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For a few moments there was poetry

November 11, 2016

It was a comedy of errors that started out my day yesterday yesterday. The small kinds that do not matter so much to me usually. But yesterday was not just any other day, It was my youngest sister’s birthday. It was the day I was going to be on a panel about Literary communities. It was lucky that I often leave the house two hours earlier than I should. I am paranoid about being late to things, about getting somewhere and not having time to feel comfortable in the new surroundings. It does not matter if the setting is not new. I still need to feel comfortable and have my bearings, like where the toilets are and the fire exits.

I listen to Beyonce as I walk to the train station. It is a sunny/ cloudy day. There is wind blowing my freshly straightened hair all about my face.  I was walking and worrying. I knew that today was the U.S election. I was following the progress with dread and fear and a stupid hope that it maybe all alright. I get to the train station and fish around my tote, looking for my coin purse in the shape of an egg, it had my myki in it and my house key. The egg purse was not in my  tote. ”Fuck.” I say out loud. I forget that ear buds do not stop people near you, from hearing you speak out loud. They just make me unable to sense when someone is near me and able to hear my profanity. Like at that moment, an older woman was  walking to the myki reader across from the one I was swearing near.

I make my way home. The house is locked and nobody is home. My key is in the purse that is inside the locked house. I swear again and louder this time as I am at my own front door. I check my social media and it is a mix of don’t panic and screen grabs of moments on The Simpsons.  It will not leave me, this dread in my stomach. It is not simply nervouse about being up on stage and expected to be clever and informative, sort of dread. This is a dread that I have experienced a great many times when trying to discuss social justice and feminism with family members. That feeling of being struck by a pile of loud decrying bricks that are upset that you mentioned they may be bricks. Only it was not just a few misguided loved ones: it was millions of misguided strangers.

It is easier to fare evade on a tram. I walk to the tram stop. It takes a little longer and I am really working myself up into a tangle of worry. How am I going to speak to a bunch of hopeful and lovely passionate writers in embryo, when all I wanted to do was shout cry in horror? I wait for the tram and read things obsessively. ”Only 16% of votes have been counted.” ”What the fuck, Florida?” The tram comes and I get on it. I hope im not late to the panel. I text the organizer. I text my sister whose birthday it is, for the second time that day. ”It is your birthday and Trump may be elected. Good Grief.”

”That would put a dampner on things.”  Is the text I get back.  I will regret sending that pithy text. It just will not occur until later on.

I get off the tram on Collins st and practically run to The Wheeler Centre. The independent Publishing Conference is starting today and I will be on the last panel for the day. The general manager of Express Media will be my co panelist and I am secretly chuffed that I can share a stage with someone so much better qualified to discuss literary community than I am. I am not late. I arrive and the panel before mine is still on. I get to have a cup of tea, meet Pippa and catch the last ten minutes of the current panel.

Being on a panel run chaired by a friend is incredibly nice and calming. It also seems really surreal. When did I manage to make friends that did so many interesting and inspiring things? I swear that sometimes I still feel like the timid little waif from the bush who is still dreaming of becoming a writer and living in Melbourne. For 45 minutes Pippa and I discuss our community building trajectories. Both important and both different. I keep waiting for someone to ask me, ”Do you make money from your art?” Like in the youtube video of that little boy being interviewed. At the money question, his little face just crumbles in sadness. But, nobody asks me that. I say a few things that get tweeted and this thrills me. ”Be a fan and you will get fans.” ”People who are threatened by your desire to write, because it is a part of you that they cannot control; in the bin.” ”Go to things and be cute and funny. If you cant do that then just be yourself.”

The panel ends and there is a round of applause. I get asked to open up the open mic section of The Rag And Bone Scribble Salon, at Embiggen Books (near The Wheeler Centre) that is on at 6pm. That means I have about an hour to get something cheap to eat.   Enough time to eat and check the election progress. I see it over and over and want to cry. I should not have sent that text to my sister. It happened. He won.  I am not so much shocked as simply sad and limp with grief. If you love someone who is not a white cis gendered man then you understand what I am talking about. If you have any sort of disability, any religion that is not white christianity, fear is imminent.  I wanted to check something quite particular in regards to the polls but, i ended up meeting a friend at The Moat and having pre event expresso martinis with her. She was about to take part in a pun competition r something like that. I was no help in helping her come up with any. I can only pun when it is accidental. The expresso martinis were excellent and I was so grateful to be able to discuss the current horror with someone who was equally discombobulated.

We are both sad and scared but not surprised.  Australia has given Pauline Hanson a second wind of popularity. There is talk of privatizing Medicare and we are being inhuman to refugees. There is a mood in the air and it has been brewing for a while. I am grateful to not be where I was during the Australian election results. The one where Tony Abbot was elected. I was with my family as I had to go tell my parents that I needed a kidney transplant. I was surrounded by people who had voted for him.  They were not worried at all. I sat there feeling sick to my stomach. I was exactly the type of person the Liberal government did not care about, a drain on resources and society.  My parents and my aunt and uncle were not so worried as I. It is easy to be cavalier when you do not have so much to loose at the hands of an unsympathetic government.

I go to the party at Embiggen Books. I get to hear poetry from four people with distinct and beautiful voices.

Adolfo Aranjuez is the editor of Metro, Australia’s oldest film and media periodical. He is also the subeditor of Screen Education, a columnist for Right Now, and a freelance writer and speaker. In 2015, Adolfo was named one of the Melbourne Writers Festival’s 30 Under 30. More about him at http://www.adolfoaranjuez.com/

Eugenia Flynn is a writer, social commentator, and arts worker. Eugenia runs the blog Black Thoughts Live Here: Eugenia Flynn
and her work has been in such publications as Crikey, The Lifted Brow, The Guardian Australia, Peril Magazine, and VICE Magazine. She identifies as Aboriginal (Tiwi and Larrakiah), Chinese Malaysian and Muslim, working within her multiple communities to create change through writing, art, politics and community development.

Grace Vanilau plays across many creative spaces as an interdisciplinary artist. Her overactive imagination and fearlessness gives her permission to sample new things. She is a CCD practitioner, educator, spoken word artist, singer, songwriter and her recent acting debut in the highly acclaimed theatre production ‘Wild Dogs Under My Skirt’, keeps her active and out of trouble.

I open up the open mic part of the evening and read one poem. The people who follow me are amazing and it is so great to be somewhere on a night such as this one, that seems so very hopeful. I know this is not the case for many people  in America those who are not white  heterosexual cis gendered, which is actually a great chunk of people, whiteness is not the status quo people perceive it to be.

I got to talk intently with a beautiful queer woman who was doing her thesis on queer post apocalyptic young adult fiction. We had the same name and it was like we were two peas in a pod. I had been drinking some sparkling and I said, ”Do you think the most revolutionary thing we could do tonight, is to go home and make love to our non cis gender white  partners?” She laughs and says that is a wonderful idea.  It is here at this gathering of people who are talented writers and speakers and movers and shakers. Here, poetry was in power for a few precious moments.

 

I go home and I do make love. It seems like the only thing to do that was in my reach.

 

“later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered
everywhere
everywhere
everywhere.” WARSAN SHIRE

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