worldrefugeeday and #poetry but here’s a new one I just wrote…

In the battle of the brands
brand Labor
brand Liberal
compete for niche markets
sell their wares to a demographic
they claim they have to appease
but cultivated themselves

paid Murdoch and Fairfax
to invent new customer demands

they now expect a certain type of product
fit with the latest in racist features
anti-boat rhetoric comes standard
with bogus security extras
for threats that don’t exist

and they’ve fixed the market
agreed to both leave out costly features
such as health and education
to go for the cheap sell
price brand Green out of the market
force them to play dirty too

more than sawdust in the engine
or bolts not screwed on right
the product is tainted to begin with
selling the same rotting wares
the biggest con job you’ve ever seen

under the hood
people pay with their lives
so the brands can cut costs
and make it Canberra on top

brand Labor is doing it tough
brand Liberal have a reputation
the tried and trusted racist brand
Labor’s just a cheap rip off
who fired the advisor that said
perhaps human rights
would be a definitive selling point
a one of a kind feature
that brand Liberal couldn’t match

EWF and engaging with Creative Writing students

I’ve thought about writing this post for a bit, and decided against it until now because I didn’t want to make a big deal of it, but I have a criticism of the Emerging Writers’ Festival this year that I think is worth opening up a discussion about.

I love EWF and have been to it every year since I moved to Melbourne, and it was one of the first outlets for me to meet other writers in Melbourne (as well as the NaNoWriMo group) that really helped me push forward with my writing and make a bigger effort at being published. It’s a great festival that I’d recommend any writer, no matter what level, attends as it’s invaluable for meeting other writers, engaging in debates and discussion around writing in Melbourne and helps you work out how to do.

That said, I wasn’t able to go to much of it this year, for the first time. I bought a ticket to the whole weekend of the Writer’s Conference, the best part, but missed most of the Saturday afternoon because I had my own poetry event on that afternoon, that I’d been booked for before the EWF dates came out, which is definitely not my gripe here, but the past few weeks for me have been fairly busy and I had to miss the Sunday, and a bunch of other events.

I study Creative Writing at RMIT. I’m in second year and started it after becoming engaged with the writing community in Melbourne and really love the course, the chance to study writing full-time. My classmates are all emerging writers too, but we found this year that the Emerging Writers’ Festival, a festival aimed at us, was right in the middle of the end of semester, as assignments were piling up, and with the stress of all those coming down upon me, I had to make the difficult choice of missing the events I wanted to go to.

And I know, speaking to other classmates in my course that they weren’t going to anything this year because of this. Last year, I took programs to my year level to give to everyone to try and get them to come to the festival. I saw myself as an unofficial ambassador because I knew the festival would be perfect for all these writers I’d just met, many just from high school. As I remember last year, the timing was a little better, but I think many missed it for similar reasons.

I realise that EWF can’t cater to every demographic’s whim and schedule and inevitably people are going to have clashes and sometimes miss things, but I feel like Creative Writing students should be a major focus for EWF and getting them along to the festival. EWF offers something quite different to what you study in class; meeting other writers, engaging with publications that you can submit to etc. and would be a perfect thing for me, my classmates and other university students to throw ourselves into during semester break. Our teachers do give us practical knowledge, encourage us to submit etc. but I feel like it’s more effective when our peers and the people were submitting alongside and for are the ones encouraging us.

I know EWF invited many of our teachers to speak at the festival and that’s great, but I think it would be worth keeping in mind next year timing the festival so its accessible to students too, because I love the festival so much that not only do I want to be involved in it next year, but I want to be able to encourage my classmates to come along too.

Poem: Taksim today

turkey1mainRevolution is so beautiful
in the present
vibrant colours of people rising
modern ordinary people alive
without fear, new courage
taking the chance,
the overstepped mark
and running

so real
very possible
moving scenes
history books and distant stories
and the dulling grey of cynics
shaking their heads
saying we, naive and optimistic

they say each country is different,
and then it happens in another
and another
and another
each a different reason
it can only happen there

it spreads
flash points out of nowhere
you never see it coming,
say it’s possible not today, but one day
and that day is today, yesterday,
and for days,
Taksim becomes today’s Tahrir
Istanbul today’s Cairo
and right-now and tomorrow,
Turkey is today’s
impossible revolution

Taksim looks so different
from the way we saw it
with flares, flags and infinite numbers

When we were there, just tourists
we stood afar from police
weapons at their side
armoured vehicles behind them
and my Turkish friend, warning me
it’s so unlike Australia
so hard to even march
so impossible to speak

how unlike Taksim now

Revolution is a new place,
a new time,
shakes off its impossibility
a defiant, stubborn thing

Poem: The Call of the Racist

Performed on the open mic at House of Bricks spoken word night, last night

Photo by Michael Reynolds

Photo by Michael Reynolds

The racist,
a flourishing species
found around the world
densely populated
in most of Australia
habitats include
halls of parliament
offices of football clubs
a large colony in Cronulla
known by their intimidating battle cry:

but, but but, but
I’m not a racist but..
We’re all racist
No one is racist,
black people are racist too
I’m not a racist but it’s true

But but but
I’m not a racist but

I let black people in my football team
I got called an ape once too
I didn’t mean it
It was just a joke
Just a joke
Can’t you take a joke
But but but
No malice intended

I’m not a racist but but
They need to come here legally
It’s not my fault, there’s a little racist in everybody
I’m not a racist but but

The racist. Evades capture
Feigning jokes,
reacts badly
on public transport
The racist survives
by their litany of excuses
their intimidating call of but but
so no one will challenge it

What I’ve been up to: the blog, assignments, getting gigs and the novel

What have I been up to? Over the past year or so, this blog has become less and less central to my work as a writer, but nonetheless remains important for occasional updates about where my writing is appearing and progress with projects not yet out in the world. I’ve mostly been busy with spoken word gigs and university assignments, and I’m looking forward to semester break, with overly optimistic plans once again for reading and out of uni projects.

I’ve come to realise recently, a lot of the kinds of writing I’d used to blog has now gone on to better things, such as guest blog posts for Overland. That began when I was encouraged by the Overland editors to pitch my ideas to them instead of pitching ideas on Twitter that people might like to read on my blog.

As well as that, my work editing MelbourneSpokenWord.com has been going really well, and the website has been growing in recognition and traffic. We have some terrific reviewers, our gig guide is growing quite long, we hosted our first spoken word gig a few weeks ago, printed stickers, and hit our daily pageview record yesterday after I reviewed Anis Mojgani’s gig at the Footscray Community Arts Centre. In the future, more commentary about the spoken word scene in Melbourne will take place there, and hopefully by a wide range of poets and performers.

It’s also surprising how many gigs I’ve been offered all at once. I went a little while without performing and then found myself performing at a bunch, including doing a feature for the second time at the Dan Poets on a Saturday afternoon. And I’m hosting the relaunch of Keep Left on June 22 with our feature being Maxine Beneba Clarke, which is quite exciting, especially since she won the Victorian Premiers Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript on Thursday night, at the launch of the Emerging Writers’ Festival.

With uni, the main thing I’ve been working on is my novel, or that’s where my head’s been most of the time. The other assignments and work takes up a lot of time and I’ve been busy with that, but the novel writing is the most exciting and I want to dedicate more time to it. This is the novel I finished the first draft of in 2010, as part of NaNoWriMo. It was originally called Robbin’ Toorak but I’ve recently changed it to Screwjob. It’s coming together now in the third draft and if I can push forward to finish this draft, I feel like eventually this is one I will reach the stage of submitting for publication, which I’ve never felt about any other novel attempt.

All in all, this means I’ve been incredibly busy over the last few months and one of the sad things is I’ve missed more of the Emerging Writers’ Festival than I usually do. This has also been in part due to social anxiety I admit, so I’ve ran from the opportunity to network and catch up with other writers in Melbourne this time but I hope to get to a couple of events at least before it finishes on Sunday.