Poetry Slam State Finals Here I Come

Last Wednesday night, in some god-awful wet and windy weather, I travelled to Geelong with my writer friend Zoe Werner. We both competed in the Australian Poetry Slam heat being held at the Geelong Regional Libraries.

It was a fantastic night of passionate poetry and I was very proud of myself for coming second! This means that I am off to compete at the Victorian Finals on Friday 4 October at the State Library, Melbourne.

See the video of me performing this poem at Words Out Loud or you can listen to the audio and read the text below.

No Pockets
We never switch off.
And it’s any wonder we’ve got so many balls in the air.
No pockets, see?
But we can’t surreptitiously fondle them like you do on the train.
Or at work. In a queue. On the couch. At the cricket. In a lift.
We too manipulate constantly
To avoid dropping the ball
Coz that shit’ll get you killed, man.
We keep juggling until the terror is back in the back of our minds.
We keep cool.
We keep our hands where you can see them.
We keep our shirts on.
We keep cracking our perfect non-committed smile
Like a dropped egg’s thick yolk
Reminiscent of the blood that stained the grouting that one time
But he didn’t mean it.
We’re on our hands and knees, scrubbing
To ensure we don’t end up on the evening news.
We run surveillance.
We run to the other side of the street.
We run a constant stream of ‘what will I do if he does that’.
We’ve run home, balls to the wall like harpies
To find our secret safe places drawn upon by sharpies.
Yours truly, dicks & balls.
Your genitalia emblazoned across the paper, and the paper-thin walls.
You turkey-slap us on the train.
At work. In a queue. On the couch. At the cricket. In a lift.
And you can’t understand why we keep walking home with our keys
In our fists like some kind of budget wolverine?
Well, it’s simple.
No pockets.

Flashback Friday – On The Same Frequency

I had such a good time recently on air on The Arts Program on 99.9 Voice FM as a guest presenter, that I’ll be doing it semi-regularly. Sitting in the studio is always a beautifully nostalgic place for me, because it takes me back to my formative years and reminds me of how connected I am to my parents.

I first did community radio in my early teens. I spent three hours every Sunday opposite my dad Bill Elder in the studios at the local community radio station for the better part of two (or maybe three?) years.

Our show was called ‘That Sunday Feeling’, a nod to Jethro Tull’s song ‘My Sunday Feeling’, which also served as our intro theme tune. We made our own promos, which usually featured a stupid and funny sound bite from films like ‘Cable Guy’ or shows like ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’ or ‘Rocko’s Modern Life’. We talked and laughed about anything and everything, and played music from Steely Dan to Sade, Billy Joel to The Beetles. I introduced my dad to Alanis Morissette, Evanescence and Jamiroquai. We often played long Prog Rock songs so we could have an extended afternoon tea break, and once we played Jeff Wayne’s ‘War of The Worlds’ in its entirety.

It was in these years that I also wrote a musical with my Dad. It was about cryptic crosswords, which we completely religiously at the dinner table every night. My Dad taught me to play Tenor Horn at the age of 8 and we continued to work together at the local Concert Band. He was the Band Master, and I became the Librarian for a stint, spending weekends sorting dodgy copies of sheet music in a dingy back room of the Band Hall.

I would lie to my friends and say my parents were strict and wouldn’t let me go out to that party or let my out-of-towner friends sleep over. I usually just put the phone down on my lap for a minute while I “went to ask”. I told my parents later what they’d supposedly refused just in case. I would then happily spend my Saturday nights watching The Bill, Poirot or a David Attenborough documentary. Or finished the cryptic crossword or playing Solo, or Canasta, or Scrabble.

I’d still rather hang out with my parents than most other people I know. They’re my kind of people. It’s their love of music, words and humour and their dedication to community  and family that has shaped my own values and also my career path. I’m so grateful to have their support as my parents, and as my children’s grandparents, but I also count them as my best friends.

Where my heart is
There are four people in whose company
I would rather spend my time
Than anywhere else on earth
As a girl I would lie to my friends and say
My mother wouldn’t let me play
Because I would rather be at home
Where my heart is
As a woman I am thankful to say
I cannot come along for my children are sleeping
Because I would rather be at home
Where my heart is
Why search for it in some man, some girls night out, some party noise
When it’s right here
It was never missing
We are bound forever by more than blood
By a sing-a-long and seven across, native grass and muddy boots
Sticky dough, british tv shows and laughter
I am the sum of their parts and more
I am me and what have I been put on this earth for
If not to love them
My mother told me that I cannot ask too much of her
And I give my children to her
Because she too is their mother
And my father is the only father here
One day when we three are old
My children will return the favour
And so we link arms to face the day together
Why waste another day alone when I could live in this village
Where all my efforts count for everything
Where I am free to love and be loved
I will be healed at the centre of the universe
Where my heart is
January 2018

I Can’t Get Enough of Spoken Word

I’ve fallen in love with spoken word. I’m not so interested in acting anymore, but I really enjoy the feeling of performing poetry aloud. Being able to read the poetry I write aloud enables an additional level of catharsis, and being a thespian at heart means most of my poems are best experienced as spoken word, rather than read off the page.

Every month, Words Out Loud runs an open-mic spoken word event in Ballarat. When I go, I always meet some great like-minded people and share some of my poetry in a five minute set. You can hear my set from last month’s Words Out Loud online.

I’m pleased to have been invited to perform a set as part of the Words Out Loud spoken word event at Clunes Booktown on Sunday May 5th.

On Saturday 11th May, I’m going to be running a spoken word workshop for Art In Dereel. Using participants’ original writing or a variety of existing texts – including poetry, informal prose, dramatic monologue and political speeches – we’ll explore structure, dynamics and rhythm in the delivery of text and learn techniques to engage audiences. The workshop will be followed by an open-mic Spoken Word event.

The next Words Out Loud is on Thursday April 18th. I’ll be there with bells on, will you?

Flashback Friday – Poem – “Mistress of The House”

This poem about my Nanna, who passed away in October 2016, was written shortly afterwards. It was then part of the Minerva Speaks project in March 2017.

A performer read the poem as Minerva from the highest balcony of the Ballaarat Mechanics Institute while audience stood in the Titanic Bandstand and listened to the live broadcast of local literary works.

 

 

The Mistress of The House
A poem for my Nanna.

A yellow brick house called Remuera
Full of wonders
Silver bells and tiny shells
For playing bridge
We use as money for a shop
Stop and hide the thimble now
Go and look with nimble fingers
Turning over precious things
And sneaking through the Den
Getting warmer
Warmer still
Our hearts fill up with love
For our Nanna
Calm and safe and a little bit stern
But a twinkle in her eye
Tiddly-winkle
And so many wrinkles
I take her hand
And pinch her skin to see how quickly
It falls back into place
She commands her space
From a brown chair
She is always there it seems
At Clairmont Ave
Baking rock cakes
And making cumquat jam
Squatting in the garden
And popping up to Bentleigh shops
Gently guiding us and showing us
The best way to be kind
The be funny, to be bold
To be thankful and to be old and wise
In this guise it’s harder to see
That in her youth she was a beauty
But more than that
She was courageous
Her stories tell of places far away and foreign
Of black boys and lost boys
And little graves on islands out to sea
Of colourful hats made beacons
And of four sisters dark and bright
We cast our minds back to a beach
Where Nanna dives into the surf
And smiles ruddy-checked and sticky with salt
We can taste that curried egg
And soup and bread
And at the back of our throats now
A lump is forming
All the ferns and camellia are still
Adorning her front door
But the mistress of the house is there no more.

Flashback Friday – Poem “Another Scorcher”

I maintain that a flashback to a month ago still counts. I wrote this poem in the middle of the night, by the light of a streetlight on a random piece of paper near my bed. I read it at last month’s Words Out Loud but unfortunately my set was not recorded so it’s performance was not kept for prosperity.

Another Scorcher
The sheets radiate heat like the mirage
Shimmering off the sticky black tarmac
I can’t stand the street light but I have no choice
But to sleep with the windows open
Desperate for any breath of air
The sound of a baby crying wakes me in the night
It takes a minute to realise it’s not mine

In the morning I’m thankful that I don’t have to endure
The public transport torture
As I batten down the hatches
Bracing for another scorcher
I am reminded of the days when I could
Shove open the carriage windows
And feel the sea breeze in my hair
All the way down the Frankston line

The evening meal is cold meat and salads
It’s too hot to turn on the gas
And I feel sorry for those poor fools
Dripping in front of the fryers at my local F&C
But I order anyway and eat chips with gravy
Until the cool change arrives around nine

January 4, 2019

Christmas Is Now

I hope everyone had a good day yesterday although I’m aware that this is absolutely not “the most wonderful time of the year” for a lot of people. And despite my attempted avoidance of all things Christmas (see my previous blog post), I did end up opening presents under a tree with my children at seven am and Santa is definitely gaining a foothold in reality. I had lunch with extended family at my grandmother’s house. The food was delicious, we spent the afternoon at the beach and the kids were enchanted by new toys and books given by generous members of my family.

I’ve been reading about Buddhism lately and thinking about the principles of Impermanence and Emptiness. Impermanence is about how everything – and everyone – changes all the time. Emptiness teaches us to actively challenge your biased thinking when approaching situations and people, because they will have changed since last time – and so will have you.

So with all of this in mind, I was less comfortable than ever at this annual family event. It seems odd to lunch with strangers once a year, pretending we all know each other based on an increasingly distant shared past. On that train of thought, a poem sprang to life.

Christmas Is Now
If I lunched with strangers
They’d ask me how I was
What I do for a buck
What fires me up
Where I got that dress and
Who does my hair
But these familiar strangers
Think they already know
So comfortable is their cushioned bias
They sit deep in the memory of me
Like the soft middle of the matriarch’s well-worn chair
I’m so strangely familiar
A ghost of Christmas past
My ageless form keeps getting invited back to lunch
My reality becomes the uninvited guest
Who refused to bring their platter of
Sweet-toothed custard-covered past
Nothing is the same since I was first brought here
Swaddled
I’ve had my heart broken
I’ve fallen down, and got myself back up again
I’ve grown two people inside my belly
I’ve lived a life they haven’t seen
But Christmas is now
Lift those paper crowns that obscure your view
Embrace the false gunshot pain
As paper crackers never stop delivering change
I’m sitting at the head of the table
Chewing too loudly
Asking to be treated like a stranger
Refusing to be the little girl who used to be me

25 December 2018

Flashback Friday – Poem “Parent-thesis”

I love this poem so much that it now forms the opening of my newest play, The Let-Down Reflex.

I wrote it in June 2017 and it really does reflect the every day lived experience of parents. The Let-Down Reflex is currently in development and will be having a work-in progress showing on Thursday 24th January at Ballarat Trades Hall. Come along!

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