Friday, September 28, 2007

Slight glitch in plan for world domination

As I procrastinate a bit more over today's novel writing session, I'm pondering the latest email I received. My short play Rise didn't make it onto the final list for Short and Sweet Melbourne, although it was one of 5 NZ plays to be shortlisted. Oh well. I might still head over there, to breathe in the exciting vibe. This was the first international play festival that I *nearly* got into!!

I found out about the shortlisting a couple of weeks ago, at the end of a rather exciting week, literary-wise. In one week I got a short story published in the Listener, did a televised poetry performance (admittedly an indie channel - Alt TV - though it was "nationwide"), got paid for teaching poetry, became a literary reviewer, and had someone express early interest in my novel!

However, proving the laurels start to itch on the bum if you sit still for too long, it's now obviously time to start sweating blood (as one author has famously described the process of writing a novel)... beep, time up, procrastination period over - ciao!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Slam poems

Thought I'd post the poems that I referred to in the post below. These are performance not page poems, as are some of the other poems I've already posted! The Slam was recorded, so I might at some stage be able to get the audio version of these up.


There is a country between us
farmed blue cotton valleys
embroidered with small daisies

not quite a gulf
not yet
a bridge

your hand sleeps
coiled near my pillow
veins veiled conduits

to your dim shape
that curls
beneath still-drawn sheets

the terrain fogged,
blurred blinds
holding back the tide.

After the machines had ceased
their messy business,
after the hand holding and tears

nights I left a space
your side of the bed
your body

heavier on mine
than before, darkness
blooming brightness

as I found your limbs
entangling mine. Sometimes
you left the smell of your hands

on my skin
smoothed along silk rippled
pyjamas, our pulsating bodies

hunched beneath the surface
as if damming the flow
of unswerving sheets

and I let my hands rise
along the line of your back
counting each vertebral bump

until I reached
your traitorous skull,
and forgave.

But now
the tide is rising.

It rises
foaming over barricades
it rises
bright and unkind
through slashed blinds
it rises
thrusting cruel fingers
along bedded valleys
into unwilling eyes
it rises
sharp surgical steel
and cold clinical light
sucking your body back
under the fold of night
it rises
the sheets drawing tight again
over your face,

the light stabbing
through the X ray
stuck stiff on a box
the clot of blood seen hooked
between the spidered tissue paper
of the arachnoid mater
and your drowned brain
the clock
too fast

the sheets are empty
the dark day
erases even
the warm stain
of a hand

on my pillow

To a Husband
Medicine is my lawful wife and literature my mistress.” Anton Chekhov.
The keys are on the bench
still warm from nine years and nine months
in my white coat pocket,
nine years of wearing my name and a smile
hung from a rope around my neck.

The keys. Still warm,
worn from trying to fit
to so many locks, so many stories,
to histories,
none of which fit me.

I wrote them all down.
Wrote them down, in handwriting that slid
off the page when I was tired,
scuffed my shoes down lino corridors
the right heel wearing down first

pushed buttons on a machine to strengthen
the coffee
washed my hands between patients
tried to take only one towel each time
kept smiling.

In the early days when we went out
I remember how proudly I wore
the white coat you gave me
the heady feel of your gloved hands in mine
the beat of the oximeter marking our breaths

but even then you demanded of me
absolute devotion,
jealous of my time,
piling rosters and journals and exams
against my escape on Saturday nights.

Once you put your arm around me
whispered we'd be together forever no matter what
but, barren
I milked the smiles of babies
belonging to others.

You woke me at nights
to ask if I still loved you.
You chained a telltale canary to my hip
to remind me of my promises.
You had me constantly watched.

When I found someone else to love
I couldn’t tell you. I don't know why.
You found out in the end anyway
you in your pinched mouth
prim pouted way,

you with your contracts
your rosters
and your moving goal posts. In the end
I just couldn't run fast enough
and there you still stood blowing your whistle.

Honey, I tried. Sorry it didn't work out.
The keys are on the bench.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Lumiere article

The article I wrote on Alison Wong has just been published here - I am now offically an arts reviewer! I am also to be published in the Listener this weekend - the short story I won the competition with.

Going West Poetry Slam

Had an amaaazing night on Saturday at the Going West Slam - a big hall so full they ran out of chairs, and at least 44 people ready to take the stand and read poetry - can you believe it! I think the West is way ahead of the rest of Auckland in terms of art appreciation. Let that be a challenge!

It was really nice being just one of the competitors for a change as well. One of the downsides of being a Slam organiser is that often you don't have the chance to flex your own creative talons. So instead of working on my novel (Jen I hope you're not reading this!) I spent all day memorising and rehearsing my three pieces (Aubade, Poetry Evangelism and To a Husband)and managed to get to perform all three of them, by getting through to the finals and getting second place again (I was pipped at the post by my good friend Tim Heath).

A very nice review has been put up by the well respected literary journal Leaf Salon, too. Though I don't know what all this is about "Country calendar". Slams bring out the royalty of poetry, don't ya know!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Poetry Evangelism

hey you over there
ever stopped to wonder at
The Word?

hey you
reality isn't Big Brother
or some chick shaking her ass
at some guy groping blind and blinded
no matter how sweet her ass is,
reality isn't a blonde tart with way less class
than the French city she's named for
and no matter how many times you drive to the gym
you'll never look like her
not even with surgery

wearing your hoodie
so you can't see out the sides
pretending the whole world
wants a piece of you
doesn't hide who you really are
doesn't hide
the bruises inside
your burnt out eyes
and the way you stand naked on a stage
and pretend you're not here

hey you
take your earbuds out
listen to the snap
of your synapses sparking
smell the smell of roses
pale cream
stirred through with strawberry
and see how a seagull
slides on the shore
of a blue September morning

don't look away
I'm standing on this kerb for a reason.
I'm here to spread
the Lore of the Word.
just cos I'm holding a piece of chalk
doesn't mean I'm crazy
does it?
I'm out here
on Queen St on a Saturday night
to save your soul
with the Lore of the Word.

For you
I would lay myself down on the pavement
I would wear the crown of council thorns
I would wave my palms at policemen
I would eat the dust
and spit it back out for you in Words

Don't look at me like that.
don't look at me like I'm
a short Asian chick with issues
I'm not
a social refugee
or politically correct physician
or crazy nutter
though I could be
all of those things
if I wanted.

I am
the mirror
you hold yourself up to
the one you go to bed with
and the one you wake up to
if only you could.

Crack open
your sterile supermarket soul
take a handful of my words and crunch them
better than Hubbard's cereal
and way better
than John Banks in the morning.

slide the words round on your tongue
feel them melt
taste the salty-sweet-bitterness of them
try swallowing one long and whole
or suck it slowly
you could even
go to bed with a Poem
have more than one
at the same time
make them do whatever you want

Poems are good
for all sorts of things

but most of all

This one kind of just grew out of one of those "what-if" conversations I had with my friend Kirby a few weeks ago. It's been a while in the making too - this is draft 5...

The Fix


they called it
as if only women
could get lost
as if
the uterus twisted suddenly free
of its clawed Fallopian cage
landed like a cat on pelvic rubble
played hide and seek
in the twisted and twisting passageways
of her body

they said
she must be depressed
as if the mine shafts in her brain
had suddenly collapsed
leaving only her feet poking out
for rescuers

there's a probe
on her foot
in time with
her heart


he told her once
he loved her. Only once.
That was the night
he kissed her with his hard tongue
and later
when she lifted her bruised hips
from the mattress on the floor
of the villa in Ponsonby
she saw that he had left her five dollars


she was
lucky they said
(the gloved and gloving fingers
unravelling her)
the tube sliding
from between her
clamped and silent legs
her clamped and silent mind
Shhhhhh they said

she was lucky
it was only a baby
that he was notorious
that she was naive
that she should have known better
than to trust a man with a tattoo
of a tiger on his torso
Shhhhhhh they said

to breathe
and she smells the sweet sweet gas
watches the sweet milk
slide slowly deliciously into her arm
her body bare and breasts
fried crisp white
tucked in
with four neat triangular corners and baked for forty minutes


and she thinks
of her underwear
folded neatly beside
her head


and she thinks
of the pink teddy bear
she bought

and her parents


and the mask comes
down and down
down and down


Been on a bit of a poetry writing binge, probably prompted by the need to have something new for the Slam tonight. This one written last night.


my father
teaches Marcus
to say


eight limbs wrapped round
two heads
two full bellies
a kitchen table in springtime


strands of speech
scissor dull eardrums
with wonder

Good Boy!

an arthropod gains the edge
of a precipice
looks down
widens with newness

Good Boy!

his inevitable conclusion


and my father
hi-fi owner
nature-lover and
hugs his small grandson
weaves the weft thread tight.

Been working on this one for a while. Still trying to get it right.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

appearing on the dark side

Despite my declared hatred of TV and popular media I am delighted to announce that I appeared on TV today, as an "Asian poet" on Asia Downunder, an ethnic magazine-style programme.

(click on Chapter 2 to jump straight to the story on me).

They did a reasonable job of it and made me out to be quite articulate, which is a relief. It helps to be an unknown, and also a writer, as journalists (who also see themselves as writers but need to make a living) tend to be nice to you. Or so I've found so far (touch wood).