Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Now Read This

NOW READ THIS - Omar Musa & Maxine Beneba Clarke

The Wheeler Centre
6:15PM - 7:15PM, Monday 22 September 2014
Further details here

Maxine Beneba Clarke won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript for Foreign Soil, a stunning short-story collection whose settings span the world, from Footscray to Sudan, Jamaica to London. Compared to Nam Le’s The Boat in its virtuosity and ability to transport the reader into very different characters and settings, it’s both fierce and engaging, putting displaced people at its centre.
Award-winning slam poet Omar Musa has performed extensively around Australia and the world. His ground-breaking debut, Here Come the Dogs, is a hip-hop verse novel that offers a rare glimpse inside the world of Australia’s multi-ethnic youth.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Readings New Australian Writing Award - Meet The Shortlist.

If Foreign Soil were made into a film, who would you like to see in the starring role?

"....I'm thinking to play the character of ‘Maxine Beneba Clarke’ in the semi-autobiographical story ‘Sukiyaki Book Club’ either BeyoncĂ© or Halle Berry would be the most obvious choice in terms of looking quite similar. Yet, even though they’re both stunning enough to play me, I’m not sure they’re edgy or feisty enough and so the answer would probably be either Eartha Kitt circa 1957, or Grace Jones circa 1980. (Insert your eye-roll here.)

In all seriousness, the most amazing thing about Foreign Soil ever being made into some kind of series would be all of those incredible parts for actors of colour in Australia: Sri Lankan, African, Chinese, Sudanese, West-Indian, Black British, African-Australian, Anglo-Australian. It would be the casting call of casting calls..."

Readings has interviewed the shortlisted writers for their New Australian Writing Award, including myself. You can read the interviews here:
Maxine Beneba Clarke
Michael Mohammed Ahmad

Luke Carman
Christine Piper
Ceridwen Dovey
Fiona McFarlane

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Colored Soldier

Performing Langston Hughes' The Colored Soldier at Overland Literary Magazine's war poetry event at Melbourne Writers Festival last week.

Monday, September 8, 2014

doing the dirty

for eighteen months now
prose & i
have been doing the dirty

it feels so good

until i remember

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Readings New Australian Writing Award Shortlist

I'm absolutely over the moon to have been nominated for the inaugural Readings New Australian Writing Prize for Foreign Soil. The shortlisted books and the judges report can be viewed here. I've read three of the shortlisted titles, and will be devouring the others in the next few weeks. I'm so glad to be in such excellent company, on such a diverse shortlist . I'd urge anyone interested in Australian writing to take up the Readings New Australian Writing Challenge. Readings is offering the chance to win prizes for reading the shortlist and sharing your thoughts. Further details here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Dead Poets Society

& when you go
people you never knew
will send oh captain, my captain/s
into eternal cyber circulation
& when you go / they
will all proclaim that
when you said / carpe` diem
boys / seize the day /  
changed the world / or their soul
or an entire generation

& when you go
when you go
they’ll crank another print run / re-run
your movies until dawn

& in the end / they’ll always say
well / she never eclipsed
that first role / book / exhibition / or album
or else in the end / they’ll say / such
a shame / it doesn’t make any sense
i mean / his last role / or book / or exhibition / or album
it really was his best

& when you go
you’ll go to the darkness
between / the crimson carpets

where art
does not live / on art alone

& you
its feeder
have faltered

Monday, August 18, 2014

Stolen Moments

The colourful life of Jack Charles: thespian, respected Indigenous elder and one-time cat burglar.
Walking towards the monochrome tower of flats rising into winter cloud feels like strolling onto the set of Amiel Courtin-Wilson’sBastardy. It’s in this block of flats Uncle Jack gets offered a first-steady-home-in-10-years near the end of the documentary. Then comes another stint in lock-up, for jimmying windows and collecting back-rent on country. He gets back to the flat 12 months later, just before the end credits: paroled, off the smack, weaned down to the healthy juice and vowing to get off even that. 
“You’d better come up then,” his matter-of-fact baritone rumbles through the intercom.

I walk through the worn entry hall, past the squares of locked postboxes sunk into the wall, past the group dining hall, into the tiny lift. From Jack’s floor, the balcony looks down on green parkland on one side, car-blur of highway wrapping round the other. There’s Uncle Jack, behind the screen door: diminutive frame, grounded shuffle of a walk, warm hazel eyes ringed with grey, bushy white beard meets wild shoulder-length silver hair. The vertical furrows at the inner edge of each wild eyebrow look carved in: twirls of cinnamon-coloured tallowwood painstakingly gouged out by an expert artisan.
Slim shoulders swamped by knitted tan jumper, Jack leans back in his chair, long tapered fingers cradling a cuppa. This is the same knowing Uncle Jack of Bastardy. Same wise Jack; sharp Jack; honest Jack. But a clear-eyed Jack; clean Jack; focused Jack. Jack-at-the-ready. Same Uncle Jack, but different.

Read the rest here.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

every bookstore in australia / will be dead

the minister hz made a declaration:

in five years / or less
every bookstore in the country
will be dead

with all due respect
(which cd even mean none)
the minister is clearly not
very well read

the minister hz never
trailed fingers / alphabetically / along
shiny new fiction spines / walked
in for arundhati & out somehow
with zadie smith & lionel shriver

the minister never speed-read first chapters
crouched on rainy day store stools
back when kindle wz a dream
amazon wz still a region
& every dollar went on law school

the minister hz never hid
amongst the shrinking poetry corner
in the company of someone’s plath-channeling
black-clad / darkness-hearted / emo daughter

never elbowed through red wine
drunk poets & mic’d pre-release words
to see a soft-skinned new writer / launched
into the world

the minister says:
in five years time
every bookstore in the country
will be dead
 / i say
the minister is a fool / i say
f*ck the minister / i say
forget about the books
the minister should
go get his head

This is a re-post.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


because i see more raised eyebrows 
as a black law graduate
than as a black single parent
because white people fear me more
when i am over educated
than when i am in need 
because even though i am more educated
and better spoken
than the white man i am standing next to
i apparently came by mail order
or at the very least
because when they tell me
my ‘mixed race’ children are sooo cute
what they are really saying
is your children are beautiful
because we bred with you

because when white people ask me
where I’m from and I say
they tell me i am hostile 
and know what they really mean
because i have had thirty three years
to understand
what it is they really fucking mean
because asking me
what language i speak 
is offensive
when i was born and raised here
and asking me
what language they speak
where my parents come from
is even more offensive
when four hundred years of genocide
at the hands of white people
possibly related to them 
raped and bred from us
the very language they are asking me to speak
because they even dare to ask me about language
when neither of us knows
the many tongues 
the land on which we’re standing speaks
because right now they are probably thinking
far out what is your problem
we are just interested alright

which really translates to
you are brown
and i therefore
am well entitled
to ask for and expect
an explanation

because in australia 
an angry white man
is assertive / powerful
or dangerous
but an angry black woman
is crazy / hilarious
or hysterical
because as a black  female writer it is more difficult 
for me to get published
and as a published black female writer
i am less likely to be read
because life is a score creep:
and just to stand on that stage
i have already had to work
ten times harder than them

This is a re-post.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Friday 1 August, 4pm-5pm, Feros Marquis
Maxine Beneba Clarke, Kate De Goldi, Qaishra Shahraz, chaired by Abas El-Zein

Friday 1 August, 8.00pm-10.30pm, including a 30 minute interval
Byron Community Centre Theatre
69 Jonson Street, Byron Bay
a poetic tribute to a classic album, song by song, Featuring special guests Andrew Denton, Missy Higgins, Andy Griffiths and Benjamin Law with Maxine Beneba-Clarke, Asphyxia, Omar Musa, Luka Lesson, Emilie Zoey Baker and Sean M Whelan.

Saturday 2 August, 1.30-2.30, SCU Marquee
Tristan Bancks, Maxine Beneba Clarke, Christine Manfield, Qaisra Shahraz, chaired by Susan Wyndham

Saturday 2 August, 5pm
Byron Bay Library, Lawson Street, Byron Bay
Miles Merrill With Jesse John Brand, Maxine Beneba Clarke, Omar Musa and… you! It’s the Australian Poetry Slam, Byron Heat. With just two minutes each, local spoken-wordsmiths ignite the audience with poetry, hip hip, monologues, stories...whatever they can do with mind, mouth and mic. Judges are chosen from the audience.

Sunday 3 August, 2.15pm – 3.15pm
Thando Sibanda, Sam Wagan Watson, Maxine Beneba Clarke
Geoff Lemon, Chair: Miles Merrill

More events here

Sunday, July 27, 2014

literary life

Been over at Lipmag, talkin bout my generation and my bookshelf.
Reviewed Three Jerks for Sydney Review of Books
Reviewed by Sydney Review of Books here (my response here)
Reviewed by Newtown Review of Books.
Reviewed by The Sydney Morning Herald.
Reviewed by the Australian.

I'm currently working on my second portrait piece for The Saturday Paper, a personal essay for Right Now on Racism and the Australian Middle Class, a small piece for Australian Book Review on my fave short fiction, reviewing some poetry for Readings Monthly, and gearing up for The Sun Bookshop's Foreign Soil Book Club on Wednesday and several appearances at Byron Bay Writers' Festival next weekend. Hopefully my second prose book will also get some love. Crazy-busy times.

Friday, July 25, 2014

operation bring them home

unites a country
like tragedy

hundreds of bodies
shot from the sky

& an
old white man
square to the camera
talking about
               operation bring them home

the pathos of a nation
shining in his eyes
unites a country
could be
my kid

curly haired
coming home from holiday
burnt teddy flung
from stickered suitcase


from the face of
                my life

unites a country
like tragedy

                today / they are all


                no one will be left behind


one hundred & fifty-one people
fleeing / all kinds
of rockets

have been locked / on an army ship
for twenty one nights

at an unspecified location

in the centre of the ocean

allowed three hours
a day
of light