Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Saturday Paper Portraits

Recent portraits I've written for The Saturday Paper (click title):

Van T. Rudd
There’s an anonymity about artist Van T. Rudd, even in person. Sitting in a cafe in Melbourne’s west, for what will become the first of our many meetings, he’s cloaked in faded comfy-casuals, much like those that adorn his artworks.

“It’s not ‘gallery art’,” he says, running a hand over his thin grey-black ponytail. “People don’t see it as having intrinsic value.” Rudd’s gestures are understated. He speaks softly, as if being extra careful not to damage his escaping thoughts. “And it’s probably also my politics.”
Dr West has worked through half the room and is standing in front of me: silver-streaked afro balanced by salt-and-pepper beard, silver fob chain disappearing into waistcoat pocket, warm eyes shining from behind black-rimmed glasses.“Nice to meet you, Sister Maxine,” he says, enveloping me in a six-foot wraparound that’s a can’t-shake cross between bear hug and mother love. “Now y’all sharing the stage with me this evening, just let your souls flow. That’s all we gotta do.” Dr West speaks to L-Fresh and me with the rhythm of a decades-practised spoken-word poet: one whose collaborations include iconic singer-songwriter Prince, platinum-selling recording artist Jill Scott and hip-hop artist KRS-One. 

Catherine Deveny
In reality there’s something disarming – mesmerising even – about Deveny. The sharp, unnerving eyes: so piercingly dark it’s difficult to tell where iris ends and pupil begins. The lopsided, devilish grin. The sheer tell-it-like-it-is openness and don’t-give-a-fuckness radiating from her. The razor-sharp wit; envelope-pushing observations. It’s confronting, inspiring, exhilarating to be in the presence of a person who is so much herself. 

Jason Steger’s gestures are floating, elegant. His enunciation is impeccably roauw-end vow-elled, in that more English-than-English Michael-Parkinson-meets-Mr-Darcy-meets-David-Attenborough way. Steger’s eyebrows raise to emphasise his point: faint furrowed lines slowly climbing towards the titanium-hued hair that make-up have casually spray-sheened back. His slim shoulders jut dead-square corners into his collared navy shirt.
The camerawoman calls time on the April filming of ABC Television’s The Book Club. The studio audience applauds. Steger and the other panellists – host Jennifer Byrne, regular Marieke Hardy, guests Zoe Daniel and me – relax back into our chairs.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Go Set A Watchman

I'm delighted to have appeared on ABC's Lateline last Friday to discuss this week's release of Harper Lee's Go Set A Watchman (click here to view the episode), and also to have been included in The Sydney Morning Herald's write-up on To Kill A Mockingbird last weekend (click here).

Saturday, July 11, 2015

can i get a witness

in birmingham alabama
hate blew up little brown church girls
in taffeta & acapella
not yet halfway through their lives

not yet halfway down the communion stairs
& already halfway to heaven

can i get a witness

there is gunpowder

in the house of adam

at the emanuel episcopal church
there stands a pockmarked pulpit

cabernet stains on window glass

hate disguised himself
& smiled in fellowship

the good christian people
they welcomed him

with open arms

can i get a witness
there is gunpowder
in the house of god

nothing suspicious to report 
in ferguson missouri
they are saying

electrical faults
in knoxville tennessee
they are saying
no sign of arson
in charlotte north carolina
they are saying

cause undetermined
in  florida (tallahassee)

can i get a witness

the black churches
they are burning

they are saying
no cause for alarm

but there is fire
can i get a witness

there is fire
in the house of god

Monday, July 6, 2015

the house is sliding

things / they have been better
this year 

can i get
a hallelujah

but they still shaved another piece of wood
from the jammed front door

again / this house is sliding
am sliding

i do not know / if we
can live here anymore

this might be the winter
the roof finally falls in

this might be the winter
the kids grow cold enough to say
we do not want to live

on words alone

my son came home from
school confused

& asked me
are you famous?

but the house is sliding
am sliding

this is how 
a writer lives

Friday, May 8, 2015

somewhere on your street

somewhere on your street
there is a mother
who kept her children home from school
tuesday of last week
who couldn/t scratch the dollar fifty / each
to send with them
to the stall
who paid a day of education
to erase their shame
who saved them from
comparing empty hands
with flowered flannels / embossed lavender soap
and silver photo frames
somewhere in your city
there are children
holding hand-made cards
collages cut from old target catalogues
who want to give the world / and are
too young to understand
the unconditional nature
of their own mother/s love

somewhere in your neighbourhood
is a woman who / for ten days
has been hiding the last three eggs
at the back
of the barely working fridge
tomorrow morning
she will use french toast
and sugar sprinkles
to sticky the apologies
from her two boys eyes
she will trim the mould
from the edges of
begged baker-cast-off bread
& say
it doesn't matter
all i really need
is a smile

in a damp terrace house
just across the motorway
is a woman who can/t shake 
the cold she/s had for nineteen days
who will wake up anyway
frozen toed
from lack of autumn heat
let her daughter snuggle in her bed
and beat back the chesty hack
to  re-energise dr suess

there is a woman
right across the road / from you
so consumed
by landlord/s letters
empty shelves / shadows
beneath her child’s eyes
the blind trust 
in every infant gaze
that she will not even notice
it is mother/s day

Sunday, April 19, 2015

All's Rosie

Six months after our evening at Rotunda, we meet at Carlton’s hip new bar Heartattack and Vine, run by friend and fellow Melbourne writer Emily Bitto, in that six-degrees-of-publication way the City of Literature can often be. 
Simsion smiles a greeting as I pull out a seat. 
“Ask me something penetrating!” he begs hopefully, with the frustration of a man who’s answered one too many Good Housekeeping author quizzes. 

My portrait of bestselling Australian author Graeme Simsion (The Rosie Project; The Rosie Effect) appears in this weekend's Saturday Paper. Read the full portrait here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The 'F' Word - in conversation with Roxane Gay

Video from an interview I did with Roxane Gay (Bad Feminist; An Untamed State) at The Wheeler Centre, as part of the 'F Word' series I'm hosting at the centre throughout 2015. Find out more about the event series here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

2015 ABIA Award Shortlist.

I'm surprised, and very very excited that Foreign Soil is shortlisted for two ABIA awards:
Matt Richell Award for a New Writer; and
Literary Fiction Book of The Year
Shortlists for all award categories can be viewed here.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Dobbie Award Longlist

I'm thrilled to announce that Foreign Soil has been longlisted in the Kibble Awards, for the Dobbie Award for a debut book. Details of the longlist here.