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My parents had sex and I happened aka my birthday.

My birthday is spent in Sydney. It was very nearly not though as there was a slight communication mishap between my partner and I.  A month before my birthday they texted me to ask if they could book me for my birthday weekend. I had replied with my usual sardonic humour with something about being unsure and wanting to play it loose. They took it seriously and didn’t book the excellent flight and hotel deal they had wanted to. The lesson here is simple: Some people should be better at reading sub text. Or I should not be sarcastic via text when it comes to my birthday.

It all worked out in the end anyway because on the morning before my birthday we got a 7am flight to Sydney with nothing but a Kanken backpack each as luggage.

It turns out that even at 6am I am more than happy to eat two Krispy Kream doughnuts. Other delicious things I ate while in Sydney for 48 hours include: crepes, delicious dense multi grain toast with peanut butter and honey, cherry ripe ice cream in a waffle cone, pad tai and crap rice at a fancy restaurant after drinking wine at our hotel. So being tipsy made the food all the more enjoyable. We ate fried noodles, soup dumplings and deep fried egg plant with one of my Sydney based friends. Chips and chocolate that were purchased at inflated prices due to them being purchased at a store near the hotel. These were cravings I had after a glass of wine. It was my birthday so my silly whim was indulged. This is love as paying too much for cheap cadbury chocolate is something that truly pains my partner due to their contempt for cheap and nasty chocolate. I love cheap and nasty chocolate.

It was a nice novelty to sit at outside areas of a resaurant and eat food after dark without feeling freezing.

The hotel room was not just a room it was two levels! there was a kitchen and living area and upstairs there was a bedroom and bathroom. Like a mini house.

There is an exhibit of carnivorous plants that is on at the botanic gardens. The exhibit is called Plants With Bite so it hooked my imagination. I wanted to see plants big enough to eat humans if one got too close like in Little Shop Of Horrors. In the line to enter the green house full of carnivorous plants the two guys in front are chatting and one of them is excitedly explaining the premise of the film Little Shop Of Horrors to his friend who is perplexed and disinterested. ”What a stupid premise for a film.” The friend says.I am glad the exhibit was free as there were no carnivorous plants like in Little Shop Of Horrors. The green house was pretty though and I did learn there are 850 different types of carnivorous plants around the world and Australia is considered an epicentre for them.  You got to wander around heaps of foliage and plants that eat flies and other bugs. There was mist falling which gave the whole space a magical ambience.

While in the place of almost endless sun I actually managed to walk in some for a little while. We walked around in between the water and the gardens on a sun splashed path. I did wear my hat and prescription sunglasses. Please note if you are hard of seeing to the extreme that I am then just know how life changing prescription sunglasses are. I can see around me while not having the sun in my eyes. There was talk of a ferry ride but honestly I dont see the point. sitting in the sun while on a boat and having things pointed out to me that are too far for me to see, is not my idea of a good time.

Escaping the sunshine to wander around an air conditioned art gallery ( The MCA) is my idea of fun.  The free exhibition entitled Today Tomorrow Yesterday presents work by more than forty artists from the 1960s to the present acknowledging  their interest in different social, cultural and artistic histories.  The title of the exhibition is taken from a collection of 26 prose poetry essays by the Lebanese artist and philosopher Kahil Gibron who wrote ”…yesterday is but todays memory , and tomorrow is todays dream.”  A fitting exhibition to experience on my birthday. As it made me experience the art exhibit on a more contemplative manner than I normally would. It make me think about my own life line and how it has made me experience many different kinds of time. Time in hospital is experienced differently to time outside that environment. Time spent writing compared to time spent watching netflix and eating dinner alone.

There was a giant clock face with roman numerals that ticked loudly as you walked around it. At the back of the clock face you could see the mechanisms that made the clock  hands move and the tick sound work.  I stand in front of a canvas with an image made from ochre and pigment that resembles a dark starless night sky with two abstract shapes. Its by an artist called Mabel Juli a member of the Gija people who lives and works in Warmun, Western Australia. The art work entitled Garnkiny Ngarranggarni 2016.  It speaks of what consequences can occur when we love the wrong person. The work speaks of a story of forbidden love represented by the moon and stars.   In the story a man rejects his betrothed bride  because he is in love with her mother. A woman with dark hair who later transforms into a serpent called Dawool. I mean we have all been there: loved someone who transforms into a serpent or some similiar weird creature so in contrast to the person we wanted to bone so badly at one time.

 

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I really liked the Sally Smart 1994 ( pictured above) work The Craftiest Of Eyes (borrowed dress) created using   oil, synthetic polymer paint on canvas. It shows three cut up shapes resembling three women with a bright red back round. The figures seem cut up.    Sally said ”I have always seen the act of cutting as political, which i refer to as the politics of cutting. This approach developed in the 1990s, along with ideas of identity and gender politics, referencing the unstable nature of identity. I used the technique of cutting and pinning to emphasise this, a pin away from dismantling…” I also really loved the way I could read a subtext of female coven like solidarity amongst the red back round. Three figures looked like they could be having a meeting while having their mensuration cycles all alined. A beautiful blood coven. The figures could be dancing amongst the blood of men who have disrespected and hurt women. Oh this could be just because im a bit pissed at how many woman have been killed by men recently and throughout the entire history of time.

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Amyl  2015-16 by Gareth Sansom caught my eye due to the bright abstract shapes framed in bright blue. It reminded me of what the inside of a robots brain might look like blown up and bright coloured. The title of the art work is actually incorporated into the painting. Is that lame or a clue? It turns out its a clue as the painting was created to attempt to represent a psychedelic experience- the short lived high thats comes from the party drug Amyl Nitrate. It is the controlled chaos of the work that caught my eye and enticed it to stay a while so I could take in every inch of the artistic space and use of colour. The artist says he created the work to evoke the memory of him taking the drug for the first time in San Fransisco in 1976. Yeah I was disappointed by the artwork’s back story as well. Such a white dude artist cliche.

 

I am ecstatic when I find a book that I’ve been secretly pining for for ages amongst the shelves: A hard cover picture book that has paintings by the late great artist Jean-Michel Basquait as the book’s illustrations and an edited poem by Maya Angelou called Life Doesn’t Frighten Me.  The illustrations are heavy in abstract imagery and dark thick lines. They are one hundred percent pure Basquait artistic glory. The images paired with Maya Angelou’s declarations and descriptions of things that don’t scare her: Panthers in the park, strangers in the dark. No, they don’t frighten me at all. The images by Basquait may be a bit too scary for very young children but I didn’t buy it for any kids. I purchased it for me.  At the back of the book there is a short and easy to understand write up about the writer and the artist. The write up does not shy away from explaining how Basquait struggled with his artistic fame and died of an accidental drug overdose. This book is about perseverance and pride. It is about being fearless in the face of scary life itself.  A strong and enduring theme in all of the writing by Maya Angelou, a woman who after a violent assault at age seven did not speak a word for five years.  I read and reread the book from cover to cover and drank in the images on each page with my tired eyes on the 10pm flight back to Melbourne.

Things not to say in a boarding cue when your asked if you can handle sitting in the seats closest to emergency exits. ”No way. My upper and lower body strength is slim to non existent. If I sit there and there is an emergency we will all die.”

I am so sorry. I had had a cider with high alcohol content in the airport bar with my partner and my friends who ended up coming with us to the airport so we could talk together more.

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What Have I Done So Far 9 months into 2018?

It is a question that has been all over twitter and people in my feed sharing it with thier answers fill me with anxiety and a feeling of total failure. There are so many successful people I know. They are successful in the way that I define success for myself on a very personal and creative level. In short I am bombarded with people who are further along in their writing career than I and who are much younger. I take a deep breath as I obsessively read all the milestones and then put my phone away.  I decide to try and make a list of my own accomplishments so far this year. It might make me feel better?

January is hot and the apartment has no air conditioning. I have a deadline for my commissioned piece for the amazing Wild Tongue Zine’s second edition. The zine is created and edited by Timmah Balls and Azja Kulpinska The theme is How Should An Artist Be? It is an oppurtunity to write candidly about the pit falls and hurdles of creating maintaining an arts practice. I hand write mine in a heat fevered frenzy. Each contributor to the zine is given 6 pages. I include two hand written poems and an illustration. This is a collection of writers from the margins: writers with disabilities, writers from different and varied cultural back rounds, writers who do not have wealthy parents paying their rent or writers living in a house owned by thier parents. January also is the month I try and get relatives to engage in a discussion about racism and white priveledge. It does not end well. The white tears come flowing fast and my partner and I end up leaving my cousin’s wedding before the food comes out.  I still mark it as an accomplishment in effort.

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Febuary my zine collaborator and I are invited to be a apart of an art exhibition at Counihan Gallery on Sydney Road in Brunswick.

 

16 March – 15 April

Opening Thursday 15 March, 6 – 8 pm

Gallery one

Agency Ink: The Personal and Political in Print

Curated by Catherine Connolly

Agency Ink offers an intergenerational look at women* in alternative print forms. With a focus on local artists, printmakers and zine-makers the exhibition provides a glimpse into the highly productive print, zine, poster and paper forms activated by women* from the 1960’s to today.

Fuelled by prints’ accessible means of reproduction and distribution, the exhibiting artists have utilised paper, posters, print presses and photocopiers alike as an affordable means to produce, reproduce and distribute their works. Whether created in bedrooms and on kitchen tables, or professional studios and print presses, the gathered artists have ingeniously employed the democratic form in works that bring both the personal and political to the page.

*female identifying

 

As well as starting work towards this project I finally start writing  some things just for me things that I hope can be published.

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March Is the actual art show opening and Saturday afternoon the 24th is the day I have to give a talk about the art and zines. Miranda and I stand in front of a group of art lovers and explain ourselves as best we can. I never thought I would be discussing my writing in an art gallery setting. I get quite the kick out of it.  In addition to this I continue writing for myself. I see plays in an attempt to get ready to start writing my own. I go  to a comedy night at a friends house and do some of stand up about various pet related tragedies that occurred whilst growing up on a farm. Outsider comedy is the best. I get some exciting emails. I get invited to take part in a writing residency for two months. The residency involves having a space to write all my own. I am offered the two months of April and May. As soon as I accept I know what I will work on: the first draft of my play.

And Also Presents develops and supports creative and social equity projects led by female identifying and genderqueer makers and doers, while cultivating an ever-increasing ecosystem of brilliant feminists.
Our curated program includes residencies, events and performances.
We are located at Siteworks – 33 Saxon Street, Brunswick.
Our space is accessible by wheelchair and has accessible, gender neutral bathrooms.
And Also Presents is based on the unceded land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nations. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. This always was and always will be Aboriginal Land.

 

April I get the two trams from Abbotsford to my writing space in Brunswick almost every day. I work on my play about being in hospital without really knowing what Im doing but I do it any way, scene by scene. I eat a lot of snacks. I drink a lot of coffee.  It is great.

May I get knocked out by terrible depression that has me flat on my back and silently screaming in fear and desperation. I do not go to my writing space. I am excellent at the art of faking it. My partner has no idea about my depression and the dire extent of it untill i call him from emergency. I’m the strong one you see. I am always the strong one. Staying alive and watching a lot of netflix is my accomplishment during this month.  I see a psychiatrist who tells me I have Borderline Personality Disorder. I read up on it like a nerd and re watch Crazy Ex Girlfriend. The diagnosis makes sense. It makes more sense when I use the book voucher my partner left for me to find accidentally while he was away overseas on tour with his band, to buy two books about the disorder.

https://gremlinface82.wordpress.com/2018/05/30/dreams-i-dream-while-sleeping-beside-you/

 

June I am involved in some events at The Emerging Writers Festival. The panel discussion called Writing Live involves myself  Jacob Boehme, Tania Cañas, Michele Lee and Rajith Savanadasa who write for performance, discussing what that is like. I fight imposter syndrome as I candidly explain that I am very new to play writing but not new to writing about my own life and how that has got me into some trouble from people I write about. Writing from life is not without risk.

The other event was called Small And Loud

Small and Loud is a scratch night for new live performance works in development. It’s a chance for artists to road-test their ideas in front of a receptive and switched-on audience. This edition has a special focus on solo performers who write and perform their own work, co-curated by winner of the Best Emerging Writer Award at Melbourne Fringe, Emma Mary Hall. With Roshelle Fong, Jess Knight and Bargryana Popov

On the day leading up to the event I change my mind on what I want to perform and write something completely new. I have wanted to tell this particular story for a while now and it hits me that day that I am ready. It is a risk that pays of. I get wonderful feedback. There is a thatre producer in the audience who emails my dramaturge who is helping me with my play and says how good I was doing my rough and unpolished performance. I am told I was up on stage for forty minutes and that the audience wanted to hear more. I am told that i only need twenty more minutes or a bit less for a full length one woman show. I have visions of what I want it to be. A mix of Tracy fromChewing Gum and Rebecca Bunch from Crazy Ex Girlfriend and the show I saw at The Malthouse during the comedy festival Fleabag. 

Im still fighting my terrible anxiety and horrible violent intrusive thoughts that had me calling a number in tears. I am told to see a GP even though my one is not available and get a valium prescription. My first ever. I buy a 400 dollar rug that is too big for my apartment. It cannot be returned. Dont look at rugs when deep in depression.

 

July I perform poetry at Hawthorn Library. I work on the stuff that I plan on performing for The Red Dirt Festival. I write this blog post https://gremlinface82.wordpress.com/2018/07/30/july-and-jess-have-the-same-amount-of-letters/

I have a writing day with my friend Sarah. She comes over to my apartment and the plan is for us to work on our projects. What I end up doing is reading Fiona Apple interviews from the 90’s.

 

August I go to Alice Springs to be a performing poet and writer in The Red Dirt Poetry Festival. It is exciting to have flights and accommodation paid for. I have never been to this part of Australia before. https://gremlinface82.wordpress.com/2018/08/12/red-dirt-poetry-festival/ 

August is also the month I get published in the amazing online publication SCUM Mag. I am thrilled. You can read the memoir by clicking on this link  http://www.scum-mag.com/rebel-girl-you-are-the-queen-of-something-deep-inside/ 

September so far has involved me watching and re watching Schitts Creek, having meetings about creative stuff and applying for grants with trepidation and fluctuating between hopeful optimism and defeatist complete lack of hope and optimism.

Thats it so far.

 

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weekend away

I hate making plans that involve trying to get a group of people together. I do enjoy having full control of deciding who is involved in said plans. Especially when it involves going away for more than 48 hours with the chosen people.  This is not a hollywood movie where the tight group of friends who have known each other since high school decide to have one last hurrah before getting married or something. I don’t even have friends from university that I see regularly.  I feel its a sign of a less than adventurous spirit if your friendship groups have not evolved or shifted since your early teens.  I understand that some people have not had the opportunity to go far from home due to family commitments and an assortment of circumstances outside of their control that inhibit their ability to go of and reinvent themselves like I have been able to do.

My partner did most of the organizing for the weekend including food preperation. The great thing about going away with people who are over 30 is that the focus is no longer on only the alcohol. There was alcohol. We had wine and gin and whisky but most of it was bought back home.

There was eight of us staying in a big house overlooking Kennet River and you could hear the ocean from every room. Within an hour of arriving and unloading the car,  the first of us to arrive to arrive: myself, my partner and my zine making collaborator and friend Miranda aka MCDrawn were presented with some nature up close and personal on the balcony were two cockatoos. We watched them as we set up cheese and wine ( we ate so much cheese over the weekend). We took pictures as  people who exist in inner city suburbs of Melbourne will do. As we ate cheese and watched them fascinated the two birds took thier relationship to the next level. The sexy level. The cockatoos had sex on the balcony and it did not seem to take them very long at all. Discussion turned to the question of whether birds have sex for pleasure. We did not come to a definitive conclusion.

We ate the vegetarian lasagne my partner made the night before after work  for dinner with wine as the ocean crashed and music played softy ion the back round as we chatted and waited for our last two friends to come.

When My poetry book club friend and quiet friend who never talks arrived dinner was over and we sat around all together on couches with a coffee table laden with cheese and crackers and fruit and wine as we took turns naming our top three animals. The game was instigated by Phil a high school teacher and year 12 co ordinator. My top animals were Quokkas, Otters and Main Coon cats. Once we had all named our top three animals and they were written down, we had to explain why we had chosen each animal. After that Phil explained that the first animal and why we liked it was how we saw ourselves. The second animal love reasons were how others see us and the final animal love reasons were how we actually are.

It took me a while to get the Main Coon name of my third animal as I didn’t know it I only knew how to explain it as a large lion like cat as it had what looked a bit like a lions main thus living it a certain amount of regal dignity. My partner showed me pictures of people with their pet Main Coons held in their arms for scale. The poor cats looked uncomfortable and displeased to be used for what was referred to as ”for scale photos.”

”I don’t need humans for reference.” I declare impatiently.  ”These cats are amazing on their own merit.”

‘I love Quokkas because they are effortlessly happy and incredibly cute with tiny paws and adoreable little faces.’ I explain with a sense of wistful envy at the thought of being as effortlessly happy as the Quokka. It turns out this is apparently how I see myself.

Otters I love because they hold hands while they sleep so as not to get washed awayu as they sleep. This may or may not be true but its an idea that has somehow lodged in my brain and I don’t want to ruin it with fact checking. I love otters because they seem to be loyal and small and sleek little cuties. ”They are also rapists” my partner says. ”Thats obviously not why I love them.” I say.  ”Can we project human morality onto the actions of animals?” Someone asks. Thanks to my justification of loving Otters it turns out people see me as adorable and partial to holding hands while sleeping so as not to get washed away by strong currents. I am seen as a small sleek cutie.  I think that it is important to note that you do not know that your justifications are going to be used to psychoanalyse you when you are giving them. That part of the game comes after everyone has finished justifying their loves.

My Main Coon justifications are how I actually am: large and fluffy with a regal main and needing no humans for reference.

One of my partners favourite animals is a tiny shrimp that can kill with a snap of its claw that makes a sound up to 210 decibels. The Shrimp is named after Pink Floyd: Synalpheus pinkfloydi. It was their second favourite animal so his justification is how people see him: able to stun and kill with sound. Accurate to a point as he is a brilliant guitar player.

The next day starts with pancakes and coffee. My friends and I take it easy by enjoying the open endedness of the day: reading on the patio, listening to music, going down to the beach and feeling the sand between my toes, exploring rock pools. The sun comes out and goes behind clouds and then returns. It is perfect beach weather for people who do not enjoy the type of beach weather most Australians are considered to enjoy, the type that involves summer sun and wearing bikinis and roasting beneath midday heat: No thank you. Some sun with cold breeze is preferred. The weekend delivered.

I watch my partner on the beach with his camera and taking photos of our friends and feel something swell up inside me like the waves as they crash on the shore and the water runs up to tease my bare toes and shock me with the coldness that is not unpleasant but more cleansing and a reminder that I am alive.  I run up to him and wrap my arms around his torso.

That night we eat hand made wontons and noodles. My partner and his cousin spend ages making the wontons a process I am too impatient for.  My partner gets the wood fire going and its burns away in the background making thos wood burning sounds and crackles that remind me of the wintyer night on the farm as a child when Dad would be on a no television kick and make us sit together in the living room in silence listening to the sound of the wood fire burning as the winter wind gusted outside and blew against the poor cows in the paddocks.

After dinner there is more snacks: cheese and bread and sugary treats such as chocolate and biscuits and more chocolate. We play Cards against Humanity and I win. This is unexpected as I usually don’t care about games but for some reason I took ages each turn to decide on what card to put down.

While away we sleep with no phones or other electrical items in the bedroom with us. We both go to bed at the same time unlike when at home. Here at the beach house we talk more before going to sleep. This is lovely and a reminder of what gets forgotten in the city. There is so much I don’t tell him. I wriggle closer to his sleeping body and reach for his hand.

 

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Wednesday Writing

The last two nights I have slept through till morning. No waking up at two am gasping for breath in a panic. no anxiety stomach cramps. Unfortunately my rare deep sleep on Tuesday morning meant I didn’t stir when my partner thought he had locked himself out on his way to work without his car keys.  Not even stones on bedroom window or knocking on the front door managed to wake me. It is alright though. The keys were in their jacket pocket all along.

Yesterday I walked into the CBD to my friends apartment for poetry book club. I had not read the poetry book but did want to see my friends. The book was  Look At The Lake by Kevin Brophy.  Poems created while he lived in Indigenous communities for two years.  As I walked into the city I revelled in the temperate weather and tried not to think about climate change and how this winter had been scarily un winter like. I had not needed to wear the coat I got in London even once.

I love my poetry book club but I am not a huge fan of our newest addition. A person who seems intent on bringing very little of interest to discussion. When they arrive I do not jump up to hug them like I do everyone else. I know this is unkind. But do you want to ever be in the position of accepting a hug that is not genuine?   The poems that get read aloud are good. I like that the poems are observational and paint beautifully snap shots of life out in the bush. They are not the poems of a person with a white saviour complex. My friend offers white wine that we drink and both agree is terrible but continue drinking anyway. When I get home I am tipsy and hungry. My partner has made a pizza. It is delicious.

Today I was listening to Triple R as I finished my book. It was the great show hosted by Bethany Atkinson-Quinton called The Glasshouse. A show about all things literature. I had forgotten that I had run into her during The Melbourne Writers Festival and she had asked if she could play a recording of me reading my piece about masturbation and how I had overcome 23 years of sexual repression and being told that masturbation was dirty and sinful, to finally discover the joys of learning to play my own lady harp. I was reminded of this conversation when I heard Bethany say my name and introduce my piece. I jumped up to turn the radio down as I really was quite shy at the thought of hearing me actually say the words I wrote and said out loud. I am still pretty thrilled at being played on triple R though.

This and a few months ago another recording of me speaking on a panel at The Wheeler Centre about how I came to become a feminist  was shared about three times on ABC Radio National. I only found out because a friend messaged me excitedly to tell me. My parents listens to Radio National i think in a panic when I finish reading the message. Only in the car. They would have to be in the car at those times to hear it.  I calm down its not like I said anything bad. They are proud of me, even if they don’t always understand my unapologetic feminist ideals.

Instead of working on my play today I finish Boys Will Be Boys By Clementine Ford. It dismantles toxic masculity and provides alternatives to strive for. A society where boys are raised to be gentle and emotionally expressive. A society where boys can grow up and be able to say I love you to theIr mates without fear of being called weak.   I appreciate her humour scattered throughout the book as little nuggets of positivity in the face almost total despair at the world we allow our young men to exist in unchecked.  But I feel rage as well and the target in patriarchy and the men who uphold it while pushing women down and Ford makes no bones about her contempt for such a system and the people who uphold it. I love her take down of the question regarding if Rape Jokes are funny.

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The second last chapter is particularly upsetting but helps illustrate just how little men who are accused of rape, sexual misconduct or violence against women and girls, lose out. The message is clear: if you are a white cis gender man with power, money or creative  or athletic talent, you can pretty much go on making money doing what you want. I am glad the book has one last chapter after that that has Ford writing to her own tiny little son. It is so beautiful and full of hope. It is in our best interest to keep on a hold on hope as we charge forward in bringing the patriarchy. Seconds after I put the book down I read an article about how  a great many Millennial men think women are favoured in the workplace. #facepalm The further we move forward the more enthusiastic is the pushback.

In other reading that made me laugh and roll my eyes was the article about how The president of The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints Russell Nelson ( Oh ! so Thats the name of the current leader! I think. Its been a while since that sort of information was second nature to me ) wants the abbreviated name for members of the church to be no longer used.   https://www.buzzfeed.com/jimdalrympleii/the-mormon-church-doesnt-want-to-be-called-mormon-any-more?utm_term=.oho5GydZxE#.fe9NeDZOyP

We ask that the term ‘Mormons’ not be used,” the style guide now states. It also says that the term ‘Mormonism’ is inaccurate and should not be used.

This is the grand and important revelation that the lord has bestowed on President Nelson. A revelation that seems somewhat odd considering they spent all that money on advertising all over the world as The smash hit The Book Of Mormon the Musical toured. The church even made advertisements using ”cool’ people like the lead Singer Of The Killers, Brandon Flowers. In the short film slash advertisement we see The lead singer cavorting wholesomely with his family and playing music, whilst he speaks over the montage about family and values and ends with the statement ”I am a Mormon” which is the actual title of the entire campaign.

Here are some more pressing issues that I think the lord should be revealing to The president of The Mormon church in this day and age.

Use reusable shopping bags when grocery shopping. Its not that hard to do.

Women are human beings and should be given more autonomy within the church. Stop telling young people in the throes of puberty that masturbation is wrong. It hurts nobody and releases tension. You cannot get sexually transmitted diseases from it or get pregnant.

Give young women in the church more options than marriage and motherhood.

Churches should pay taxes and members of the Mormon church should not be asked to give ten percent of their income to the church. Members pay tax but the church doesn’t? Not very cool. Members paid for all that church advertising declaring the word Mormon and now its no longer a preferred term? Maybe concentrate on the more harmful terms that shouldn’t be used like racial slurs and ablism slurs. I remember reading about how a black woman was called the N word by a person inside one of the temples. Let that sink in a moment.

Maybe The Lord could reveal to President Nelson the evils of late stage capitalism and beseech the president to council his flock of followers to try and get universal healthcare rolled out over the United States.

Perhaps God could tell President Nelson to tell his church members that its ok to feel sad and other negative emotions. That suicide is not a sin but a tragedy.

That being gay or trans or bisexual or anything other than heterosexual is ok.

 

But this is all suggestion and magical thinking. I am under no illusion that these types of revelations from God will be bestowed on the leader of The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints. Which is only one of the reasons why I have not gone to church in over a decade. Its even more since I went on a regular basis.  To quote Michaela Coal  (writer and star of amazing two season series Chewing Gum)  when speaking about how she stopped trying to ”save” gay students at her college and introduce them to the bible and the saviour Jesus Christ, because she became friends with the queer kids instead ”Homosexual bonds replaced biblical ones.” I love that.

 

 

Melbourne Writers Festival

It is the end of the Melbourne Writers Festival for 2018 and its been a good one.  I got to see friends get poetry tattoos while i drank wine. I got to sing with a LGBTQI youth choir. But the most exciting thing to happen was the positive partying pagan of virtue Andrew WK  started following me on twitter. It was after I tweeted a few quotes of his during his key note address at the festival’s opening.

I have loved reading his weekly advice column in The Atlantic, where he writes beautiful and kindly articulate responses to questions like ”Does Heaven Exist?’ and ”How can I get my friend to chose bros before Hoes?” Andrew’s response to that particularly sexist and selfish question is a beautifully worded ‘fuck you, grow up and get some empathy’. he is of course better known for his musical career and has four albums under his belt.
Andrew opened the festival with positivity and self effacing modesty. Declaring himself an amature human being and suggesting that perhaps the true meaning of life was simply figuring it out in our own way and in our own time. To this little ex mormon it was very comforting to be told that being unsure and not a slave to religious conviction is not such a scary thing. Also at the end confetti exploded from the ceiling and scattered around everyones head in an uxepcted moment of magic. I was utterly charmed.
Then things got better.  Andrew tweeted about giving away some free tickets to his concert at The Corner the night after the opening of The Writers Festival. I retweeted the tweet and simply said I couldnt go because of lack of fund but that I hoped everyone who was going had a great time and partied kindly. Second later Andrew WK had asked for my legal name so he could put me on the guest list and a plus 1.
It was very exciting. Even though I only knew one of his songs. The show was great. It was energetic and the crowd was extremely enthusiastic without being dicks about it. They sang along to songs such as Music Is Worth Living For and She Is Beautiful  and the song about death that is celebratory more than defeatist entitled Ready To Die. 
This sequence of events is a great and serendipitous tale of good fortune but it is not quite as good as what came to pass at last years Melbourne Writers Festival. In my opinion. Last years festival resulted in me becoming the recipient of a small collection of clothes previously owned by British feminist writer Laurie Penny. A writer I have loved for years and was very excited to see in all her events at the festival. I  even gave her  copies of me zines when I lined up to get her to sign my copy of her latest collection of essays called Bitch Doctrine. 
She was in an event with a friend of mine and afterwards my friend said that Laurie had some clothes she wanted to leave with someone as she had too much in her luggage. My friend tells me that Laurie is almost as small as me. This is true. I had found this out when we had hugged at the Queer Lit Salon at The Curtain.  I approach Ms Penny and we exchange email addresses. I am asked to go pick up the package from the front desk at The hotel she is staying at. After she has left the country for another writers festival.
What is so wonderful is that I get an email that gives me a back story to each item of clothing.
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Hello Jess! So a small package of loved and much missed things is at the concierge desk for you at the sofitel on Collins street- come pick it up in the next few days. I also passed to you some gifts of tea and notebooks that were gifted to me and I cannot fit 😦 
What there is:
-my best loved raggy red skirt which is a bit long on me but I have loved it (it has a story- I got it to survive the 100 degree heat at the republican convention last year so that skirt has Seen Things).
-grey jumper (I usually wear it backwards as a layering piece) 
-sparkly black summer cardi (it’s super designer and my favourite TK max find!) 
-diamanté black tshirt 
-little scarf (from a vintage shop in San Francisco)
-pair of black uniqlo pants that I customized with grey paint! (Well- I got a bit of paint on them and decided it looked good and did the whole thing deliberately.) 
-I can’t remember if I put my light Grey Steve miller band thumbhole jumpery thingy in there but if so please enjoy it.
Thse may be loose on you- but I tend to favor the drapey/oversized look anyway, so that might not matter as long as they stay up! No worries if not your style. Thank you for giving them a home.
Oh and please note- I’m really sorry I wasn’t able to wash these for you . The skirt and cardi have been washed since they were last worn- everything else will need a light run through the wash. 
Love and solidarity,
L x
Did I consider not washing the things that were not washed? Did I consider that perhaps if I wore unwashed clothes by a brilliant writer it would help me and up my skill level by a good few levels? Did I consider doing some form of witchy enchantment or spell to help transfere some creative aura from one human vessel to another?
Yes.
But that would be creepy so I did wash the unwashed items.

MIX TAPE MEMOIRS: BJORK AND TEENAGE HUMAN BEHAVIOUR

This was written for  and performed at Red Dirt Poetry Festival in Alice Springs for the event entitled Mixtape Memoirs.  Artists were asked to choose a song and write and perform something in response to that song from high school age years. 

Last night I dreamt we were friends again. Even closer than before. Closer in the way you used to say you would like us to be. We were in the bedroom I shared with my sister who is six years younger and loves the band Hanson. She is not here for once so it is just you and I both sixteen years old and alone together. It feels like we are the only two people left in the world and we like this feeling.

Your mouth is on my mouth and we are kissing slowly and deeply. One of your hands is in my hair and the other hand is up under my shirt. There is no bra even though I am starting to need one. You pull away for a tortuous moment so you ca smile into my eyes with soft shiny lips. My knees have gone weak, I whisper. You lean in again and when we start to kiss you slip your tongue inside my mouth and I groan into your mouth. It seems fitting that this dream takes place where it does.

When I wake from this dream I am back in the present and being sixteen is over fifteen years ago. A little shaken I reach for my phone.

I notice you have started following my facebook presence. I wait for the friend request that never comes. Your profile picture shows you and a man smiling. You have a small child held in your arms.

I remember seeing you in art class and after a few days we end up sitting together and talking about books.

I remember living with my grandmother so I could go to this particular school with all the subjects that I wanted but couldn’t get at the school where my class size was 14.

I remember being so lost and overwhelmed at the size of this new school and crying in a stairwell on my first day.

I remember walking all the way to your house from school on a sunny afternoon and feeling like my chest would burst at how happy and nervous you make me.

I can remember you giving me a mix tape with some of your most loved songs on it. Music I had never heard before. You are so much cooler than me. There is one song on side A that I rewind and play again and again because I love it so much. It’s a song by Bjork called Human Behavior. That particular song choice with the lyric

If you ever get close to a human

And human behavior

Be ready, be ready to get confused

didn’t feel like a warning until later.

I remember you reaching for my hand after lunchtime ended and we made our way to class. We walked there hand in hand through the crowds of students.

I remember you telling me I’m foxy. That it was a shame that I wasn’t into girls. The thrill ran through me head to toe. The thrill of the danger and intensity of my feelings for you that had to go unsaid. My religion said such feelings are a sin. I wish I had not been so firmly tethered to family and the constricting suffocating confines of faith.

I remember you drawing an illustration in black pencil of a young woman masturbating in a forest and showing it to our male studio art teacher.

I remember a Saturday night sleep over at your house. I remember you lived within walking distance to my church. We talked almost all night.

I remember you waking up and telling me you had a nightmare. That the nightmare was you went to church with me.

I remember wanting to be just like you. Wanting to be as confident and smart. I got my hair cut short just like you. I remember getting a jacket similar to yours.

I remember spending lots of time with you in the drama space at school. Where you tried on my jacket. ‘’You’re a scorpio so that means you’re very sexual.’’ You tell me.

I remember feelings.

I remember you giving me a hand written letter after drama class. You told me to read it at home.

I cried myself to sleep that night.

I remember I didn’t have a proper sense of identity and didn’t like what was already there.

I remember you telling me that my complete and utter naivety scared you.

I remember your house smelled of cigarette smoke because your mother smoked inside.

I remember you telling me how much you hate your Dad.

I remember having other friends that never managed to be as bright and vivid as you. One had painted Daria and Jane on her bedroom wall. I remember waiting alone in the kitchen while you and her and some other girls had a séance. My religion forbade me taking part in such pagan rituals.

I remember having my 17th birthday at your place in your parent’s garage. A male friend tried to trick me into drinking lemonade with vodka in it. You stopped him and got very mad. I remember feeling so loved by you.

I remember you telling me that a boy in our drama class had a crush on me. He had the same name as my brother though. That was weird.

I remember our last phone conversation. I was chatting away and you were being so quiet and distant. I remember inviting you to come and sleep over, watch movies. You were so evasive. Don’t you even want to hang out with me? I asked. No. You said.

I remember doing my final exams with us no longer speaking.

It is 11 years later when we cross paths again for the first time.  I am walking towards the corner of Smith Street and Johnson. I’m hung over and on my way to see a friend’s band play an afternoon show. You are still beautiful and your hair is still short. You fall into step beside me. We both stop walking when you ask if I’m Jess Knight. You say who you are  but I already know it.  I am in such shock at this random meeting that my heart starts to palpitate and pushes blood quickly through me so I am ready to run if I need to. You hurt me so bad last time I saw you.

I  laugh in shock after saying that I am who you think I am and that yes I remember you. I stare dumbfounded into your hazel eyes. It hits me as I stand there. I was not over you. I was not over you dismissing our friendship and actively cutting all ties of communication with me. You tell me you have just moved to Melbourne.

I allow myself to bask in a brief feeling of superiority at the fact it took you so much longer to leave that small country town. I want to give you my phone number and ask if you want to come with me to my friend’s show. I want to offer help in settling into life in the big city as I know how scary it can be.

I want to show you all my new friends and my new life. Instead all I manage to do is laugh and ramble on and on, as we stood waiting for the red man to turn green.

When we cross the street you go one way and I go another.

https://youtu.be/KDbPYoaAiyc

Red Dirt Poetry Festival

Highlights of Red Dirt Poetry Festival in Alice Springs August 2-5 2018

For the first time I get my flights and accommodation covered for being a performer in a festival. It makes me feel incredible and dare I say it: like a real writer who is valued.

The event organizer herself Laurel Jane May picks me up from the air port at the same time as famous poet and author of novel Out Come The Dogs Omar Musa. I am participating in events that include talent like his. It is scary and surreal.

Meeting Laurel’s pets and getting to hang out with them at her house while we wait for it to be time to check in to the Jump Inn hostel. Her dog is called Wilber and her beautiful black cat with piercing green eyes is called Charlie and she is beautiful. I take lots of photos of charlie.

Fighting my anxiety and having kind poets and new friends helping me through it with patience and gentleness that a week later still amazes me. Thank you so much. Alexandra Steffan

Sitting in Mcdonalds at 11pm eating McFlurrys talking intersectional feminism.

My first event is Poetry Its Whats For Breakfast at Page 27 Cafe. This is where people can come and sit and chat with a couple of poets and hear some poetry and share their own if they want. I get to do this with brilliant award winning Mununjali writer and poet Ellen Van Nerveen. It feels like there has been a mistake. How did I get to a point where I share an event with such an amazing writer? I wonder as I chat away at her and her mother. Maria Ellen’s mother shares a poem she wrote about her daughter ( at our encouragement) and it is so beautiful. There is something magical about seeing a poet’s mother share poetry after her poet daughter. A man comes and sits at our table to talk poetry. He shares one of his own and it not terrible. He also buys both Ellen’s and my own poetry books. By the end of breakfast with poets I have made a new friend called Jemma who sits down in front of us and shines with poetic enthusiasm and light.

poetry jukebox is the next event I am a part of.  A cardboard jukebox has been created for the purpose of the public art event that involves a poet standing inside the cardboard jukebox and waiting for passer by to press a painted on button. When this happens the jukebox poet inside reads one of their own poems. Each poet is in the jukebox for 30 to 40 minutes. I take part in this on Friday and Saturday. Of course as I am so short a milk crate needs to be found for me to stand on so passer by can see my head and shoulders through the cut out window. Omar Musa and Michael Moore had the opposite problem to me as they had to try and fit inside and limit their gestures.  Least favourite response to one of my poems is from an older white woman who comments ”Its very female oriented.” and the question I get asked by an older white man, ”Did you write that all by yourself?” It is nerve wracking pouring your heart out through poetry in broad daylight when your poetry is about heartbreak and sex and hospital. Best part of this event? Reading one of my most thirsty poems ( Your Upper Thigh) to fellow poet and now friend Michael Moor and both of us feeling awkward afterwards and just standing with the awkwardness for a bit.

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The event at Totem Theatre on Friday evening: Wom-Yarn Arlhe-Kenhe Ayeye ( Embrace the space in which we the ”other” live (love) is incredibly special and it is an honour to be in a line up with such an amazing group of talented, diverse and dynamic women that include Marie Elena Ellis, Ellen Van Nerveen, Stevie Jean  Alexandra Steffan, Victoria Alondra, Jennifer Compton and Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa. Triple J unearthed winner Stevie Jean at just 18 continues to blow me away with her wit and confidence as she MCs the entire the event as well as does a reading. Not to brag but she and I are friends now and she thinks im good to hug. the feeling is mutual.  It is a bit disappointing to learn after the event that in the entire audience there is only about three men. Proving yet again the ones who need to witness the brilliance and messages the most are not in the room. sigh.

Sitting around a large table full of poets in a cafe eating lunch and talking and laughing so much. Feeling a part of something bigger than myself that does not include a fear of hell. This is a highlight. This is a moment that I cannot capture properly for you to feel as I feel while sitting there. But Jeremy Garnet can and does. He stands up and reads to us a poem he wrote as we sat around talking and laughing.  A moment that captures a moment.

Saturday evening as the sun sets on Totem Courtyard is Mixtape Memoirs an event where writers share a song from their high school days and read a response or a memory or any sort of poem or story connected to that song. It is a joy of an event. There should be a mix cd made of the song selections or a zine with the mix cd provided along with the collection of written responses. Performance poet Bill Moran is wonderful as he MCs and shares lyrics he wrote for his 14 year old death metal band. They are terrible and terribly funny. The stories shared are as you would expect from a bunch of teens who grew up to be writers: heart wrenching, sad, poignant, beautiful and full of yearning, anger, despair.  There is something to be said for not being the type of person who peaked in high school.  After I share my song and story I sit and watch my peers Michael Moore, Jeremy Garnet, Dina Indrasafitri, Alexandra Steffon, Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa, Declan Furber and Jennifer Compton perform. As I sit there is occurs to me that teenage Jess would be pretty thrilled to see how I turned out. She would be amazed that there is no sign of hell breathing down her neck for choosing a life of writing and fighting patriarchy.

The Journey The Dreaming Poetry Walk is guided by Arrernte Woman Alison Furber  who takes a group of us around Mparntwe and shares the cultural history of this place that I have been fortunate enough to experience over the last few days.  We are shown a protected River Red Gum tree that is 400 years old. We are shown a once full and flowing river bed that is now dry. ”The water is still here it is just invisible.” Alison tells us. We are told of the continuos and on going fight for protecting other sacred sites such as one particular tree that Alison helps keep safe though there area around it has been filled with a rather ugly building. As we pass some other trees on our walk Alison gestures at thes and keeps us walking. She explains, ”These trees are not significant. They do provide us with  oxygen.”

After the walk I take Alison’s advice to bypass the gallery and give money straight to the artists by purchasing some original art straight from some Aboriginal women sitting on the grass of Todd Mall. The artist introduces me to thier daughter and grandson. Unfortunately it is only the grandson’s name I can remember now and not the name of the artist.  It is a beautiful painting representing bush tucka such as honey bees and witchetty grubs  and women preparing the food.

 

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Each performer at the festival gets a show bag that includes a tote, free coffee tokens for a local cafe, a $50 gift voucher for the same cafe as the free coffee ( thanks Epilogue Cafe!) an artist pas to events and a hand made beanie. Laurel herself personally chose each beanie with each individual writer in mind. Did you know that Alice Springs has a beanie festival? Neither did I. We know now though! There is a competition for best hand made beanie and they are some next level beanie creations I can tell you. I love my personally chosen beanie.  It is very warm and fits my noggin nice and snug.

On the last night I am woken by two cats fighting and it sounds like a nightmarish cacophony of horror.

Monday is flying home day. There is time for one last meal at the cafe with my new friends and fellow writers from all over Australia, New Zealand and America. I have poet friends in Darwin now and Perth and Brisbane. Some of these friends looking far seedier from closing party shenanigans than others.  Before I leave for the airport with Lay The Mystic and Jennifer Compton there is much hugging.

 

 

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Laurel Jane May and her husband Nico’s pet cat Charlie. look at her little paws!!