people who are nice enough to publish me, poetry, the reason why I am doing this, the writing process

Published: One Weird Reason to Quit Your Novel Today

I have an “ideas piece” over on Writers Bloc today. It’s about a thing that happened in my brain about a month or two ago where I decided to finally stop writing the novel I’ve been working on for ten years. Here’s an extract:

…it was exciting being a novelist. A real, actual novelist. Good word, that. The kind of word you can say with pride at a dinner party without anticipating the need for clarification or worrying about killing the conversation.

“Novelist” is what people assume you mean when you say “I’m a writer”. Not “poet”. “I’m a writer,” you say. “That’s great,” people reply, putting you on a mental bookshelf next to Tim Winton and Joan London. “A poet, actually,” you might clarify, then clear your throat.

So there I was, a published poet and a published novelist in a world that by and large valued fiction much more highly than poetry. “I love reading,” someone might say to you, and pretty soon odds are you’ll be comparing favourite novelists. Never poets. Unless the person you’re speaking to is a poet, which is lovely, but that doesn’t happen much.

As a result of all this, I stopped thinking of myself as a poet and started thinking of myself as a writer instead.

You can read the rest of “One Weird Reason to Quit Your Novel Today” over at Writers Bloc.

i would like to recommend these people's writing, lines I wish I'd written, new poems, poems, poetry, writing

Our New Blog: Poem Monday

For the last few Mondays Oonagh and I have been writing poems together. We pick a topic and then write one poem each, reading them out to the family when we’re done.

Our first poems were about blue hamburger fish.

You can check them out over at our Poem Monday blog, and stay tuned for more poems every Monday from now on.

people who are nice enough to publish me, poetry

June. July. Just Read.

And speaking of Jane Rawson, for the next two months I’ve signed up to read for charity as part of her JustRead fundraiser.

The idea is that I read things and people donate money to the incredibly important and valuable Indigenous Literacy Foundation. It’s a sort of MS Readathon for grown-ups, if you like that kind of “like X but with Y” high-concept stuff.

I’ve written a guest blog post for the JustRead blog, outlining the particular way that I’m going to approach this reading project, at the same time as confessing to a childhood crime, which you can read here.

If you can’t be bothered clicking links, though, the short version is I’m going to close-read (and maybe also analyse) two poems a day for two months, blog about it every week, and ask you to help out by donating to my Everyday Hero page.

Congratulations and thanks to Jane for not only coming up with the idea, but for making it happen, and thanks to you for taking the time to consider this invitation to donate.

More soon.

crappin' on about the inconsequential, i would like to recommend these people's writing, new ways to procrastinate

Links for Sunday: Heat Vision & Jack, Supergirl, Muhammad Ali and Melinda Smith

A Very Special Episode presents “Heat Vision & Jack”
The Onion’s AV club looks back at Heat Vision & Jack, the unaired pilot starring Jack Black and Owen Wilson as a superintelligent astronaut and his talking motorbike.

Supergirl Lego Minifig 
Supergirl Lego minifig! Eeeeeeeeeee!!

Muhammad Ali Reads his Poem about the Attica Riots live on Irish TV
What it said up there.

Pitt Street Poetry – Melinda Smith
Remember that whole Prime Minister’s Litareary Awards muckamuck a while back? With the dual winners and the hoohah about the PM telling the judges who shoulda won? Hands up if you can tell me who won the poetry award? Anyway I’ll just tell you. It was Canberra poet Melinda Smith. Here’s a sample from her book, Drag Down to Unlock or Place an Emergency Call. And here’s her blog.

i would like to recommend these people's writing, lines I wish I'd written, Me and my opinions, poetry, reviews

Attoreview: Patricia Lockwood – Balloon Pop Outlaw Black

balloonpopoutlawblack

The cartoon reaches deep into a pocket, deep into a hole in the pocket, into “hammerspace”, and retrieves a huge pair of scissors. His mother, who lives there, hands him what he needs. Touches the tips of his fingers.

A few of the poems in this, Lockwood’s first collection, are highly prosaic, long-lined stanzas stretching out over many pages, puntuated by what seem to be subsidiary poems within the body of the larger poem. There are a number of shorter poems here too, but the longer pieces make the strongest impression with their deep Whitman / Ashberry-esque explorations of surreal premises that use intelligence and humour to co-opt and dissect the conceits of received wisdom, cartoons, storybooks and schoolbooks, pursuing the implication of things like what it is to be an ink drawing, or what it would mean to live inside a whale, to profound conclusions. These poems are weird, unsettling, confident and beguiling. There are no poems here that directly speak of lived experience, but in her deep consideration of bizarre scenarios Lockwood unearths resonant emotions that will stay with you long after you finish reading.

Highly Recommended.

Buy Balloon Pop Outlaw Black from Octopus Books.

man bites dog

A B-movie Love Poem

[Being the latest in a series of excerpts from my novel, Man Bites Dog, which is currently on sale at Tomely for only 99c until 23 June 2014]

The sex is gentle and lucid. Last night we were breaking down inhibitions. This morning we’re shyly saying hello with our entire bodies. There’s a nervous energy to it that makes me think maybe I won’t need any painkillers today—maybe the endorphins and the adrenalin and the sheer pleasure of this encounter will keep the hangover at bay.

Afterwards we lie in each other’s arms and continue our get-to-know-you conversations. We swap middle names, high-school crushes and favourite comics. Emma gets out of bed and I watch her move around the room as she searches for something. She comes back with the Krazy Kat book we talked about last night.

‘Read it later,’ she says. I put it to one side as she moves in for another kiss. Eventually we break the clinch, and our lazy hungover conversation drifts around to jobs. Emma talks about how much she hates her current job, temping in an office in the city, but I trump her with my story about the recent traumas on my run.

‘Man bites dog,’ she says.

‘What?’

‘It’s the test for newsworthiness. Dog bites man—that’s something that you’d expect to happen, so it’s not news. But man bites dog—that’s unusual. That’s news.’

‘But I didn’t bite Satan,’ I say. ‘He tried to bite me.’

‘Why chicken? Wouldn’t something like—I don’t know—sausages or a handful of mince be cheaper?’

‘I guess. I never thought about it before. Wayne said “chicken”, so I got chicken.’

The alarm clock on the bedside table says twelve-fifteen. We’ve slept and snuggled and fucked the morning away.

‘I should probably get going soon.’

‘Yeah, I have a few things to do today,’ says Emma. I make an effort to sit up. My head doesn’t fall off or implode, so I figure that’s a good sign. I could use some water, though. And I need to take a piss.

‘Do you want a shower?’

I do want a shower, but there’s the whole housemate thing to take into consideration. I don’t know if Emma lives alone or not, or if her housemates are awake and moving around at the moment, but I’d rather avoid bumping into them right now. It’s always awkward being ‘the stranger that so-and-so brought home last night’. I don’t think I’m up for the polite nods and the surreptitious exchange of knowing glances that comes with the situation.

‘Um, no thanks. I’ll just have one when I get home.’

‘You sure?’

‘Yeah, thanks.’

‘You smell like a goat, you know.’ I stare at her. ‘Because of the sex,’ she whispers in a stage mock-whisper. Goat? Is that an insult or intimacy?

‘Uh . . .’

‘And so do I, which is why I’m going to have a shower.’

She slides out of bed, shrugs into a black satin robe with Chinese embroidery on the back, and pads out of the room. Now what do I do? I’m lying naked and sex-stained in a stranger’s bedroom—what’s the appropriate response? Should I be here when she comes back? Was she giving me some kind of hint? Should I just get dressed and sneak out the front door now? Leave a note? I wanted to kiss her goodbye. I think about our lips touching and decide that, yes, I definitely want to kiss her goodbye, so that means I’ll wait here until she finishes her shower. Maybe I can do a little victory dancing while she’s out of the room. I jump onto the floor and wiggle my hips, then do a bit of hip-hop posturing. Oh yeah. Look at me. I just had sex. Twice. To the beat y’all.

That feels better. I stand still and look around the room. Lots of bookshelves. Lots of books. Emma’s got a good comics library here. I flick through a couple, but I’m not in a reading mood. I check out the shelf underneath and a slim spine catches my eye. You and What Army? by Emma Monori. Monori? I wonder if that’s Emma. A quick look at the photo on the back cover confirms that it is her. It’s weird that you can know what the back of someone’s knee tastes like, but not know their surname. I jump under the doona and start reading.

It’s different from Wayne’s poetry. More like I expect poetry to be, but still conversational—like song lyrics that tell a story. It’s not all about everyday life. There’s a poem about skinning a horse, another one about superhero sidekicks, and a couple based on primary school games like scarecrow chasey and those old skipping-rope rhymes. ‘Hide and Seek’ is a longish poem about a girl hiding from her boyfriend in weirder and weirder places. The last few lines catch my eye.

Now I’m here, resting quietly
between the folds of your brain,
mesmerised by the arc and shimmer
of your neurons in action.
I knew you had a remarkable mind,
but it’s another thing entirely
to watch synapses hiss and crackle
as you seek me out, piecing together
the clues I left for you. It won’t be long now.

This time, though, things will be different.
This time, when you find me, I plan to stay found.

I think it’s a love poem, but it’s full of weird things from science fiction B-movies. A B-movie love poem. How cool is that? I would have said that laser guns and long-lost loves had nothing to do with each other, but Emma’s poetry seems to suggest otherwise. That’s a remarkable brain she’s carrying around in that head of hers.

Emma comes back with her water-darkened hair plastered against her neck. I look up, feeling a little guilty.

‘Where’d you find that?’

‘In the bookshelf.’

She pauses, looking at me, almost frowning. ‘Had a bit of a rummage, did we?’

‘I was looking for comics.’ I sound more apologetic than I mean to, so I clear my throat.

‘It’s fine. Teasing.’ She closes the door behind herself. ‘I was wondering if you’d be here when I got back.’

Stay tuned for further excerpts from Man Bites Dog, or buy a copy from Tomely for only 99c and read the whole thing for yourself.

 

writing

Velocipede

[Being an excerpt from the poetry collection Not Quite the Man for the Job, on sale at Tomely for only 99c until 23 June 2014]

Some say it’s unnecessary,
even extravagant.
But to properly experience
every nuance of bike riding,
you need all fifteen gears.

First Gear
(Hill-eater)

Along the Merri Creek
there’s a hill I swear
was created
with first gear in mind.
Only those strong of thigh
and heart
can make it to the top
without dismounting.

Second Gear

almost nothing
a feather on the pedals

Third Gear

I watch the cross-light
shift from amber to red.
My leg muscles tense.
I shift my grip,
release the brakes
and go.

Fourth Gear
(Wind-fighter)

Ten knots if it’s a breeze,
it bites my ears and pulls my hair.
I squint through watery eyes,
ignore the cold and pedal on.

Fifth Gear

a slight drop
for slowing as you
move through the
roundabout

Sixth Gear
(cruising speed)

dodging potholes
and car doors
gone before their
apologies reach my ears

Seventh Gear

Regular oiling of the chain
will allow a smoother, quieter ride,
while ensuring that its fit
to the cogs is as close as possible.

Eighth Gear

Friday morning after bin night,
the sloppy garbage-men
have turned the footpath
into a slalom course.

Ninth Gear

Angle of ascent equals thirty-eight degrees.
Gravitational force equals nine point eight
metres per second per second.
Given that force equals mass by acceleration,
calculate the maximum velocity possible
for a rider weighing seventy-five kilograms.

Tenth Gear

Split the puddle
Neatly in half
Then curse the
Lack of mudguards

Eleventh Gear
(tram racing)

I play chasey with the number 86
all the way along High Street.
It passes me then I pass it
as passengers blankly stare
out of dusty windows.

Twelfth Gear

the only sounds are
my breath and the wind

Thirteenth Gear

The wind behind me
A downward slope
Thirteenth gear
All my weight
On the pedals

How close to escape velocity?

Fourteenth Gear
(seven-league boots)

I straighten my leg and travel five blocks.
Once more and another five.
Ten times my legs have bent and unbent
and I’m on the other side of town.

Fifteenth Gear

Sometimes it’s fun
to choose the path
of most resistance.

***

Some say it’s unnecessary,
Even extravagant,
But every click,
Every tick,
Every ker-chunk of the derailer
means something.

In the art of bike riding,
nothing is wasted.

Read more poems from Not Quite the Man for the Job – buy it now on Tomely for the mere price of 99c!

 

man bites dog

This Gets You Sex?

[Being the latest in a series of excerpts from my novel, Man Bites Dog, which is currently on sale at Tomely for only 99c until 23 June 2014]

‘Wayne,’ he said, offering me his hand. ‘Wayne Jackson.’

‘Steve. Steve Lydon.’

‘Lydon, hey?’ he asked.

‘No relation,’ I said. ‘And yes, I like the Sex Pistols, yes, I saw The Filth and the Fury and yes, I liked some of what Public Image Limited did, but the later stuff is pretty crap.’

‘Fair enough,’ grinned Wayne, turning back to his rack.

‘So what about you?’ I asked after a minute or two of feeling embarrassed by my little outburst. ‘This your ideal job?’

‘Mate, a job’s a job. But yeah, I’ve always wanted to work in the post office. Me and the Buke.’

‘Who?’

‘Buke. Bukowski? Charles Bukowski?’

‘Friend of yours?’

‘He’s a writer. A poet. He worked for the post office in America in the fifties, delivering mail and fucking all the bored housewives. He was an alcoholic.’

‘So which are you? A poet? Or an alcoholic?’

‘Depends on when you’re talking to me.’

‘And have you managed to fuck many housewives since starting here?’

‘Not yet, but times have changed. No, the sex, for me, comes from the poetry.’

‘From the poetry,’ I repeated.

‘Yeah,’ he nodded.

‘You get sex from poetry?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Bullshit.’

‘Well, check it out.’ He grabbed a small card-covered booklet from his bag and flipped it onto my desk.

Hard Times by Wayne M. Jackson,’ I read out loud.

‘That’s me.’

‘I’ve seen this before somewhere.’

‘It’s in a few bookstores. Brunswick Street Books, Missing Link, Polyester. . . You might have seen it around, yeah?’

‘I guess I must’ve.’ Wayne’s list of stockists had jogged my memory. The last time I went into Polyester to check out the new zines, I’d seen Hard Times, with its grainy black-and-white photo of a man sleeping in a doorway. As usual, I’d reorganised the stock to make Gina’s zine, Zines, She Wrote, more prominent, placing it on the top of the pile. Fuck ’em, I’d thought. The harder I make it to find homemade poetry books, the happier the world will be.

I bit my tongue, flipped to a random page and read a little bit. The poem was called ‘Shit Happens’.

three a.m. in the Punters Club
and I’m down to my last gold coin again
and I don’t recognise anyone here
who I could go halves with for a beer
so I wander out into the street
and the fresh air punches me in the throat
and I watch the hot dog man pack up
leaving spilled puddles of mustard
and barbecue sauce behind him
and I start off in the direction of home
and I pass that old Greek guy sitting outside
the back door of the bagel bakery
and the two of us go dumpster diving
for day-old bagels
and we share my last cigarette
stuffing our faces with dry bagels
and I give him my last gold coin
and say goodnight to him
and tell him to take care because
shit happens,
and he looks at me and says,
I know.

I looked up. ‘This gets you sex?’

‘Sometimes.’

I’d never thought to try to get sex with poetry. Making the girl laugh, yes. Getting the girl drunk, sure. Getting myself drunk, absolutely. But it had never occurred to me to use poetry. I probably don’t know enough about poetry. I’m okay with limericks. I could do that one about the old man with the beard off by heart. But the vision of my rendition of ‘There was a young man from Nantucket’ inspiring wanton women to throw their undies at me was hard to sustain.

‘It doesn’t rhyme,’ I said.

‘It doesn’t have to rhyme.’ Wayne snatched his book back from me. ‘Fucking philistine.’

‘No, it’s good. I liked it. It was . . . interesting. Like something that could really have happened. Very, um, evocative.’ I backpedalled, wanting to be polite, looking for the right kind of compliment. He might have an ego on him, but there was something charming about Wayne. I’d never had a workmate before—I’d never had real work before—and Wayne seemed interesting enough to fill the job description.

‘You should come hear me read sometime.’

My vague compliments seemed to have placated him. ‘I’ve got a feature this Thursday, at the Jamieson. You should come.’

‘A feature what?’

‘Just come to the Jamieson on Thursday, about eight, smart arse. I’ll be reading my poems on stage. Some of ’em come across better when they’re performed.’

‘Does it cost money?’

‘Nah, I’ll put you on the door. But the first beer’s on you.’

‘Sounds fair,’ I said, hefting the bags under my arms.

‘Eight.’

‘Okay, but if it sucks you owe me a beer.’

Stay tuned for further excerpts from Man Bites Dog, or buy a copy from Tomely for only 99c and read the whole thing for yourself.