Sunday, 2 November 2014

This is a piece I wrote for the 'Renew Docklands' exhibition opening night, way back at the beginning of the year. It was a lot to take in just listening, so I thought I'd post it. Enjoy. x
Everyone says 'Wasteland'
That's what they say. And who can blame them?

For me it's like Disneyland. That polished secure blanket comfort of a manicured space. At once safe and unreal. A comforting unfamiliar. That same feeling that crawled up my bones when I first set foot on Melbourne soil. Lygon St, 2007. Taxi from the airport. Girl by my side. Five months we'd waited. Apart. Until the trip I took landed me square in a world I had to try to make my own. A sense of security in the nighttime calm of the tram tracked street and the Victorian facades.
I want to talk a bit about what it is to me - Docklands...
It's come and go, come and go. It's a liminal space. The in-between. The lacuna. It goes back generations. Centuries in concept.
They come bearing gifts. It's all containment. They leave again with the reciprocals - something brought and something sent. Those not in the know, know next to nothing of either destination. It is the postie on a larger scale. That's all.
There's romance in all of this. Exotic goods from far off lands. And all we have to share in return goes back the other way. We, I, forget sometimes that there is a human element to it all. In my mind, watching on some sort of mental double speed time lapse, it is simply crates and containers and cranes. Import, export, goods goods goods. I forget the guy who ordered, for business or for pleasure. I forget the man on the other end. He might be a she. I don't know. I forget the request and the offer at the heart of it. And how it becomes, itself, the heart of all else - growing our homestead as we contribute to the growing of another.
It's the invisible transaction rendered in multicoloured metal weighing tens of tonnes and straining under the hinging weight of our collective need.
What's underneath it, though? For something like tonight? The search for metaphor or something just beyond the reach of the stevedores and shipping and the sales and the sea.
Its central function ticking away in the background. We have tried - some of us - to make it into something it was never meant to be. It may yet be that something, but it remains clear as a scabbing sore that it was most certainly not meant to be . . . This.
We are shoehorning. 

Back to the security. Look at what it's become. It drags up memories from my childhood - some old Irish lyric - "I can no longer stay / and watch the new glass cages / spring up along the quay"
I'm new here. 2007, as I said. And so my Melbourne is something different to what is currently thrust in our faces from here; the sidelines of our city. I can't hate Docklands, though. It's the liminal that I'm drawn to; the history I've described; the de facto, a priori, raison d'être. But from there they've tried to make something new. My mind rejects it. This shoeshined aesthetic. My heart breaks for those who've thrown their fiscal weight behind it. Only to lose on the wheel.
The wheel. Itself for so long a monument to the in-between. Built but static. Shining in the Melbourne sometimes sun. Gloating over the too much money of the docks and berths. Sighing over empty shop fronts and scattered tourists struggling with one way streets and Apple Maps.
I wanted to draw links. Docklands. Coming and going.
My time in Australia. Becoming a citizen. Going home. Coming home. This place is enchanting to me because I haven't the deep-seated Melburnian aversion to it. To hate it would be disingenuous. Like I said, I can't find it in my heart to do so, not all of it. I find myself latching on to certain elements. The to and fro. Its existence on the fringe. The conceited effort to tap into what has grown and flourished organically elsewhere, and the cynic's certainty that that will never work.
In this attempt to draw links, I couldn't help but touch on the intimate. The sexual. Docking. Exchanging goods. The secrets in the manifest. If I bend it right, it is the shape of my time here. Coming, going. Coming, going. I have lived in that space. The in-between. Docking in a strange port.
These seven years have felt at times for all the world like some perverted shore leave.


Tuesday, 12 November 2013

I am still here and I am still writing

This is Visible Ink #25

I have just had a poem published in this. It launched to great fanfare on Friday last at Bella Union, Trades Hall. I think the journal's going for $20. That's a lot to pay for one poem, so maybe read the other great stuff in there, too. Try Readings in Carlton or at the State Library.



Tuesday, 7 May 2013


It has been far, far too long.

I have been doing a lot of things.

This is one of the things I decided to do.

Monday, 28 May 2012

The Great Escape

Can't you be less nice?


This is a slow train
But moving nonetheless.
Destination unconsidered
Settling into plush compartments
As all around us, reasons why
Are drifting toward a past

I know the contradictions
Side by side, or faced across
For seeming different purposes.
At times without question,
United in a common cause -
At others, still a superimposition;
In different trains we travel
Occupying a single line.

All this I have taken
As far as I can.
Who jumps first
Remains the question
Or is it that you'll
Throw me clear
To roll in wayside dust
And scrub
Disappointed, unconvinced and
Waiting for the brakeman's wheel.


Thursday, 10 May 2012

Live Below the Line


It's been awhile, which means you might not read this in time...

For the past week I have been living below the line. That means living on $2 per day, food-wise...

I have been doing this as part of a charity campaign to raise awareness of the 1.4 billion people who face this struggle daily...and to raise money for educational projects in the poorer countries in our region.

You can donate at

All donations welcome and very much appreciated.

Thank you,

Ps. I'll blog something soon.
A new poem.


Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Everything is Pozible!

Hello! I pledged money for this, and so should you. This band's first album is excellent and the second promises to top it. The band are off to record next week. Incredible live and on your speakers (unless you have rubbish speakers), they're a worthwhile bunch.


Wednesday, 7 December 2011


(28/11/11) At the Wesley Anne in Northcote, listening to Gotye’s new album, Making Mirrors, and to his old album, Like Drawing Blood.

I haven’t written anything in such a very long time. There has been all of this . . . stuff . . . to wade through.

I came back from TiNA, energised and itching to get scribbling. And in my head, I tackled some of the stuff that needs working on in Mitchum. But I’ve had uni to finish first (done!). Despite the rubbish Melbourne Uni busy-work of the final semester, I did manage to write some new poems, though they need going over before I turn them loose for your scrutiny. They ought to be perfect, yes? I also have a few ideas for some stories, one of which is a (hopefully) Carver-esque sketch involving roadside whiskey. Another . . . is a decidedly allegorical number – one which I’m enjoying playing around with.

Other things I’m enjoying playing with include my new MacBook Pro, which is just a hundred kinds of fun. So easy, so smart, intuitive, etc. Along with this is the new bike, all minimal and black and white, with few gears, disc brakes and nice thin tyres. It’s light and fast and I bought it only the other day. I took it out for an extended spin tonight – until now I had just been revelling in zipping from A to B. I’ve been without a bike since May last year. It was lifted from my porch after I got . . . distracted . . . one rainy evening, and forgot to lock it to my housemate’s bike.

Tonight was down past Rushall, up High St, down Westgarth and on all the way to Alphington, up to the parklands, and across to Northcote, before weaving in and out of suburban one- and two-way streets. A warm night, with the highs and lows of Gotye and the bugs missing my eyes by millimetres. There’s little like the freedom in freewheeling down well-laid streets at night with a soft breeze and a crescent moon. There’s nothing about it in the moment that needs even a whisper of sharing with another. Just a private suburban slideshow. And the pull of the bike from a standing start . . . carries some sort of promise.

I found my way back to Westgarth and then headed up High St. I cruised up and down before stopping for a pint at the Wesley Anne. And I thought, I owe you a bit of a letter. Thus, this.

I have been ill of late. No good. Made myself sick. My own fault. So, limit your boundless sympathy for a bit.

I have been thinking about grief lately . . . and how we deal with it. The myriad ways. . . . There’s plenty we can judge about people’s reactions to bereavement. Plenty of people get it ‘wrong’, if there is such a thing in terms of how we deal. Certainly there are guidelines for the best ways to cope. Perhaps we ought to abide by these. Take them on board. Leaf through them, at the very least. But, like I said, sometimes we go wrong. And in my (thankfully limited) experience, I have come to some sort of realisation, at least about how I dealt. That realisation is tied to my experiences after having been in hospital, post-car accident, almost four years ago, now. The link is not in my behaviour, but rather in my immediate sense of how that behaviour might be seen to differ from what those who know me well might term my ‘normal’ behaviour. I should make it clear at this point, that by ‘people who know me well’, I mean, ‘people who know me well’. There was a sense, for me, after I came off the cocktail of painkillers a few months after the accident, that, looking back at the ‘I’ that I had been, I was in fact looking at someone at once me, and someone else entirely. ‘Disconcerting’ is a word that comes to mind, directly after ‘frustrating’, especially when that other self has inflicted damage . . . burnt bridges . . . caused pain. . . . But there you go. It was what it was. It isn’t what it isn’t.

[Gap of a few days, while I try to mentally articulate what it is I’m trying to say]

(07/12/11) Now at the Pinnacle, North Fitzroy. Site of so much.

After the death of my friend, I ran myself into a bit of a rut. One which, initially, I couldn’t see a way out of, and which, once said blindness became paradoxically apparent, I resigned myself to until such a time as I discovered the ‘rock’ at ‘rock bottom’. From there, upward. Now in the light of a resurfacing, I look back at the ‘I’ that I was during that period, and am struck by the divorced nature of my current self from that which I had become. The correlation between this feeling and that felt after my emergence from the narcotic haze of late 2008 is glaring, though thankfully not blindingly so, since to be once again blinded, would be to have learned nothing from either period.

It has led me to question, though, whether I am . . . what is the appropriate word . . . doomed? maybe . . . doomed, then, to react in a similar fashion to each and every upheaval thrown my direction, only to emerge after its subsidence and draw parallels between the latest and those of the past? Perhaps. Though, perhaps not, since to attack the matter in this way is surely to pre-empt its recurrence. Maybe, then, this latest is the last; the one after which I come to an understanding of how best to cope with future upheavals, and to identify the slide into apathetic, don’t-give-a-shit-ery.

For my part, I found the whole experience, aside from its traumatic aspect, to be a fundamentally educational one. It is only through identifying those parts of ourselves, our behaviours and responses, that we so much dislike and find to be to our disadvantage, that we can construct a model, or framework, for how we would wish to be in future. We create ourselves as we go. This is no great revelation. Part of that creation is the stripping away of faulty components. At the same time, this argument (if it can be called such) is one of logic – albeit somewhat crude – and, as all, or at least an unfortunate majority of us, must know, grief, indeed trauma of any kind, is by its very nature illogical. And yet, within that illogical sphere, we are told there is a kind of pattern, a road we all inevitably walk down. On this road there are various signposted stops, or stages. We reach them all at some point. Some of us make a stop at each and every one. Some of us by-pass a few. Some of us linger perhaps too long at certain stages (though who can stand in judgement of that?), and others seem, ostensibly, to cruise through them all with something the rest of us must from a distance characterise as ‘ease’. However, the one thing we unlucky travellers share is that no matter how we reach its end (and some may argue that we never do, for its end does not exist), and no matter how long it takes us, the fact remains that the road is there and must be walked.

The person who spends a lifetime apologising will never forgive himself.

Conscious of this, I feel it still necessary to offer an apology for the damage inflicted, the bridges burnt, the pain caused. An apology to those who warrant it. An apology, too, to the ‘I’ that I am, on behalf of the ‘I’ that I became during darker times. In making this apology, and in the words written above, I seek to embed some sort of contextualisation, which is not in any way meant to qualify, excuse, or attach conditions. Just a simple acknowledgement of my position on the road I spoke of, and of the fact that we each – with our illogical emotions, our hopes, our fears, our memories, our dreams, our blackest moments – alter its topography as we go, at various times, walking, running, sprinting, jogging, stumbling, tripping, falling, and crawling, from one stage to the next.

I’m sorry.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

This is Not Art - It's TiNA!

I am back from TiNA 2011

More specifically, I am back from the National Young Writers' Festival 2011.

Photos to follow.


This year was particularly excellent. I flew up on the morning of Thursday 29th of September. I swear Jetstar's economy class is shrinking. Hopped on a bus with some friends and took off for Newcastle, passing some beautiful industrial scenery on the way. I jumped at Denison St and made my way to the backpackers where the lovely people running the festival were putting me up for the duration. Got settled in and met Chad Parkhill, from Brisbane. Chad was to do a panel with me on Friday arvo and so we got to talking about that as we made our way to the artists meet-and-greet at Staple Manor, conveniently located, this year, above a pharmacy in the middle of the Mall (just down the way from the excellent coffee at the One Penny Black). Staple Manor is the NYWF hub and it was adorned with posters and a Giant Cryptic Crossword (a new one was put up daily). We got our artist packs and got stuck into wine and cheese and mingling and stepping out for cigarettes. Catching up with many of the crowd from last year made it feel like coming home.

The speech by Festival Coordinator, Zoe Norton Lodge, was written by Co-Director, Ben Jenkins. Zoe, of course, hadn't been allowed to see the speech beforehand and was pleasantly surprised (!) to discover that it was written in and was to be read in the style of a Year 7 presentation. Hilarity ensued.

To the Festival Club! This year at the Great Northern Hotel (!!) which made for pretty interesting times. Last year we were nearer the edge of town in a dark pool hall. This year was all bright lights and a pool table and a dining area and a stage and some pretty cool bar staff (Brigette! Thanks for minding my stuff!)

So, an afternoon of casual drinking became a night of fun and reintroductions and catch-ups. Never made it back to the hostel as I ended up crashing at the directors' place - which was nice of them.


I had a panel to chair on Friday at 1.30 at the Customs House. The title was 'The Voice of a City'. It was a suggestion in my application for this year and I was pretty pleased to find it in the program. The panellists were: Chad Parkhill, Emma Jones, Rochelle Fernandez and Barnaby Smith. Happily enough, we had representatives from a variety of cities - Brisbane, Adelaide, Sydney, London/Sydney/The World/ and Dublin/Melbourne (me!)

An interesting discussion on a range of topics:
When a place influences voice in a story, it can often become a character in its own right.
What makes a city stand out as a setting?
How does prior knowledge of place affect the reading of that setting?
The importance of non-place in literature.

The panellists then read from other writers' works about their city of choice. We had some interesting audience participation, in particular from Nicholas Low, who is writing a piece for Griffith Review about post-quake Christchurch. The panel wrapped up just before 3pm.

From there to Staple Manor with Talina and Craig and Rochelle, grabbing noodles on the way. After dinner we headed to the Festival Club to check out 'Would You Rather?', the brainchild of Ben Jenkins. The panel was Lawrence Leung, Mark Sutton, Geoff Lemon, Dominic Knight and Zora Sanders (and Ben, chairing). Some examples of the hypotheticals put out there by the perpetually inventive and funny Jenkins:

Would you rather...
Own and control a giant Emu (upon which you could ride around)
Take part once in a real-life Mario Kart Tournament?


Would you rather...
Live at Hogwarts, but in a non-magical capacity (e.g. Bursar)
Be the next member of Danny Ocean's team of thieves?


Would you rather...
Be able to backflip on cue for the rest of your life
Be Nelson Mandela's pen-pal for the rest of his?

So, with the combination of questions like those listed above and the panel members listed further above...well, you can imagine the sort of responses...
A particular favourite of mine was Geoff Lemon's lightening speed response - 'Does that include moral backflips?'

Ok...So then came 'Writer Wants A Wife - The Selection'
Now, I'm not tremendously proud of this...ok, I'm maybe a little bit happy with the fact that I went through with it...

On Thursday night at the Festival Club, the inimitable, glamourous, Laura Jean Mackay, talked me into being a 'wife' for selection night. Come Friday evening, I made my way to the Customs House and killed a few beers for courage. In front of a crowded room, I joined three other 'gentlemen' on stage. We sat with microphones in front of us and a projector screen behind us. Images of 'Love', or somesuch nonsense, were  beamed up at the screen. The audience leered and shrank, making catcalls and offering advice and commentary. Pack of hyenas. Jesus, I thought, what the hell have I got myself into. On the other side of the partition sat a girl with a cloth sack over her head. Very Guantánamo, were it not for the floral pattern. Laura introduced us all and then came the questions... At this point I will pass you over to Alex's (the girl only a partition away) brother's account of the events that followed. I should offer some extra information, though. First, I think it's fair to say that we (the 'wives') were in a bit of 'race to the bottom' (as Zora Sanders put it), given that if we were chosen we had to go on a 'date' (which was to be videoed by Mr Tom Doig) and then report back on Sunday evening in front of another room full of similar (if not the same) hyenas, eager for juicy gossip and embarrassing titbits...

Here's the link to Alex's blog (also worth a read in general. Pretty great!)

I didn't get chosen. My responses (for the record) to the questions, were (as far as I can remember...) as follows:
Question:If you were in a mime and had to use three props to describe yourself, what would they be?
Answer: Gin. Limes. A doona.
Question: Why?
Answer: Gin, for obvious reasons. Limes, for the gin. A doona, it's the only want to properly crush limes...

Question: If you could travel back in time to any period in history, where would you go?
Answer: I'm tempted to say, 'Last night, so I don't get talked into taking part in this...thing! (massive audience cheers) Ok, yes, I'm going with that.

Anyway, Alex chose Luke Ryan and off they went to join the other couples on the lawn with their picnic blankets (except for Lawrence Leung and Sian Campbell - Lawrence had a soundcheck to do and left Sian sitting up a tree. Whatever works, I guess).

We would hear all about the exploits on Sunday night.

From the Customs House to the Royal Exchange to catch the end of 'The Sincerest Form of Flattery'. I arrived in time to see/hear Pip Smith reading her poem in the style of Ginsberg's 'Howl'. It was perhaps one of the best pieces of writing I heard all weekend. Amazing.

Back to the Customs House. Dinner with NYWF friends! Geoff Lemon wrapping (rapping) up the end of the Going Down Swinging launch.

I mentioned lightening speed earlier in relation to Geoff Lemon's comments at the Would You Rather panel. Well, in a delayed but appropriate link to said statement, I'd like to tell you about the storm that hit Newcastle on Friday night. Whatever we Melbourne-types thought we experienced on the Wednesday prior to the festival, it warn't nowt compared to Newcastle on Friday night. After the sincerest form of flattery, Nick and Sarah and I headed to the Festival Club to check out the Electrofringe Showcase. Tristan Courtney, bassist with Blackchords was performing as part of the showcase. I missed his set, unfortunately. However, we settled in for some experimental electro and interesting VJ & DJ sets. So many schooners. So many! Home to bed at some stupid hour knowing I had to chair a panel the next day at 11am. Bleugh!


On Saturday morning I dragged my ass out of bed at about 9am. Showered and dressed and hit the centre of town. Met my fellow panellists, Rochelle Fernandez and Jacinda Woodhead. Rochelle is a non-fiction editor at HarperCollins and Jacinta is an associate editor at Overland Journal and runs the Overland and Meanland blogs. We set up at Blackhall House and the audience started filing in. The title of the panel was 'Writing Revenge', and it was another of my application suggestion babies. Very happy to be doing it, despite the roaring hangover. Said hangover was soon dispersed by some scintillating conversation about the act of using writing to take revenge. We discussed things from my auto-fiction point of view - accepting the consequences of inserting real people and real events into one's writing, knowing when you're burning a bridge, the importance of the writing over the subjects, etc. Rochelle talked about autobiography and how the editing process works regarding those works that are clearly written with a view to 'setting the record straight'. Jacinda spoke about the editorial requirements at Overland with regard to protection from libel. The conversation then opened up into a general discussion of the pitfalls of naming people and places in literature and non-fiction, with some of the 'Voice of a City' themes rearing their heads once again (distraction for the reader, etc.) Some excellent audience participation and an obligatory discussion of that moron, Andrew Bolt, and his generally backward fear-mongering incitements. All in all, a brilliant panel.

After which, FOOD! Down to Sprockets for a bagel while preparing for my next event - MCing Poetry Picnic in the Park. Due to be held at Tramways Reserve, the rapidly darkening sky meant we shifted to Plan B - top floor of Staple Manor. Talina Mckenzie, NYWF Co-Director, set out a picnic on the beautiful varnished wooden floors (very moon-walkable) and the audience trickled in as the rain trickled down. 

Poetry Picnic was great. Geoff Lemon kicked off proceedings in style before disappearing off to cheer his beloved Cats in the Grand Final. Next up was Kalyan Ky, who read some beautiful poetry, in particular one addressed to her mother. Emma Jones was next, followed by Barnaby Smith, who raced through a fair few excellent poems, hardly giving time for the well-deserved applause. I read last, four poems: 
'Friday Full-House'
'For Is' (from Mitchum)
and a new poem, 'That It Is Not' (which I will post soon)

A few drinks at Staple Manor after this followed by a trip to MJ Finnegan's Pub to watch the second half of the Grand Final (VERY few places showing it in Newcastle!) I was all about the Pies...but alas...

Um...So, Ok, after the grand final we (Luke Ryan and I) headed back to the Festival Club. We settled in for a few drinks with the crowd there. I was introduced to a few new people and one or two of them asked me about what I was working on. I told them about Mitchum. They asked what I had done with it. I told them I had entered it into the Vogel. They looked sympathetic...
'Oh, did you hear?' 
'Hear what?' 
'You know, about the Vogel?'
*Looks exchanged all around the table*
'You didn't hear anything?'
'All the rejections came out yesterday and today. It's all over Twitter, people saying they didn't win, etc.'
'I haven't heard anything'
*More glances around the table. More people listening now*
'Call your house!'
*Called my housemate* - 'Hi, any mail for me yesterday?' 'Nope' 'Ok, great, thanks!!'
'Oh, come on, I did not win the Vogel! I DID NOT WIN THE VOGEL'
'I didn't win. Maybe I cleared the slush pile?'
*Photos ensue*
*Awesome, I cleared the slush pile. Longlist? Maybe!*

Jumped a train back to the hostel. Shower and change and back to the festival club for the Big Top Ball. The whole place decked out in bunting and circus streamers etc. People in costume. Crack Theatre people in REAL costume! Terrifying!

I threw on some face-paint and the night began!

Cut to the end of the Big Top Ball. Rain threatening. Writers and actors on the hunt for booze and beats. We struck out looking for some more fun. Nothing doing at The Crack House...Nothing doing anywhere, in fact. So, we started walking home. Nick took off on his rented bike. I cursed myself for not having got myself sorted with one. I walked with Sarah as the rain started. Oh, the rain!!!! You know when it starts and then gets heavier and then maybe feels like it needs to make a stronger point and just seems to push EVEN HARDER INTO THE GROUND? Yeah, well, it was like that. Mostly we were walking under cover until we got to Sarah's hotel. We sat and had a cigarette. Had random guys come up and ask us if we knew where they could find obscene things that I won't bother spelling out because this is public and I will probably need a job next year (no f-bombs kicking around either, notice!). 

Anyway, I decided, about 3.30am, to push on home. At first I tried dashing across the streets to the relative shelter of the awnings (awnings?) over the shops. Pretty soon it became clear that I was essentially going to have to swim home. And swim home I did. 

Cut to 5am, crawling into bed having divested myself of the three-times-heavier, drowning-victim's garments...


Into the Mall just before midday. Massive breakfast, juice coffee juice coffee breakfast cigarettes...all the rain, too. So much rain. Non-stop rain. Rain.


And then, just after breakfast, as I sat there reading (the latest GRANTA - I have a subscription now!!!) there came from the sky above, the BIGGEST CRACK OF THUNDER I HAVE EVER HEARD EVER


I mean, this was mortar fire. People screamed, involuntarily. Windows rattled. The ground actually seemed to shake. LOUD! And the fizz in the air. It was incredible. I ran into Zora Sanders soon afterwards and said, 'Did you hear the ....'
'YES! My god, we saw it strike the ground. It was amazing!'
'Yes, screams!'

Anyway, off I went to watch Tom Doig's documentary 'Moron2Moron' at the Royal Exchange.
Catching up with Tom beforehand, he told me about the genesis of the project. In 1999 he spotted on an atlas that there were two places in Mongolia with the same name. They were 1,423km apart. Both towns were called 'Moron'. This is too good an opportunity, thought Tom. He and his friend, Tama Pugsley, allowed the idea to gestate for ten years. Then, in 2010, Tom decided the time had come. The two put the plan into action and Moron2Moron was born. I'll give you the festival guide version of the documentary:

Last Year, Tom Doig and Tama Pugsley cycled 1,423km across northern Mongolia. They had one tent, eight hundred Marlboro cigarettes for bribes, and two gay disco welding visors. One year later, NYWF is thrilled to host the world premiere of their documentary: Moron2Moron. Pain, Heartache. Spandex. Dried fermented milk of a horse. 

The film was excellent. Hilarious. Tom is a natural comedian and he and Tama worked brilliantly together. The trip took the two guys 23 days. Some of the footage was heartbreaking, some beautiful and some just plain funny (Tom and Tama dancing naked in a field of naturally-growing cannabis, with leaves in their mouths). Afterwards, Tom took questions and asked questions of the audience with a view to revisiting the editing of the film. Then, we were treated to a 30 minute monologue of Tom's adventures. One of the highlights of my festival experience. 

From Moron2Moron 2 the Spelling Bee at the Festival Club. Hosted by Lawrence Leung, with Zoe Norton Lodge assisting, this event had a lot to live up to. They pulled it off! It was a cracker. Contestants on stage joined by audience wild cards (winners of audience games, 'Cheese or Font' and 'Real Book Title or Fake Book Title' were selected to compete). This particular writer got up to try and spell Blackguard. And screwed it up. I KNEW it was an oddly spelled word. You can follow the event HERE thanks to Geoff Lemon's tireless live blogging efforts.

After the Spelling Bee I headed to Octapod to get some printing done for my final event of the festival. From Octapod I went to the bottle shop to catch up with Sarah and grab a bottle and some beers. We got a booth at the Royal Exchange and settled in for the finale of Writer Wants a Wife. The couples sat in a row across the stage and Laura sat with each, interviewing them about their dates and showing us a few videos (and video messages from those who had had to go home before the end of the festival). Love is in the air for at least one couple, it seems. The two boys? Not so much... Lawrence and Sian? Maybe? Who knows. Laura ran an excellent event, amidst heckles from the audience (yours truly partook, of course). Heaps of fun!

Next, my final event. I was honoured to be reading at the Royal Exchange with some pretty excellent writers, including Ben Jenkins and Zora Sanders. The event was called, 'Here's Where I Think I Went Wrong'. Ben Jenkins read first - an hilarious story about a 'date' at the movies with a girl he liked when he was 13. The girl, of course, was unaware it was a date, and brought along a male friend. Comedy gold ensued. Zora Sanders went next, with a story about her mother's crime-stopping antics and her own genetic tendency towards a desire to call people on their illegal behaviour (such as putting everything through as 'Brown Onions' at the self-serve checkouts). Matthew Lang was next with a freaky vampire role-play story. I think I went next. I'm pretty sure I did, anyway. I know I watched Alice Grundy from backstage, but can't remember if she came on before or after I did. Anyway, I stepped out to applause and Ben Jenkins announcing me as follows:
'He can't spell, but he can write. Please welcome,...'

I decided to read from Mitchum. I read the section set in Perth and involving the car accident, then jumped to the murder. I also decided to do it AS Ben Tyler. With an accompanying beer, of course. It was a fantastic experience, reading to an audience for the first time from the final draft of Mitchum. Not just an audience, but an audience of my peers; people whose work I have a great deal of respect for. The response was pretty phenomenal. Needless to say I was grinning stupidly afterwards. 

I popped out for a cigarette as Ben wrapped up the artists' readings and opened it up to the floor. I'm sorry I did, as I missed the intro to Nicholas Low's story about Slick and Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. I caught the second half of it and was blown away. I'm told the story is available in some publication. I'll have to find out which one and post it. Nick has an incredible control of language and the story had this air of Charlie Kaufman and Paul Auster about it. You knew it couldn't be true, but were willing to suspend disbelief entirely, such was the audacity of it. Excellent stuff.

Next to a warehouse party off Auckland St, with a bottle of Jamesons in tow. We danced for hours to some mad dubstep beats, before wandering off across Civic Park and then heading home. Deep sleep.


Monday was the TiNA comedown. First, a trip to Darby St. for a hard-earned breakfast. From there I wandered down to the Lowlands Bowls Club. We listened to 'Show Us Ya Early Work' and chilled in the sunshine with some schooners. I headed to a house with Miss Marita Fox (you remember Waterproof?) and her crew. We had dinner and then a few of us went to check out the Festival Club. It was closed. I joined Zoe and Ben and Talina and Gen and Tom in a tiny room above a hotel and we played a plot game, drank a few longnecks and learned some telepathy before trekking back to the Directors' house where I crashed out at 3.15am. 

6am! Up! Dress! Grab bag! Lug bag to Hunter St! Catch bus to terminus! Eat bad food! Drink worse coffee! Catch bus to airport! Get on flight! Bake! Read! Land! Get Skybus! Get tram! Arrive at Tin Pot! Get BLT and Milkshake. Breathe!

Thank you Newcastle. 
Thank you TiNA.
Thank you NYWF.

Until next year!

Thank you.


Friday, 23 September 2011

I Saw Three Ships . . .

God, I can't wait 'til tomorrow...

Friday, 16 September 2011

What kind of Equation?

Tonight I am at the Tin Pot. Amanda is working. So is Troy. Troy is doing a guest spot. He has recently set up his own cafe in Banana Alley in the city. It's called T-Roy Browns. I haven't checked it out yet (for shame!) but I will soon. And so should you.

Lately I have been....

Stressing about immigration. Hopefully unnecessarily. Hmmm...deportation... Oh, and wouldn't that make it all easier?! (but for how long...?)

And uni assignments and teaching and VIT registration and job applications and writing and steering clear....other things.

I wrote a new poem (or two). I feel like sticking it up here, but I'm not entirely convinced it's might might not be... I might put it up anyway. To hell with it, right?


Kelvin Bar.
Bar Nancy.
Deco Bar.
Tin Pot.

Nights out.
TiNA coming up (29th Sept - 4th Oct - Newcastle)
Mitchum feedback - mostly good.
Raymond Carver.
F. Scott Fitzgerald (again).
Julius Caesar at the Arts Centre. Excellent.
Jameson Whiskey.
C.W. Stoneking.

Dj Mehdi (RIP).
Busy P.

Plans for the future.

New Housemate :-)

Uni :-(

Making hard decisions that don't make me feel any better.

That's that.

So, I'll post the poem soon.

Maybe tomorrow.

It's been a rough month.

I am not alright.

Tonight! Tin Pot. Maybe Deco, then Westgarth!


Thursday, 8 September 2011


Just over a month ago I lost one of my closest friends to cancer. His name was Daniel Roper. He was 25 years old. He passed away on August 1st 2011. He is survived by his parents, Tim and Helen, his sister, Amy, his twin brother, Peter, and his fiancée, Paige. 

Daniel's funeral service was held at the beautiful Montsalvat artist colony. It was a celebration of his life at which his friends and family shared stories and memories. There was a band and there were drinks, just the way Daniel wanted it. I spoke about Daniel on the day and was honoured to help carry him out. I haven't any more words at the moment. This is simply something by which to remember him. It hardly does justice to the friend I knew and loved, but it is all I've got right now. Below is what I said about my friend to his family and his friends who had gathered to say goodbye.


It is something strange to talk about Daniel in the past tense. I am still trying to come to terms with it. My initial thought when I heard the news was, 'I'd better call Dan and see how he's going'. The finality was a long way off. It still is.

I have always thought of Daniel as somebody about whom I would one day tell those closest to me. I would tell them that he was my friend. That I was the better for his friendship. That he was caring, kind, loyal. That he made a dangerous Mojito and a wicked Martini. That he had style, had class, and that he carried it all off with a quiet self-confidence. That he was morally upstanding without being judgmental. That he saw me through some of my worst times and shared in some of my best. That he was happy and loved and that he knew it. That he had all these qualities and that he inspired the same in those who knew him.

Had. Was. Saw.

I did not think I would have to struggle with the past tense so soon.

I met Daniel at the end of 2008. We worked together for over a year. In that time we became firm friends and have remained so since. In those two and a half years I saw my friend take on new studies, perfect his bar skills, move to Westgarth (making us practically neighbours), meet Paige, fall head over heels in love and beam uncontrollably whenever he talked about her. We had Melbourne Cup parties, Rooftop drinks, movies, galleries, $10 parmas, hours of music and TV shows. . . .The list goes on.

And then, just before Christmas, Daniel got sick, and I saw my friend face the most awful, insidious and unfair illness with a courage at once heartbreaking and inspiring. Not once in all the time he was sick did I hear Daniel lamenting his lot, railing against the unjust nature of what was happening to him. Instead, I saw a determination to see the treatment through, to accept whatever came of it and to continue to live his life, to love his life and those in it, and to remain the inimitable person we all knew him to be.

Reading Hamlet with my Year 12 students the other day, one line in particular put me in mind of Daniel and the peace he seemed to have made with what he was going through.

                                   If it be now, 'tis not to come;
                                   If it be not to come, it will be now;
                                   If it be not now, yet it will come –
                                   The readiness is all.

Bye mate. I'll miss you.


Sunday, 24 July 2011

Allez Cadel!

Ce soir, c'est la fin du Tour de France.

Le Tour presque m'a tué; je l'ai regardé tous les soirs sauf pour deux ou trois (il a fallu aller au cinéma...Harry Potter - oui, je sais...) et maintenant, je suis tellement fatigué que je ne peut pas me coucher. C'est quoi ça?

Il y aura beaucoup d'analysis, mais ce soir il n'y a rien d'autre sauf à dire, 'Felicitations, Cadel!!! Vous êtes le meilleur du monde!'

Allez Cadel!


Saturday, 23 July 2011

25 Floors Up

These are but wild and whirling words, my lord.
I am sorry they offend you, heartily,
Yes, faith, heartily.
There’s no offense, my lord.
Yes, by Saint Patrick, but there is, Horatio,
And much offense too.


I can't sleep.


Saturday, 9 July 2011

Please Support TiNA!

Newcastle City Council has pulled funding from the This is Not Art festival.

TiNA is $18,000 short. Donations can be made at the address below. Time's a wasting!

This is incredibly worthwhile. Will you put your money where my mouth is?

Oh, that sounds wrong. . . .nevermind. . . .

But will you?

Sleep just will not come . . .

Are you reading this right now? Of course you are! I meant at the time I'm writing it...Maybe you are. That means you're awake, too.

Isn't it just the worst?

Well, sometimes it's ok. But most times it really isn' tonight.

I'm having a very Canadian insomnia. Reading about Newfoundland. Listening to music about Calgary. The sea. Blueness. Greyness (with an 'a'). Necks. Shoulder blades. Storming on the lake.

I'm about ready for Morpheus. The arms of. Lay me down. Jesus, I'm tired.

I can see for miles from here.

. . .

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Sorry to have kept you. . . .


I just realised that I let a month go by between posts . . . you must have been beside yourself with not knowing what's been going on!

My apologies.

Have you noticed that now the blog is formatted for viewing on the iPhone? I'm sure you have. I quite like it - thumbnail photos, teaser snippets of text. All great fun.

I've been busy up until now: People, parties, writing, reading, running, uni, teaching, etc. But now I'm on holidays from uni and am enjoying doing very little. It's ages since I have.

Now that Mitchum has been released in to the wild, unforgiving terrain of peer-feedback, I have been somewhat at a loss as to what to do. And so, in order to stay sane and not think too much about the comments I'm bound to receive within a few weeks, I have begun some more poems and a short piece of fiction or two . . . the content of which, however, is not entirely fictional. . . .

I suppose it never is.

What else?*

Sunday marks the start of my Dry July. A month of sobriety - 3rd to the 3rd - (I'm giving myself Friday and Saturday night this weekend) Overall, I think it will be . . . Awful. But necessary. Much running. Fewer dollars disappearing. Earlier starts and earlier nights. Better, generally, in the long run. I'm also kicking the smokes. I tag that on at the end so I don't jinx it by making it the centrepiece. Patches are ready to go. Determined.

Other things.

I saw Shaun Gladwell's exhibition at ACMI. I loved it. Well worth a look.

I have been dropping in to Slowpoke Espresso. It's a new café at 157 Brunswick St, Fitzroy. The owner is Curtis Riddington. Curtis serves up fresh, locally sourced, organic food at a reasonable price and in a friendly but relaxed and un-intrusive atmosphere. It's like going over to a mate's place and reading the paper while he rustles up something in the kitchen. The barista is Nick Milwright (formerly of The Tin Pot). No hyperbole necessary - Nick is friendly, cool and he makes a cracking coffee.

The café was designed by Sasufi using locally-sourced materials. It's beautifully done. The whole place has a rustic but clean look to it. There's a communal table, individual tables, a bench at the window with high stools so you can sit and watch the trams go by. One wall is made exclusively from wood panels that jut out to various lengths. It runs along the entire front room of the café and is both Slowpoke's most recognisable feature and a testament to Sasufi's design skills.

Through the passageway past the kitchen there is an open fire and a little booth-like area which seats four. Very cosy. Out back is a charming elevated deck area. I can't wait for summer and am quietly hoping they get a liquor licence! In the meantime, the coffee's great.

In fact, I think I'll head there today.


I'm a little bit excited by the last Harry Potter movie. I'm not a huge HP fan. I've never read the books. But I have somehow managed to see all of the movies in the correct order (except for one mix-up - not my fault) and so am very interested to see how it ends.

Oranges and Sunshine is a good movie. Quality acting, stunning shots, etc. Overdone at times, but definitely worth seeing.

I'm reading Lady Chatterly's Lover. It's good stuff.

I have recently finished the latest Granta (115: The F Word). It was a particularly interesting issue that looked at Feminism from a variety of female perspectives. As always, great photos, too. The next issue is out in September, I think. No prizes for guessing what the focus of that issue will be.

Another good read of late was John McGahern's short story collection, Creatures of the Earth. Meticulous and piercing writing. I saw McGahern at the Faber launch of his Memoir in Trinity College a few years back. I'm glad I got to hear him read his own work before he died.
. . .
I should get vertical. Coffee. Eggs. Toast. Shit, I'm out of bread. Right, off I go!

(What's at the end of yours?)



Sunday, 26 June 2011

Friday Full-House

This Friday sits manic, spiral-bound
In a café low on glasses for the
Rush, the press, the push
Of the wine bottle dinner hour
Lamplight swarm. 

This is loaves and fish - Good God!
As food pours forth near-constant
From a hole in the wall. 

The high ceilings here are
No match for the laughter -
The room is full and filling up and warm
With families, with friends. 

And twos I would not have
Put together
Disprove my judgements;
Show me up a fool. 

It's show, don't tell. 
They live it well.

And yet they seem to say
That all is still to play for - 
These mismatched pairs
With coffees each and cake to share 
Full-fed and graping; an evening walk
Before them stretches 
On and off
Into weekends that work and the
Workaday week's anticipation of the
Coming home to being better whole. 


Thursday, 23 June 2011

Monday, 23 May 2011

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Home Stretch

This is my Tin Pot workstation. All day today. Go!


Saturday, 30 April 2011

indecision under slate skies . . .

It's been a busy time!

Things of late: 

A showing (thanks 3000) of Xavier Dolan's 'Les Amours Imaginaires' at ACMI. Possibly one of the best films I've ever seen. It was so beautifully shot; exquisite slow-motion scenes, perfect soundtrack, sharp script, bewitching performances. It tells the story of a friendship almost torn apart by both friends' obsession with a new arrival on their scene. It is set in Quebec, which adds a strangeness to the whole experience of watching it; people walking around in a north American setting, all the while speaking French. I loved it. We made a note to go an see his first movie, 'J'ai Tué Ma Mère', also showing (until tomorrow) at ACMI. 

Went to see 'J'ai Tué Ma Mère' the other night. Almost as good as Les Amours. Again set in Quebec, it tells the story of 16year old boy who cannot love his mother. It's sensitively done with excellent performances all around. Again, the soundtrack is perfect and the shots are particularly affecting. And now we come to the depressing part...

Both films were written, directed by and star . . . Xavier Dolan. 

Both films were screened to great acclaim at Cannes. 

The films were completed within three years of each other. 

Xavier Dolan is 22 years old. 

He's also disgracefully attractive. That about completes it. 

Disgusting isn't it?

. . . 


In other news, last night we hit the Puma After Hours Athlete launch at Strike in the city. Free beer, cider, burgers and bowling. Excellent! Until the free beer ran out. We headed to the opening party of the Royal Antediluvian Order of the Buffalo, a fabulously sneaky hideaway bar near Guildford Lane. The bar was great, the music mostly great, the picture of the Queen (in her heyday...) mounted above the strange insignia-laden bunting...a little unnerving. 

Suffice to say I felt a little worse for wear this morning. But a shower and breakfast and coffee fixed all that. Coming up with landscape design concepts in the sunshine takes the mind off a hangover. 

I'm at the Tin Pot, alone now. Writing. Happy Saturday! 

In other news, I landed in the latest issue of Frankie...which is cool, I guess. The photo is by Olga Bennett, photographer (link to follow soon). Benjamin Law did the interview and did a nice job with the story. He's pretty great. 

Of course, I didn't realise that the school library has a subscription to Frankie . . . until chorus of Year 11 girls informed me in class on Thursday. Slightly awkward. I forgot about the target demographic extending to high school girls. 

All in all it's been fun. Mitchum continues, hamstrung at times by uni and school commitments. But, you know, Avanti!

. . . 

The new Granta in my bag (114: Aliens - it's very good)

Blank page - waiting to be filled. 

Off we go!