Allusions

Today, my writing group held their all day writing seminar. The second session, on poetry, was a panel moderated by me. It went really very well, the participants were enthusiastic and willing to learn and discuss, the panel members were knowledgeable and the whole thing ran very well.

As part of the panel, I asked everyone to write a poem. I had spend some time talking about pantoums,and read them this one, Pleasure in Elysium, from my friend Louise Carter at Alone with Beauty, which they all really loved, and I was inspired to write one of my own.

 

Allusions

The past is a foreign country

Who is in need of a wife

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow

Don’t go gentle into that good night

 

Who is in need of a wife

When he awoke from unsettling dreams

Don’t go gentle into that good night

Or call a rose by any other name

 

When he awoke from unsettling dreams

Staring at hills like white elephants

Or call a rose by any other name

Fog everywhere. Fog up the river

 

Staring at hills like white elephants

Two star cross’d lovers take their life

Fog everywhere. Fog up river

Sailing the waters back to Grey Havens

 

Two star cross’d lovers take their life

The past is a foreign country

Sailing the waters back to Grey Havens

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

Write On!

I have no idea why I didn’t think of spruiking this here before today, but I’m going to blame it on having a birthday. On Saturday my local writing group, Boroondara Writers’ Inc., is putting on “Write On!”, a full day of writing workshops/seminars with the launch of the 2013-14 anthology*, “Whichever Way I Lay” during the lunch break.

The morning session will be run by P D Martin, a local author who works mainly in crime fiction, and will feature some of her ‘Writing Rules to Live By’ and the afternoon session will be a poetry panel and workshop, creatively titled ‘Why Poetry?’ moderated by me!

Click here for the Write On! Leaflet.

I acknowledge that it is not cheap and it’s last minute, however, if anyone wants to come along, even just for the launch in the middle, there will be plenty of room for you! Tickets can be bought at the door too.

So that’s what I’ll be doing on Saturday, which is a bit exciting and a bit nerve racking. I’ll be sure to write up a little debrief of the sessions later too.

*The anthology features two of my pieces, a short story and a poem, and two of my photographs. So cool.

Getting Older

So I had a birthday this week – my thirtieth. I know there will be people out there who will roll their eyes a the idea that thirty is old, but it really feels like it should be something, should signify something.

I keep finding myself worrying about the fact that I don’t feel like I have things under control. I don’t feel like I am where I thought I would be by now – I have partner, no kids, no job and, really, no idea what I’m going to do with my life. Not only do I have none of those boxes ticked, but I don’t even feel like I’m close. I know the whole ‘people have it all figured out’ thing is a total myth, but even so, I feel a bit untethered.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes me who I am. I’ve also been thinking about making some changes. Maybe after thirty years in Melbourne I need to look at going outside to get to the next level. I’ve been considering spending a year abroad, which I know many people do in their early twenties, but I never did it. As of the middle of next year, my university course will be finished (assuming I don’t fail anything, which I should be able to manage), and I’ll need to start thinking about grown up things like having a proper job, or at least something that will support me while I continue with my writing and other stuff.

Most of my friends are older than I am and they assure me that the dirty thirties are where it’s at. I hope they’re right. I’m sure there’s a great plan that the universe has for me, or maybe it’s one of those when all the pieces fit together it will make sense kind of things. And maybe it’s just how the world is, confusing and so mind-bogglingly full of possibilities that there feels like there’s no discernible pattern.

All I can do is keep trying things, keep being true to who I am and trying to grow in myself. It’ll all work out, right?

Pillar of Salt Anyone?

It probably hasn’t been long enough for my poor addled brain to process seeing ‘The City They Burned‘ yet, but I’m going to have a crack at a response.

The website lists it as a retelling of the story of Lot and the fall of Sodom from Genesis 19 (in the Old Testament, I looked it up). It’s got everything you’d expect from the vengeful God era; death, genocide, angels of destruction, rape, sodomy (a word which originates from Sodom), incest – all the things!

Fleur Kilpatrick’s adaptation moves the morality of the original story from a parable of good and evil to a story about all the terrible decisions people make; her world of Sodom is all about grey morality, there is no black or white in this.

The City They Burned - photo from Attic Erratic/Facebook

The City They Burned – photo from Attic Erratic

This production is showing as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival, and states it’s a fully immersive theatre experience, so I don’t know what I expected, but I thought it would be fun. I don’t want to give too much away in terms of the staging of this production, because I think not knowing what’s really going on is part of what makes it powerful. I will tell you this, the first half pushed the boundary of audience participation, and the second half, while not participatory, was not any safer.

So, what were my thoughts? Of the first half: it was intense, it was constant. The performers never once broke from their horrible, uncomfortable characterisation. In the first half, with the audience so close and visible, I think it would have been easy for the actors to feel as uncomfortable as we did. It would have been so easy for them to giggle awkwardly, look to the others for confirmation, shuffle, fidget, or generally crack. I would have struggled because knowing I was making people nervous would have made me want to stop, to break character. But they never did. The silence, the unspoken tension, the derisive laughter, the scorn, the violence, it was all supremely controlled. I watched as other members of the audience avoided eye contact and squirmed away from the actors.

And of the second half; it was intense, it was constant. While we had the cover of darkness and the anonymity of being unseen, the level of tension did not drop. I commented to a fellow next to me, ‘Do you think the second half was better? I mean we were safely in our seats, but it didn’t seem to help’, he laughed, but his eyes had a sort of traumatised glaze I’m sure was reflected in my own.

A quote that springs to mind is that art should disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed (I can’t find the original attribution online, but it might be Finley Dunne). This is an extremely disturbing experience, it is way, way outside my comfort zone, and yet I feel somehow accomplished for having done it. It’s good to push your own boundaries every once in a while. It felt like I was being a good student of the arts.

If you’re looking for a fringe show which is as dangerous and thrilling as it is well executed, look no further than ‘The City They Burned’. It’s less than $30 and you’ll never be the same again. I’m giving it 4.5 out of 5.

First Day of Spring

Ah, first day of Spring, how dreary you are,

and how dreary I am in sympathy.

Facing forwards and travelling backwards

the abyss of reality opening, chasmwise, to me.

But a ray of light, over a the Frankenstein place,

reminds me that everything is not as it seems

that your perfume is strong, vibrant, bursting

with new life – brush away the cobwebs.

Replenishment, exhaustion, all things rise and fall,

are birthed and die, and their deaths make room

for the newness of the first day of Spring.

Roasted Beetroot and Feta Salad

I haven’t posted a recipe before, and I feel a bit awkward that I don’t have a picture to go with this one either, but here goes, this one’s for you Ben, in case you want to make it for yourself.

 

Ingredients:

  • Fresh beetroot
  • Sweet potato
  • Chickpeas (canned/fresh soaked)
  • Red onion
  • Feta
  • Balsamic vinegar

 

Method:

Chop the beetroot and sweet potato into 2-3cm cubes, and roast until soft and slightly crispy. The beetroot will probably take longer than the sweet potato, so maybe but the beetroot in about 20min before the sweet potato.

Once roasted, allow to cool before assembling the rest of the salad.

To assemble, but into a bowl, place the cool roasted veg, drained chickpeas, finely chopped red onion and crumbled feta.

For dressing, add balsamic vinegar to taste. You can probably add salad greens if you want it to be a bit more, well, green.

 

It’s a pretty easy recipe, but it’s so, so tasty and pretty healthy I think. I should have taken a picture, but we ate it all before I could.

Gaga oh la la!

It’s hard to know where to start to talk about seeing Lady Gaga’s ArtRAVE at Rod Laver Arena last Saturday, there are so many things to talk about! I guess I’ll start with my outfit. I thought it was fitting given that Gaga is renowned for having outrageous and unusual fashion to wear something outrageous and unusual to her concert. I mean I was never going to come close to her level of bizarre but it pushed boundaries for me, shown below.

On my way out.

On my way out, it’s very serious.

I wore black tights, with green fishnets over them and then a pair of underpants as bloomers, a black long sleeved top with a pink fishnet top and black singlet on top of it, big black boots and a bum bag. I also wore black lipstick and rectangles of blue eyeshadow. I wore no pants on public transport. I admit I did have a long jacket over this outfit, but I still felt quite exposed.

The first thing I noticed when I arrived at Rod Laver Arena was that there were people, lots of people, who did not dress up. I had assumed, wrongly, that people who were fans of Gaga would be all over any excuse to dress up. That’s not to say there weren’t some amazing costumes going on, because there were, just that it was only about 20% of the crowd.

I was also struck, as I always am, by the number of people who don’t see the support act. In this instance it was a DJ called Lady Starlight. Her website says she’s a hard rock DJ, but in this performance she was making what I would call minimalist acid house music live with a selection of small electronic devices. I think I enjoyed it, but the music was largely beats and bass, there was very little melodically to get your teeth into. There were also no vocals, so I felt like I couldn’t quite get into the groove of it, although towards the end of the set I was starting to get the hang of it.

After Lady Starlight left the stage the houselights stayed dimmed when she came out at last, Lady Gaga was exactly what you would expect – she was wearing a fantastic outfit, complete with giant blue ball chest piece and wings. She went straight into Artpop, the title track of her new album. The setlist here shows a number of intermissions, these were where Gaga went off stage to change her costume. Part of me felt like the constant costume changes interrupted the flow of the performance, and I wonder if it might have seemed more fluid if she hadn’t had so many breaks, but then again, costuming is a big part of what she does so it would probably never happen.

Photo from Just Jared

Photo from Just Jared

I found Lady Gaga’s stage persona to be strangely bipolar – at one moment she was screaming at the crowd to “jump motherfuckers”, and then in the next song she would be cooing about how much she appreciated our support, about how she loved her fans, and how we all needed to embrace our own special and unique creative abilities. It might sound weird, but I felt like both of these extremes were genuine. I get the impression as a person, Lady Gaga would be an intense companion.

Performing the entire concert with a live microphone meant that there were times when Gaga’s voice was not as polished as it is on her records, but I felt much closer to her as a performer for it. The slow, soft ballads were brilliant at showcasing her beautiful voice, while the more energetic numbers got slightly more off course, which is to be expected, as she’s gets very active!

The experience was joyful, sensual, sexual, and visceral. I haven’t even mentioned the set design or the backup dancers, but as you might imagine they were spectacular. As a performer Lady Gaga gives it all, she doesn’t do anything by halves and it shows in her commitment to the show. Even people who aren’t fans of her music would have to admit that she certainly gives you your money’s worth!