Friday, 28 December 2018

Cicerone Journal + recapping

Better late than never!

Image from Cicerone Journal's Issue 1 editorial - "It's (a)live!"

I'm writing this retrospectively, typing content into in a blank placeholder post I created in December 2018.

I made a lot of blank placeholder posts last year. This was primarily because I was simultaneously in my first year of full-time employment and coping with some serious family illness at home. I also established a literary journal in partnership with one of my closest friends. Life became busy and my writing fell somewhat by the wayside.

This felt depressing. Earning money in order to live is a fundamental, evidently worthwhile goal; however, my personal ideal is also to be able to buy time in which to be creative. I continued to jot down my ideas and submit poetry here and there, but seldom developed my scribbles as extensively as I might have liked.

An email out of the blue changed this. The team at Meanjin got in touch with me via this blog - which had been growing increasingly dormant - and asked if I'd be interested in writing for them, having read some of my previous work in other publications. I jumped at the chance, and the resulting article can be found on their website here

Their email also spurred me on to update this blog more frequently and to fill in the blank placeholders, even if just as a personal commitment to creative endeavour. Updating this blog feels like an act of 'self-care', to use wellness jargon; sort of akin to dusting a digital home. Committing to writing posts regularly makes it easier to commit to writing other things more regularly, too.

So many thanks again to Meanjin for that small piece of encouragement which came at exactly the right time. It was greatly appreciated.


In other news, Cicerone Journal began publishing its first issue over the course of December 2018. As I write this post content from the future (April 2019), we are now in the process of finalising pieces for publication in Issue 2!

It's so exciting to work hard on a project and to see that work pay off. Cicerone Journal is now well and truly (a)live, with a website, a Facebook page, and even a Twitter account. It has received submissions from around the world and is slowly but steadily building a network of readers and regular contributors.

In 2019, we hope to contribute more to our local literary community by hosting events and establishing more of a physical presence. We've got plenty of ideas and a few grant applications on the boil - so fingers crossed...

In the meantime, please don't hesitate to get in touch with us if you've any enquiries, or if you'd like to send us your work. We're always keen to hear from readers and writers and we encourage you to reach out.

All the best to everyone for 2019.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

NVQ Issue 3 + What Now

I was recently invited along to read at the launch of the third issue of Not Very Quiet, a Canberra-based women's poetry journal.

Not Very Quiet is a very welcoming, social group within the Canberra literary scene. Their events are good fun and have a friendly atmosphere. The Issue 3 launch event was no exception.

Looking perplexed at the Issue 3 launch. 

This is the third time one of my poems has been published by Not Very Quiet (thank you, NVQ!). The poem I submitted this time was called 'What Now'.

Funnily enough, the poem was written after I had scraped the bottom of the inspiration barrel and come up with nothing but a few splinters and an unappetising smell of fish clinging to my hair. I had seen an online post about NVQ seeking poems for their third issue and I had thought it would be nice to enter. Then I realised that I had nothing to submit. What's more, I was feeling entirely out of ideas.

So I began trying to create an idea out of nothing. Yet trying very deliberately to write poetry - to deliberately write something meaningful - comes with a certain irony. Actively trying to craft a poem with a deeper meaning feels disingenuous when not even a grain of good-quality, non-processed #organic inspiration is presenting itself. I felt like a fraud with nothing to say.

It crossed my mind, however, that plenty of people must deliberately try to write deep and meaningful things and feel fraudulent all the time - an idea I found rather amusing. So many industrious barrel-scrapers holed up at our desks, deadlines approaching! Anyway, I was tickled enough by the irony of the situation that I decided to write a poem about trying to write a poem instead.Whether a poem about the irony of writing a poem when one has nothing to say actually says something, however, remains inconclusive.

Does this poem have any worth? You decide.

What Now (first published by Not Very Quiet here)

More icing than cake
More frame than picture
All lamp-rubbing and no genie

Standing at the sink, curtains drawn
Rain drowning the rutabaga
Waiting for inspiration – never strikes twice

Now’s the time to weave tongues together
Words of a feather, to pin into a cap;
Describe for me unseen scenes; I see

I am part of this problem
This problem is a part of me
Poetry should be more ‘O!’; less trying

Everyone dying to impress everyone else
And impress that we are not doing so
It’s a party one attends but is too insecure to enjoy

More lace than grace, more rhyme than … reason
Trotting out ideas like daughters in finishing school; we forget
To teach them how to speak past their ivory collars.

Issue 3 of Not Very Quiet is now online. You can read more of it here

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Writing for Overland

The personal is political 

Image: still from (the fantastic) Janelle Monae’s ‘Make Me Feel

I recently wrote quite a personal piece. It is one of my strongest pieces of non-fiction writing yet, and I am happy that I wrote it. It was published in one of Australia's leading journals, Overland, and shared on the 23rd of September. This day is Bi Visibility Day.

Writing this article was emotionally challenging at first. I value privacy, and am only really comfortable with disclosure of deeply personal information if I feel I have a say in the narrative, and in what is being said about me.

Of course, one typically cannot control how information spreads.

Nevertheless, I felt compelled to write this article. I wrote it for myself; I wrote it to help educate where possible; and I wrote it perhaps most of all in the hope that it might help others like me, who see their own experiences reflected in mine. Writing has immense power to make others feel less alone, and if I can channel that power, even in a small way, I think it worth doing so. 

If you would like to read the article, you can find it here. Hopefully we are all big enough people to approach all others, always, with an open heart. Have a beautiful day.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

At the arboretum

Something different

In August, I worked on an outdoor photoshoot with a local photographer. This was a throwback to my undergraduate days, during which my unusual height, conventionally marketable skin colour and I made a bit of pocket-money through modelling.  

I haven't done much modelling since starting full-time work. Someday I think I'd be interested in writing about the industry; its highs and its lows, as seen from my outer-edge vantage point. This day, however, was pure good fun (and I do enjoy photography in the great outdoors). 

It also turned out to be an opportunity to catch up with old friends. The photographer, Nara O'Neil, and I had once worked together on a shoot for local bridal company De Challie Couture, and it's always nice to reconnect with creative people. 

Anyway, the weather held and it ended up being a beautiful afternoon of shooting up at the local arboretum. A selection of photographs from the shoot also ended up being published in The Fox Magazine, which was a nice outcome. Here are a couple of my own favourites below: 

Photographer: Nara O'Neil 
MUA: Caroline Cresswell 

And if you ever have the chance to visit Canberra's arboretum - the location of this shoot - do take it!

Monday, 30 July 2018

Undergraduate Awards 2017

Comparing Sylvia Plath and Dorothy Hewett

In 2017, I wrote an essay titled 'Performativity, Confession, and the Female Writer, as illuminated by the lives and works of Sylvia Plath and Dorothy Hewett'. The essay was awarded a Highly Commended by the Undergraduate Awards judging panel in 2017. 

Since allegations emerged earlier this year about the sexual abuse suffered by Dorothy Hewett's daughters - and the blind eye their mother turned towards this horror - it will always feel untimely to share an essay which examines Hewett without knowledge of these allegations. Nevertheless, the comparison of Sylvia Plath and Dorothy Hewett remains valid and worth exploring, at least in the context of their performativity and construction of personas. For all her (many, irretrievably problematic) flaws, Hewett is also an important literary figure in Australia's writing tradition. 

Therefore, if you are curious to learn more about Plath, Hewett, and their noteworthy points in common, you are welcome to read my essay on the topic. It has the small honour of being the first published piece of research which compares these two authors.

You can read it on the Undergraduate Awards website here.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Creating Cicerone

Some friends and I started a literary journal. Here's why... 

"Creating a literary journal is both exciting and nerve-wracking."

So begins the introductory editorial of Cicerone Journal, a literary journal founded by me and a few others in June 2018.

Founding a literary journal takes a lot of effort and commitment. Nevertheless, we felt it was worth it - so we all took a couple of deep breaths and dived right in.

All of us had long had an urge to contribute to literary and artistic communities, especially locally. This stems partly from a desire to be involved in what we believe are important social and cultural discourses. Yet it goes further than that: we also wish to create an inclusive platform for emerging writers and creators to be promoted alongside established ones, and to help new writers in particular in accessing literary spaces. Getting one's foot in the door can often seem overwhelming if one is just starting out, or if one's style or voice sits outside of literary conventions.

Having already helped describe our motives and goals more extensively and eloquently in Cicerone Journal's editorial here, I shan't paraphrase the team's words any further in this post. If you wish to know more about why we created Cicerone Journal, however, please do visit our website, or shoot us an email. We're always keen for submissions, too - so if you've always wanted to try your own hand at writing, don't hesitate to get in touch!

Good luck, and happy writing!

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Speaking at Women Poets Anthology Moran/Edgar/Smith

Representing the youth at a poetry night 

On the 21st of May, I participated in a poetry night hosted by local groups 'Not Very Quiet' and 'That Poetry Thing' at a cafe in Canberra. I was one of three presenters making up the evening - three woman poets from three different generations. My near-adolescent complexion and lack of home ownership qualified me to fill the young poet slot.

My friend Moya Pacey of Not Very Quiet kindly asked if I would like to be a part of the evening, along with poets Melinda Smith and Suzanne Edgar, who are significantly further along in their careers than I am. It was a lovely opportunity and I'm happy to have had the chance to be involved.

We were encouraged to read our own poetry as well as share the poems of woman poets we particularly admire. I chose to share a few poems by the brilliant Mary Oliver, who I adore.

Born in Ohio in 1935, Mary Oliver was recently acknowledged by the New York Times as being “by far and away, [America’s] best-selling poet” – yet I certainly never studied her work at school. In fact, she tends to be overlooked by academia in general, at least in Australia. Yet she is talented and prolific, and still writing poetry today at 82 years young.

Mary Oliver

I began by reading one of Oliver's most famous poems, Wild Geese - a poem which has been described as having saved lives. 

Following that, I read The Kingfisher, Sleeping in the Forest (a personal favourite) and the delightful, playful poem That Little Beast. They were a pleasure to share as, at least in my experience, Oliver's poetry is powerful enough to alter one's outlook on life for the better. 

It's interesting how people react to Oliver. While she is widely loved, some critics have derided her poems as simplistic, being as they are often about subjects deemed old-fashioned in contemporary poetry spaces, like nature and beauty. Yet I like her enormously. She has no interest in being edgy, or intellectual to the point of being inaccessible. She is sincere and perceptive. If people deride her work, therefore, it does make me wonder what is actually being derided. 

As for the rest of the poetry night, I warned the audience that they were about to experience an abrupt departure from the lyricism of Mary Oliver, and launched into some of my more political, crowd-pleasing poems. These included Iffy ("Kipling never did write a poem counselling young women, so I figured I had to write it my damn self. Thank for nothing, Rudyard!"); a poem about live animal exports; and my favourite stanza from an old poem I wrote for a local journal: “Though they say sexism’s over/ speaking up still isn’t free/ I’ve either 99 conundrums/ Or the bitch, they’d say, is me…!”

Looking severe

Despite having brought my most rabid feminist self out to play, however, I ended my presentation on a less sassy and more sincere note. Here is how I wrapped it up: 

"I enjoy many angry, political poems, and I think there’s a place for them. But at the same time… in my opinion, it’s easier to put something down - like I did in Iffy, for example - than to lift something up. Righteous indignation isn’t a vulnerable position: it’s one you walk into wearing an armour of justifications.

I’ll tell you a secret now, actually: which is that I wish I were braver in writing my poems and in sharing them. I often write with a punchline; at most readings I’ve done, I’ve used humour to try and entertain, and thus avoid sharing anything more earnest, more vulnerable. And that’s why I like Mary Oliver so much: because she is sincere and isn’t afraid of writing about feelings or observations others might find inconsequential. And that, to me, gives her work value, whatever the critics may think."

What do you think? 

Monday, 30 April 2018

Difference and sameness - on individuality and language

The beginning of 2018 has been a bit quiet on the writing front. Full-time employment doesn't always leave much time or energy for writing on either side of the work day, and the most creative pieces of writing I can eke out during my lunch breaks tend to be limericks. Granted, there are creative projects to look forward to, but nothing to show as of yet.

In this quiet time, therefore, I thought I'd look back to what I was doing this time last year. As it turns out, in April 2017, I submitted an essay on polyglottery and perceptions of difference to the Writers' Square Essay Contest, a competition run out of Los Angeles. The essay was awarded an Honourable Mention.

Naturally, I was very pleased. My only regret, however, remains that the title - 'An Individual Reflects' - sounds so darn pretentious. Fortunately it is a play on words - a fact hopefully evident to anyone reading it. The title alludes to my argument that "difference and sameness are subjective terms providing more information about perceived norms than about the object or person they're describing."

This wordy sentence basically means that we must be conscious and critical of the labels by which we identify one another, because these entrench ideas of difference and sameness. After all, individuals may internalise or reflect the perceptions other cast on them, meaning that "who I am and who I believe I am are at least as influenced by others' interpretations as they are by my intrinsic characteristics."

 "Who are YOU?" said the Caterpillar.

This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, "I—I hardly know, sir, just at present—at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then."

"What do you mean by that?" said the Caterpillar sternly. 'Explain yourself!"

"I can't explain MYSELF, I'm afraid, sir" said Alice, "because I'm not myself, you see."

If you're wondering how I came to be discussing difference and sameness in the first place, it's because the Writers' Square Essay Contest prompt was something along the lines of "What is it about you that is special or unique, and why?" Rather than responding to the prompt as it was perhaps intended for one to, naturally I overthought everything, had a mini #millennial crisis over how very non-unique we all are in our world of 7 billion people, and dissected the prompt itself. It was quite fun though.

If you would like to read my essay on polyglottery and how we perceive and understand difference, you can find it here