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.

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Maxine Beneba Clarke won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript for Foreign Soil, a stunning short-story collection whose settings span the world, from Footscray to Sudan, Jamaica to London.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.