Saturday, November 8, 2014

Readings New Australian Writing Award

Congratulations to Ceridwen Dovey, for winning the 2015 Readings New Australian Writing Award for her book Only The Animals. I feel honored to have been one of the six writers on the shortlist. It was really great to meet Ceridwen at Readings award announcement event at their St Kilda store a few weeks ago. Martin Shaw, Readings Books Division Manager, has written about the award over at The Guardian. He and co-judge Hannah Kent had some lovely words to say about Foreign Soil:

'...Sarah Churchwell, a judge of this year’s Booker prize, divulged the other day that her jury were mad keen on both the Flanagan and Ali Smith’s How to be Both in their final judging rounds.
So in that confessional spirit I’d like to think that if the Readings jury had had the conversation about a second-place getter for our prize, it might have been Maxine Beneba Clarke for her story collection Foreign Soil. I think judge Hannah Kent puts it perfectly: “Foreign Soil is a collection of outstanding literary quality and promise. Clarke is a confident and highly-skilled writer, and it is her political vision, her ability to create poignancy without sentimentality, and in her restraint and understanding of form that makes this collection exceptional. Moving and honest, this is a dauntless and necessary new voice in Australian literature...” '

Read more here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Hazel Rowley & The Hate Race

Four months before my first fiction book Foreign Soil was due to come out, snowed under with copy edits, I saw a call-out for applications for the 2014 Hazel Rowley Fellowship. The Fellowship, I read, was closing for applications in a few days, and would go to support travel and research for a significant Australian work of biography. Judges were interested in bold, risk-taking, adventurous work: the kind of projects Hazel Rowley herself had favoured. Alongside copy editing for Foreign Soil, I was also busy working on my memoir, The Hate Race, a book about growing up black in white, middle class Australia. The Hate Race tells the story of my life, through the lens of race, dating from 1976 when, one year after the final vestiges of the White Australia Policy were dismantled by Gough Whitlam, my parents arrived in suburban Sydney, to the present.

Read more over at Writers Victoria

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Disrupted Festival of Ideas

I'm thrilled to be in Perth at the moment for the Disrupted Festival of Ideas. Today I'll be participating in a live writing event called Memory Makes Us, with IF:BOOK Australia. I'll be weaving the public's memories of harmony and rhythm into poetry, which will unfold live on screen. You can come and visit me at the festival to submit your memories the old fashioned way on a typewriter, tweet them (#memorymakesus), or submit them online here.

Tomorrow I'll appear on the panel Dangerous Speech, and perform some slam poetry to close the weekend. Details for this free discussion are here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

i is the revolution

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the revolution thanks you for choosing itself
the revolution is downloading onto your ipad
& being transferred onto your iphone
it is an irevolution
the revolution is i
i is the revolution
the revolution is available in e-book form
the revolution/s full text is available for 99c on amazon
the revolution comes in 4 short podcasts
that can be worn as a USB bracelet
the revolution hz been turned on
you must follow the revolution
it will be abbreviated to fit its own twitter feed:
the revolution will drop all vowels / capital letters & apostrophes
& present itself in short profundities of 140 characters or less
join @the revolution as it LOLs and WTFs
the revolution will have a GSOH / as
the mo fo moves in
& takes over cyberspace
dig the revolution
take out a sub:
the revolution’s RSS feed will bitch-slap your inbox
every night at around about 12 o/clock
do not reply to the revolution
do not trash the revolution
the revolution is not spam
you cannot click here to unsubscribe to the revolution
do not drag the revolution into your junk mail can
you cannot RTS the revolution:
the revolution is anonymous
the revolution lives nowhere
the revolution is every return address
forward the revolution to everyone you know:
the revolution is a virus no norton has an anti for
infection is the revolution/s cure
befriend the revolution
graffiti the revolution/s wall
the revolution invites all 500 million fans
to the facebook event of itself
rsvp to the revolution/s event
it is the revolution / show yourself attending
the revolution will remind you of itself by SMS
the revolution has a silent number
bt you can forward the revolution on by text
to find the revolution
type: revolution
into your GPS
give the revolution it/s own ringtone
do not turn the revolution off
the revolution must be able to reach you at all times
& at full volume
the revolution is here
the revolution is real
the revolution is now
the revolution has just been wiki-leaked
the revolution does not exist in second life
download the revolution/s soundtrack from myspace
you have just read the revolution
i is the revolution
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the revolution has just been blogged

Thursday, October 23, 2014

we want poetry back

the messengers had children
the messengers had children
oh / greying guards at
the gates of lyric / saying
not on my watch
sonnets trained on the horizon
that’s right / the messengers had children

oh / old white men
who shot the messengers
& those (some come even
coloured or with breasts)
who bow to same

oh / you who killed poetry
marched pentameter poised across
the slaying fields of tongue
is a new dawn
the messengers had children
& the street poets have come
is a new dawn
the messengers had children
& those children have guns
is a new dawn
the messengers children have
become the messengers
& we / the messengers
want blood

you who guarded lined scrolls
& metaphored our distant dots with
squinting iambic eyes
but forgot to look (& after all
what kind of poet can’t see behind him?)
& while you slept we scaled
back fences / braved body rot
& still twitching casualties in
a beat battalion tip-toe
across forbearers screaming bones

oh / old white men & those
(some come even come young
coloured or with breasts)
who bow to same
we want poetry back / we
are the children you
left wailing / without a backward glance
oh / but when you cut down word
the roots undergrounded
& grew

& oh /real poets / you did not think to drown
the messengers children
did you?

This poem is from my collection Gil Scott Heron is on Parole (Picaro Press, 2009).

Thursday, October 16, 2014

to ferguson, love from palestine

she / stands
on the west bank
maybe twelve years of her
holding up a sign

it says
to ferguson
love from palestine

they spray tear gas there too
exactly the same kind

if the radio is right

in ferguson missouri
they kill brown boys
with empty pockets
& both hands in the air
too / even as they are falling
to their knees / even
as they are screaming
don/t shoot

the girl could once imagine
running away / to
silence / in the skies
to birdsong / better days

now she knows

being brown anywhere
would be exactly the same

after all

hunger killed more people
than ebola / today
anger / killed more people
than ebola / today

colour killed more people
than ebola / today

they are isolating africa
the whole world is a-flail

they don't know
what she knows

that ferguson is the west
bank / the west bank
is sierra leone

they don't know
what she knows

colour killed more people
than ebola / today

she is standing in the west
bank / holding up a sign

it says
is also contagious

Thursday, October 9, 2014

the child my teacher once was

at age eleven
behaviour that might have
in kindergarten
been seen as mis-
guided or understood
can be a strong indicator
for psychotic tendencies
in adulthood

years later
missing family parakeets
are found
beneath the floorboards
of a child molestor/s boyhood room

in class five
a child who sat right
at the back of the class
-geographically and academically-
a boy whose name
has long since flown
my memory
started a new game
a theatre he only played
with me

              this is not a poem
              about child abuse

hey blackie
hey blackie
hey blackie

he would launch soggy paper
spit balls / at my shoulders
across my desk / into my hair

for almost a week
the whole class
fixed eyes from the front
so steadily / i
honestly believed
even the kids who liked me
couldn't see / or
hear a thing

hey blackie
hey blackie

hey blackie

i weathered the hail
for four days
before deciding to tell the teacher

                  this could well be a poem
                  about a child abuser

the teacher / angry
asked me why i/d left my chair

hey blackie
hey blackie

hey blackie

when i explained it to her
she giggled / behind her hand
and said

well i guess
that/s what you are

she was the teacher
and therefore
she was right

                perhaps this is a poem
                about child abuse

this might be a poem about the child
my teacher once was
& how those early tendencies
break through

years later / missing
childhoods are found
buried beneath bureaucracy
in a primary school teacher/s room

                 this is not a poem 
                 about child abuse

this is just a poem
about a boy whose name
has long since flown
my memory
and a brand new game
he only played / with me

This is an edited extract from the poem 'in karikatur australisch deutsch' from my poetry collection 'nothing here needs fixing' (Picaro Press, 2013)

Monday, October 6, 2014

No Singular Revelation

"Australia is a country colonised by a United Kingdom which owes a large part of its wealth to the brazen and systematic exploitation of people of colour, both through centuries of slavery and otherwise. We are a nation founded on the genocide, degradation and dispossession of black Indigenous inhabitants. We are a nation which enacted unthinkable assimilation policies on its Indigenous people, and which still continues to fail Indigenous people in areas such as health, education, literacy and life expectancy. For many decades we lived under the White Australia Policy – a system, only dismantled some 40 years ago – which openly preferenced immigrants of European origin over immigrants of colour. Queensland’s Aboriginal Protection Act (1897) provided the blue-print for South Africa’s racial segregation laws: put simply, we are the country which exported apartheid to South Africa"

My personal essay on racism in Australia has been published by Right Now.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Disrupted - Perth Festival of Ideas

I'll be involved in the Perth Festival of Ideas at the end of this month, in the live writing project Memory Makes Us, and also taking part in the Dangerous Speech panel. The program for the festival looks really interesting, and can be viewed here. See you west-side!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Special Delivery

Nine or so writers are gathered in my hotel room, overlooking one of Sydney Harbour’s moonlit wharfs.  I’m chatting to Jeff Sparrow and Jacinda Woodhead, who edit the journal Overland.

“So what are we going to do about this book industry awards thing?” Sparrow asks.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who’s recently announced cuts to the arts industry that will seriously affect Australian writers, is giving a keynote speech the next evening at the Australian Book Industry Awards. Group protest plans have been widely discussed but ultimately abandoned.

“I printed a copy of the petition. I’ll just give it to him, since I’ll be there anyway,” I suggest.

“You can’t do that!”

I glance around the room. Miles Franklin shortlisted author and short-fiction master Tony Birch has just donned the pristine white storytelling bathrobe; philosopher John Armstrong – Alain de Botton’s latest literary collaborator — is ordering another expensive bottle of white on my room tab. At this point, hand-delivering mail to the prime minister seems feasible.
Read the rest of my portrait of the prime minister in The Saturday Paper here.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

In Conversation at Gleebooks

Omar Musa
& Maxine Beneba Clarke
in Conversation
@ Sydney's Gleebooks
Wednesday 1 October, 6pm 

Join us for a very special ‘in conversation’ between two of Australia’s most exciting debut fiction writers, Omar Musa, a Malaysian-Australian rapper and poet from Queanbeyan, and Maxine Beneba Clarke, a widely published Australian writer of Afro-Caribbean descent. Just as comfortable on the stage as on the page these two formidable authors come to fiction from a performance background, as spoken word performers and slam poets. They have an impressive publication history that includes short fiction, essays and poetry books and (in Omar’s case) hip hop albums.

Booking details here.