Backgammon, Bogan Hunters and something that ends this alliteration….

Thank you Margaret Mayhew, for thinking of me, and for writing this beautiful post. It is a comfort. It is a delight. It reminds me to be where I am, and most importantly, to keep writing.

First World Problems

It’s been an intense month of caving indoors…. and at times caving in.

Writing a book is as hard as writing a PhD; only this time (fortunately, she says, touching wood), mercifully free of heartbreak, house moves and death (I had 4 friends die during my PhD).

And – fortunately (she says, touching wood while making a sign of the cross), I’ve been able to scrap through my fourth summer of unemployment – ineligible for Newstart, and paying full price for medication and public transport – but luckily with enough cash reserves from working my ass off last year to see me through. I am glad that I got a visa overdraft when I had a scholarship and teaching. The overdraft helped me finish my PhD and has kept me through the past 5 years of casual academia.

I am very grateful to be living with someone who can pay…

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The golden room has a life of its own

48834a221f9fdd154bfee2136ad78f06Last year Jem told me a story while we were sitting together in the kitchen. It came out of the blue. It was astonishing. It was as if he was channeling what happens when we die, but also what life is, and how we make art, and love, and, and, and…

I wrote it down and performed it at the Harehole a couple of times. It ended up being one of the pieces that won me the Grand Slam there last year. The delightful John Jacobs, a producer and sound engineer at Radio National happened to be at one of those slams, and asked if I’d like to perform it for a show called Bedtime Stories. He and Julie Shapiro turned it into a sound-filled, special thing, and it aired there last month, and I thought that was its moment, and it was done.

But now it’s been picked up by the Third Coast International Audio Festival, so there are two places on the internet you can hear it.

And from that, it’s jumped to LitHop at the Melbourne Writers Festival in an event called Your Words Not Mine. So if you’d like to perform The Golden Room as literary karaoke to a dreamy soundscape back up track, come to The Loop Bar between 4 and 5pm on the 31st of August and you can pick it from the menu.

For my Deaf friends, and those who prefer to read rather than listen, here’s the story:

The Golden Room

This is a story about Jem’s waking dream. We are sitting together at the yellow kitchen table eating toast. One of his legs touches mine under the table. He chews with his mouth open, and I am in love with him, with the way he eats, with his dear little hand resting on the table top, with his foot on my leg, with the lilt of his nearly five year old voice. And then, from nowhere, he says this:

Mama, there is neverending hole. And it just goes and goes and goes forever and you fall and fall and fall and fall. And you just keep falling until you die. And there is food and you have a little bag that you hold so you can catch the food and eat it on the way down. But at the bottom there are all these boxes and there are bodies, the dead bodies, down there and some of them are in the boxes and some of them are under the boxes but they are all dead. And you fall and fall and fall forever, until you die and then you get to the bottom and sometimes you get your own box but sometimes you just have to lie next to someone else’s box and then that’s the end.

And just when I am almost crying from the bleakness of his waking dream he says this:

But, there is this special door, and sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can fall into it on the way down. And the special door leads to a golden room and it’s all just gold and when you get in there you have everything you need all the time and you never go to sleep and you’re always awake and you never sleep. And when you get in there you have to look for gold, which is fine, because it’s really easy to find. And when you find it, then you turn into gold. And it’s a very special kind of gold that’s really really strong, so it makes you really really strong. And then you can sleep if you want to, but you don’t have to. And you can jump back down to our world whenever you feel like it, but you can go back to the golden room whenever you feel like it too. And you’re just strong, and awake. And that’s the end, really. That’s how it happens.

He takes a bite of his banana toast. My elbows are on the yellow kitchen table. He chews with his mouth open. There are crumbs on both of his cheeks, and a small blob of banana on his chin. I am holding my cup of tea in both hands. I sip. He chews. Soli comes in from the backyard where he’s been dropping pegs into a bucket of water and dirt to make soup. He is grainy with mud. I sip. Soli climbs onto my lap and tells me he’s being careful not to spill my tea. Jem chews, and asks for a washer so he can clean off the crumbs. Caren comes through the back door carrying a basket of washing that smells like the sun. Dirt. Tea. Banana. Sun. Toast. A golden room.

That’s how it happens. You fall/fly. You fall/fly and if you’re lucky, you find the golden room.

My book, mapped

Wordle just changed my world. This is the map of my book.

All the beginnings: a queer autobiography of the body
Becoming ink

Wordle: Becoming ink (a corporeal survey)

Writing this body, writing

Wordle: Writing this body, writing

Looking from the inside

Wordle: Looking from the inside

The body that moves…

Wordle: The body that moves the hand that writes

Writing the worst

Wordle: Writing the worst

A proliferation…

Wordle: A proliferation of metaphor

There are holes…

Wordle: There are holes, and I leak

Birthing, again

Wordle: Birthing, again

Losing something…

Wordle: Losing something you cannot see

The lost mother

Wordle: The lost mother

Meeting Cixous

Wordle: Meeting Cixous


Wordle: Bibliography

Shut up and Write!

I’ve been doing Shut up and Write since the start of my PhD and I can’t stop raving about it. I’m almost finished my book/thesis, I’ve done it in excellent time, and it’s because I’ve done most of it in the company of writers and postgrads (many of whom are now friends), in gorgeous cafes, with good coffee, and the exquisite space that is created when a bunch of people gather to produce text. I thought I would never write a book. I thought I would spend my whole life wanting to write, but never actually doing it.

Shut up and write is the single biggest change I have made to my writing practice, and it has had the single biggest impact on my productivity as a writer.

You don’t need to wait for someone to organise a group. One other person makes a group. Sometimes some of us do #shutupandwrite over twitter if we can’t meet in person.

Grab a writer. Set the timer on your phone to 25 minutes. Write.

The Thesis Whisperer

A couple of months ago a friend told me about the ‘Shut up and Write’ movement in San Francisco. The idea is quite simple; a group of writers converge on a location, presumably one with good coffee. After 15 minutes of chit chat they, well – just shut up and write. They write solidly for an hour, then take a break for coffee and more chats before they leave.

I tend to think of writing as a solitary activity which needs a closed door and the phone/email/twitter off the hook. The idea of being with other people to write sounded so illogical I was naturally  keen to give it a try. In fact…

I’m doing it right now.

As I write this post I’m sitting in one of my favourite cafés on campus, opposite my friend Jonathan who has recently set up “The Research Whisperer” blog. We met…

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Writing poems with other people’s words

Last week I sent out my pozible rewards. The $100 reward was a poem, written around three words sent to my by my support. The very lovely Lynda Hawryluk sent me these words:

bricolage, bunker, azure

When I first had the idea to write poems as thank-yous for larger donations, and to ask my supporters to send me three words to write around, I didn’t think about how those words would affect my work, given that I am deeply accustomed to choosing my own words when I write. It was a challenge. I don’t think I would ever have used bricolage in a poem written entirely under my own steam.

In fact I was anxious about bricolage. I avoided this poem. It was the last ‘reward’ poem I penned. And what I found was this: those words were perfect. And they got me writing about a metro station in Lisbon called Parque that was so exquisite that when I got out of the train all I could do was stand and gawk.

Parque station with hand written poemLynda got her poem in the mail this week. And luckily, she loved it too. So much so that she hand wrote it over a picture of the station, pinned it to her wall, and then sent of photo of it to me. I am overwhelmed with the gift.

Safe Haven

Hand holding pozible rewardsI’ve finally completed my pozible rewards. It took 3 months, partly because promising to write poems is completely different from actually writing them, and partly because two weeks after I came home I ended up in emergency surgery (all ok now). So. Rewards took a back seat. But now they’re done. And this is the final final reward, for my single $250 supporter, the very wonderful (not least because she’s my Aunt) Moiya Ford. As promised, this is a blog post for you, with your poem.

I asked my $100 and $250 supporters to give me three words to weave into a poem that I would write for them, but try as she might, the weren’t coming for Moiya. So I have written a poem, in some ways, with no words. No words given, but words that came. This is Safe Haven, for Moiya, with love, and thanks.

Safe Haven

On the double decker bus, in the jet lag
drown, I sit on a seat with a split.
It seeps old water, and wets me without caring.

I am plugged in to a headset, listening to a recording
of a woman telling me I must try Bacalhau, salted cod.
My jeans are wet from hip to knee.
I perch weirdly on one side, hoping that the sun
and wind will dry me.

Next she tells me the story of Fado, the song of the people,
and talks about roosters, and 550,000 people in the city,
and 3 million in Lisbon and surrounds (those seven hills).

Ulysses stopped here. And I wonder, what did he want?
How did he stop? What hill did his foot undo?

Jeans are still wet. I unplug. I move to a different seat.
This seat is split too. I lean again, so the water can’t seep.

St. Anthony, she says, is the patron saint of Lisbon. Lost object
finder, saviour of small things. She says the word Lisbon is thought
to be Venetian: safe haven, she thinks is its meaning.

We finish our circuit. She starts again. I unplug.
Jeans almost dry.

Later, I try salted cod. It is fleshy, fat, tongue squint.
Later, my jeans dry.
Later, jetlag leaves.
Later, at the Feira Da Ladra, I find small lost things
to take home to my children, my lover, my sister, my friends

a deep tinted photo of the initiate’s well in Sintra.
A plaster Mary holding her baby to be hung on a Coburg wall.
Three glazed fish and six glazed cicadas from the coast,
in blood red, and olive green, and sea blue.

Later, I buy a metal rooster brightly dotted to attach to my keys,
and when I drive up Sydney Road it plickers and plings.

Safe haven. Lost things. Dry jeans.

Lisbon in bites

Bucket of coffee. Made it through the whole of yesterday without a nap. Made it Tiled building facadethrough the night (mostly) asleep.

Weird rash/bunch of bites on my calf. Cortisone in Portugese: cortisona.

Hunting stamps today and pondering whether I need to write 16 three line poems (that’s how many gorgeouses pledged $10), or if I can write 8 and double up.

Conference rego at 12.30. I walk everywhere here. Google maps I love you.

Yesterday I was carrying two felt pirate flags I’d bought for the kids and a flannelette shirted woman came up and started speaking in Portugese. She thought I was going to the May Day rally. There was dancing in the streets. A man playing accordion with a tiny dog on his shoulder collecting coins.

Pasteria (pastry) shops everywhere. The way that travelling alone lets me be still, and watch everything, and the world, quietly, comes to meet me.