The Last Free Man and Other Stories

The Last Free Man and Other Stories

Lewis Woolston

Truth Serum Press 2019


The Last Free Man and Other Stories is the debut story collection from Alice Springs writer Lewis Woolston.

I was captivated by Woolston’s writing, a mixture of honesty and true-blue Australian-ism we don’t often see, these stories teleport the reader into the Australian outback. The outback is a place of drifters, stories, and backpackers. It’s a place you don’t stay unless you’re running from something.

Filled with stories from multiple perspectives and set roadhouses and other remote work around Alice Springs, the Nullarbor, and many other areas, Woolston has creates a picture of a quiet, nomadic life-style with the potential to make money and leave or, alternatively, live a quiet life away from the big smoke.

One of my favourite stories in this collection was ‘Driftwood’. Set across Brisbane, Perth, Mundrabilla, and Adelaide this story follows the main character and his relationship with Helen from their first meeting in Brisbane to their working and intimate lives. What I like most about this story is that is seems to give a wider picture of the characters’ lives, including Justin and Helen’s friend Louise, who are more than just supporting characters in the main characters’ easy-going love story.

Certainly, this isn’t a short story collection everyone will enjoy, like many Australian stories these might seem quite strange to some. Features such as curse words, outback slang, and drug use might be off-putting to some audiences; however, the no-fuss inclusion of these things is something I personally found comforting. Not often do you come across coarse language in a book that feels like it ought to be there. In Tim Winton’s work, certainly. But many writers do not do it well. Woolston’s inclusion of swear words throughout his stories spoke more about a cultural approach to these words and to the people; the drifters of the outback roadhouses, recovering addicts, and those who wanted to escape something.

I would recommend Woolston’s work to other readers of Australian fiction, particularly those who, like me, have not had the experience of being out there meeting eccentric personalities and learning how to maintain an awareness of what’s around you in face of Australia’s diverse and threatening wildlife.

To purchase a copy of Woolston’s book visit: https://truthserumpress.net/catalogue/fiction/the-last-free-man-and-other-stories/.

Words by Kayla Gaskell

Playing God

Playing God
Morton Benning
Stone Table Books, 2017


With a wry humour reminiscent of Terry Pratchett, Morton Benning treats the reader to a quest fit for any lover of role-playing fantasy games. Playing God explores the fallacy of making yourself a god – something ‘God Avatar’ Jeff created the entire digital world of Utopia to do. When the A.I. of Jeff’s game world malfunctions and turns on him, he finds himself trapped in Utopia. His quest to get back to the real world forces him into a party of rag-tag travellers including a cleric-in-training, an elf, a loveable little cat-creature, fairies of an aquatic variety and a surly goblin. Through a series of misadventures, Jeff is forced to unlearn his selfish ways and see the importance of helping others and working as part of a team.

This is a book that will certainly appeal to a teenage audience. It is easy to read and the story feels a lot like a madcap Dungeons & Dragons campaign. That being said, while the plot is plentiful in encounters with monsters and the odd flesh-eating tree, it doesn’t delve much into character. Jeff is easily the most developed character, but at times when he isn’t present the story feels a little more stagnant with other key characters such as Keenley, Turnshoe, and Miyako coming off as a touch shallow. This is a little disappointing given that Keenley is, arguably, the main character – not Jeff.

There is also a bit of ensemble-cast-syndrome going on as sometimes it feels a little like there are too many people in the party, to the point where none of them truly get to shine – something not uncommon in D&D style fantasies in which a big party is common.. The pacing can also be slow in parts, particularly when the characters are travelling, but this is made up for by the action-packed sequences peppered in-between.

The concept behind Playing God is a compelling one. What is it like to be one of the NPCs inhabiting a game world? It’s the kind of angle rarely examined – the exceptions being the likes of Viva La Dirt League’s Epic NPC Man series on YouTube. With a similar turn towards humour, Benning takes the NPC experience a step forward by looking at how the characters in Utopia react to their creator, Jeff, whose decidedly 21st century quips and analogies leave Keenley and co baffled.

Overall, this is a playful and enjoyable debut.

Playing God is available to purchase through Stone Table Books.

3/5 stars


Words by Lisandra Linde

In Conversation: J R Koop

J R Koop is a fantasy writer from Adelaide whose debut novel, Racing the Sun, was released on April 12 this year. Koop has spent years building up her world and her novel to the completed version we see today. The self-published book is available in paperback or as an ebook on all major ebook retailers. Racing the Sun is a queer throw-back to Sleeping Beauty and a tribute to her fiancé, Salsabil Hafiz, set in a South-Asian inspired land. Tulpa’s Kayla Gaskell had the opportunity to chat with Koop about the book and her writing journey.

Having already spent time shopping her book to traditional publishers, earlier this year Koop decided it was time to self-publish her long-time project, Racing the Sun. A stand alone in her fantasy world of Abrecan, Koop has spent four years developing the novel. From a first draft with a typically Western setting, Racing the Sun has come so far. Koop decided to alter the novel after feedback from Hafiz suggesting Koop make it “more interesting”.

And by interesting, she means diverse. Racing the Sun has a wide spectrum of characters ranging from the blind oracle, Taeng, through to the PTSD and chronic-pain suffering faerie Qadira. With plenty of input from a variety of sources and sensitivity readers, Koop says “a lot of people helped make this book what it is and made sure I’d written in a non-offensive and accurate way.”

Set in a South-Asian inspired land, Koop says that the conflict between the Praitosi Empire and Delorran was reminiscent of the conflict between India and Pakistan. While this is a fantasy, Koop was sure to discuss these allusions with friends and sensitivity readers, keeping in mind that the world is inspired by ours but at the same time very much its own. The novel turns away from a more traditional Western-centric fantasy vision, presenting more POC than not. When asked about this choice, Koop replied: “If I just wrote white characters it would be a boring world.”

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In terms of challenges, Koop’s greatest one was accepting that Racing the Sun was finished. She says: “I could keep staring at it for years, or I could put it out there.” Having done countless edits on the manuscript Koop says she was starting to wonder when it would be enough. Once the decision was made, Koop turned her mind to researching self-publishing where-upon she settled on a joint e-publication and print-on-demand package with publishing service IngramSpark. Koop didn’t want the limitations of e-publication to hold her back when so many readers who prefer physical books.

Koop goes on to discuss how expensive self-publishing her novel was, although she was lucky enough to engage an illustrator who has become a great friend. Sylvia Bi took to the project with enthusiasm and produced a gorgeous cover. Koop decided on an illustrator for her book because she wanted Racing the Sun to have a professional feel as well as take a little of the pressure off of the process.

In earlier drafts of the novel, Koop says there was a pronunciation guide to help readers with the many and varied unfamiliar terms, however, in the final version this was scrapped. “I kept adding to it, there are too many things in this list, people might get scared.” Like with many fantasy novels however, Koop confirms that you can easily pick up the terminology as you go.

The world of Abrecan is already a vibrant alternate world and Racing the Sun is just the beginning. A stand-alone within the world, Koop has plenty of plans in various stages of completion to bring more of Abrecan to life. As she says: “people are just coming across this one book, they’re not seeing the other works just yet.” With more than twenty folders of ideas on her shelf, there is always something to work on. Her next project is a circus novella set in a French-based area, although she also has plans for a Cinderella retelling and an Egyptian-based retelling of Cupid and Psyche.

 

To keep up with Koop, follow her on Twitter or Instagram or visit her website.


 

Words by Kayla Gaskell
Images provided by Jasmine Koop

Racing the Sun

44330028Reading Racing the Sun by J.R. Koop was like taking a deep breath of fresh air. Set in a Southern Asian inspired fantasy kingdom and with a queer love story at the centre, this Young Adult work is bright against its heavily heteronormative, and predominately Western-based peers. After the soul is stolen out of her secret lover’s chest by a sorceress bent on resurrecting the Ashen God, Rahat must race through the dangerous jungle to save both her lover and her kingdom.

Koop’s writing flows easily and is very fun to read. Her characters and their relationships, especially between family members, are engaging and well-formed. The passages with the faerie, Qaidra, were some of the book’s best they provided much of the lore and world-building background for the work. Qaidra is a being that has suffered and the glimpses into her past were sharply drawn and helped flesh out the faerie into a strikingly memorable figure. That said, I do think the world of Abrecan  could have done with a little more world-building in terms of the lore of the Gods and the significance of the faerie Rapture; at times it felt as though the author expected you to be privy to the inner workings of the world without the full breadth of that insider knowledge quite making it to the page. However, the world-building that was present was rich and interesting – Koop clearly has a vivid, active imagination and lots of love for the things she creates.

The politics of this novel – Rahat and Iliyah, her lover, are both of the ruling class but cannot be together: instead Rahat is promised to Iliyah’s brother to unite their kingdom – add tension to the plot and a desperation to Rahat that endears her to her readers. Although, again, I would have benefitted from a tiny bit more of an explanation about the things that prevent Rahat and the girl she loves from being together, especially given the reason for their separation – Iliyah’s service to a God as a dream weaver – proves to be easily dismissed at the end by the powers that be.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which felt like a good mix of Neil Gaimen, Garth Nix, and Audrey Coulthurst. There’s lots to love in Racing the Sun: the rich world of Abrecan; the sweet love story; the love and encouragement between family members; the unusual range of creatures and beasts (I loved the mechanical horses, they were my absolute favourites); the adventure. This novel is a refreshing addition to the YA genre, and I am excited to see what Koop produces next.

Four Stars.


 

Words by Riana Kinlough

In Conversation with: Quart Shorts Collective

Recently, Tulpa Magazine had the chance to put a few to Janet, Ben, and Patrick, three members of the Quart Shorts collective.

Where did the idea for Quart Short come from?

Ben: The demise of the Spineless Wonders reading nights, something of an Adelaide institution that ran at the Wheatsheaf Hotel. I only ever attended one Spineless Wonders event, which I seem to remember was their last. I was impressed by the quality of the writing, and intrigued by the use of professional actors – something that immediately set them apart from other reading nights, more usually built around writers reading their own work, and not always very well! I was sad to see Spineless Wonders end, and initiated a conversation with founder Caroline Reid about whether it might be continued under a different team, perhaps even a different name. It seemed too good a concept to allow to disappear. For understandable reasons, though, Caroline was not interested, so the idea fell away again until one night, over a few too many glasses of red no doubt, Janet and I decided to bite the bullet and start our own reading night, borrowing the Spineless Wonders format – poetry and prose read by actors, and interspersed with live music – but giving it our own unique twist. We also felt that we had a chance to fill a niche in the Adelaide arts and cultural scene, which in 2016 seemed to have a paucity of live reading nights. How wrong we were! It’s extraordinary how vibrant the spoken word scene has become in Adelaide in the last few years. It was a beautiful surprise to suddenly find ourselves rubbing shoulders with the likes of The Hearth, Soul Lounge, Draw Your (S)words, and others, and even more amazing to find it wasn’t the same thirty people rocking up to each one – there seemed to be a genuine diversity of audiences hungry for live readings.

 

Janet: We are enormously indebted to Spineless Wonders and their initial concept, but we added the innovation of working as a collective and seeking original submissions from writers across Australia.

 

Patrick: We evolved from the readings staged by Spineless Wonders at the Wheatsheaf Hotel about 5 or 6 years ago. I was cast to read a few stories and sharing the experience with the other actors involved, I realised it was a rewarding experience for both actors and writers. We’re very grateful to Caroline Reid for her many hours volunteering to make these nights happen.

 

 

What makes Quart Short stand out from other spoken word/literary nights?

Ben: Our use of actors. Our focus on short stories rather than poems. Our use of live music, not just as background but as an integral part of the audience experience. I also think our openness and inclusivity – unlike some other reading nights, we don’t cater solely to young audiences or strongly appeal to those with academic backgrounds. In this regard, I think we’ve always been a little bit uncool next to some of our (friendly!) rivals, and perhaps a little old-fashioned in respect of our preference for solid, well-crafted pieces rather than innovation for its own sake. There is a confessional flavour to a lot of spoken word, which I think we’ve always tried to steer clear of, not because it’s not important  but because we feel it is just not for us.

 

Janet: The actors. Our ‘mission statement’ if you like is ‘good stories well told’. Patrick Frost has been a professional actor for over 40 years He also knows and has worked with actors with many years of experience. After Ben, Lisandra and I have selected the stories to be read on the night Patrick reads each story, decides which actor would suit the story, including the narrative voice, and then contacts that actor. He sends them a copy of the story, discusses the story with the actor, and what we might be looking for on the night and then, several days before the event the actors rehearse the story. Each actor is encouraged to bring their sense of what the story is trying to achieve, and say, to their reading. This intense collaboration makes for good literature and good ‘theatre’. Many of our writers are astonished when they hear the invariably nuanced, sensitive and professional readings of their stories.

 

Patrick: As Janet points out, we badged ourselves with ‘good stories, well told’ – so, our big point of difference is the actors’ voices, reading as narrators with character, nuance and sometimes, emotion to bring the stories to life. I’ve often described it as storytime for grown-ups!

 

 

What is the process for selecting stories?

Janet: I look for well-conceived, thoughtful, interesting narratives, a strong narrative voice and, because I am fussy about editing, material that’s free of grammatical and spelling errors.

 

Ben: The collective – Janet, Lisandra, and myself – each read the stories, and make comments and recommendations. I think there is a Quart Shorts-style piece (as our website has it: ‘we are looking for stories that surprise, delight, and challenge; themes, characters, and plots that make the mind whirl or the heart jump; and stories that will sound great when read aloud’) although personal preference – taste, dare I say it – can’t help but come into it. We robustly discuss our selections, and try to reach agreement. Sometimes this process is a joy, when our curatorial stars align, and sometimes it is painful, when, for example, we just don’t seem to be able to convince the others that we’ve found the next Raymond Carver or Alice Munro! I think curation is the right word here. It is not simply about the pieces in isolation, it is about crafting something like a journey for the audience to go on, and about getting the balance between different forms, styles, and themes, and between light and dark, funny and sad, and so on.

 

Patrick: I can leave the selection to Janet, Ben and Lisandra as they look for strong narratives or sometimes other aspects of story that will work well on the audience when read aloud. Sometimes they’ll ask me to read a story to see if I agree it will have resonance, be thought provoking, funny or perhaps controversial.

 

 

How do you feel Quart Short has grown over its lifetime?


Janet:
It’s hard, from my perspective inside the collective, to answer this. If it has grown it is because of the hard work of the four organisers.

 

Ben: We have been fortunate to have had big audiences from the beginning, and still average around fifty per night, and sometimes more, which amounts to a very full-feeling space when the venue’s capacity is only one hundred. Our brand recognition has increased hugely, and it’s been nice to have been recognised by, for example, the Salisbury Writers Festival, which had us on a panel on Adelaide’s spoken word scene last year alongside members of The Hearth and Soul Lounge. To be honest, though, we have never been great at promoting ourselves. I think if Quart Shorts had a personality type it would be an introvert, the shy eccentric in the corner who looks interesting to talk to. Most of our growth and recognition has come, I think, from word-of-mouth, which is very powerful in a city as small as Adelaide. Over time, I think we have come to feel increasingly valued within Adelaide’s arts scene, particularly by the actors who seem to relish getting up in front of large groups of strangers and potentially making fools of themselves – how strange!

 

Patrick: I think principally, our growth has been with audiences. People seem to want to share the experience with their friends as if there is some comfort in being read to. There’s always a long list of people tagging their friends below our posts announcing the next reading night. One thing I would like to do is survey our audiences to ascertain the frequency of their attendance, their interests, their connections to writing or performance.

Most of our growth has been organic, I think. Social media has helped us connect at low cost, the music we stage each night creates more following, the writers whose work is chosen often bring friends and family, too.

 

 

Why are the events organised around the seasons?

Janet: Personally, I cannot remember, but it might have been for convenience and to give the collective, who all have busy lives, a breather between readings. I think we decided four readings a year was a good number and the concept of seasonal readings, quarterly readings, led to the name ‘Quart Shorts’, i.e. short stories read every quarter!

 

Ben: I don’t think this was planned. My memory is that the name Quart Shorts came first and, with that in place, it seemed to logically follow that we would hold the event four times a year. It does seem to have caused some confusion, though, with people thinking our events are themed around the seasons.

 

Patrick:  The ‘salon’ idea seemed to lend itself to a seasonal approach, and hence, the name Quart Shorts to indicate short stories read quarterly.

 

 

 

Why Bibliotheca as a venue?

Ben: As well as being beautiful, intimate, and centrally located, the bar doubles as a book exchange so it made sense for lots of reasons. The owners, Marina and Roman, have always made us feel welcome, particularly I think because we drink a lot of whisky.

 

Janet: Bibliotheca has been outstandingly supportive and have never charged us for the venue. The proprietors have been marvellous and they seem to enjoy the readings as much as the public. It’s been a mutually satisfying and very productive relationship.

 

Patrick: As well as being a very cool little bar, Bibliotheca is a book exchange! It also creates a warm (or cool) atmosphere for each of our seasons. On a summer’s night the passing street traffic can even interact through the open window.

 

 

As an individual, what attracted you to Quart Short and what do you bring to the team? 

Janet: The idea, exemplified by Spineless Wonders, of having professional actors read short stories is what made me want to continue what Spineless started.

In addition, I have attended many ‘readings’ of both poetry and short stories over the years; some writers do a great job of reading their own work but, to be brutally honest, many do not. When I saw what an actor could do with a short story (or poem), the varied, nuanced, sensitive and thoughtfully paced readings that honoured both the author and the text, I was moved to try and keep alive what Spineless Wonders started in Adelaide.

I think I bring to the team is the idea choosing only polished, professional, carefully edited writing of a high standard – possibly too high! As a writer I understand the struggle to produce professional, high quality work. I can’t spell to save myself and I need to check and recheck the basic rules of grammar when I’m editing my own work. Editing and polishing is hard work but doing that work is what makes a writer a professional story teller and communicator.

I usually sit in on rehearsals – they are often held in my house – and I have learned that actors also have a ‘grammar’, not quite like the rules of written or spoken English, but a way of approaching a text, whether it be a play, poem or story, that involves certain conventions around how to use one’s body, one’s voice and ‘spirit’. Quart Shorts, ultimately, is about communication. If you are a writer or an actor and you want to communicate clearly, if you want to be understood, there are rules to help maximise communication and it’s best to learn and use them. So, yes, I am the ‘grammar Nazi’, but that’s only because I make so many mistakes myself!

 

Ben: Primarily, my love of the short story form. I have never understood the average reader’s aversion to it or its status as a sort of minor, bastard brother to the novel.   It’s great to see relatively new initiatives like the Short Story Festival celebrating the form but I still feel we have a way to go to recover and redeem the short story, and I hope in some small way Quart Shorts has been a part of that. In addition to my striking good looks and mordant wit , I bring to Quart Shorts a sharp, editor’s eye for good writing, a love of genre not necessarily shared by my colleagues, and an attentiveness to the relationship between form and content.

 

Patrick: I love reading out loud – it’s an ability every actor should be constantly refining. So, when Spineless Wonders was closed, I was very keen to join Ben, Janet and (initially) Annie Waters to make our version of a reading salon really come to life. Then, I discovered the casting of stories was a wonderful opportunity to share my love with other actors and give them an opportunity to shine!

 

What are your plans for the future of Quart Short?

Janet: At the moment things are up in the air, so watch this space.
Patrick: We’ll be taking some time out after Spring Shorts at the end of October to assess our ability to continue and, most likely stage at least one other specially focused salon in 2019.

 

Ben: A minor scoop for you: sadly, Quart Shorts will not be continuing as a quarterly reading salon after our final event for this year, Spring Shorts. While we hope to bring you one or two events per year in the future, we have found it increasingly hard to commit as much time as we would like to Quart Shorts and would prefer to gracefully bow out than to produce events of a lesser quality. We make this decision with a heavy heart but feel it is best for all concerned. We are incredibly grateful to all of the writers, readers, and musicians who have contributed so much during the last three years. For now, though, we are looking forward to a bumper Spring Shorts – and a well-earned rest after that!

 


Thanks to Ben Brooker, Janet Thomas, and Patrick Frost.

Submissions for Spring Shorts close on October 8th. Spring Shorts will be at the Bibliotheca Bar and Book Exchange on October 30.

You can find out more about Quart Shorts at their website or their Facebook page.

 

 

 

 

In Conversation: Malaika Gilani

In 2016 Malaika Gilani published her first poetry collection: Untold Journeys. She was seventeen. This year she has been a part of the global anthology, I Bared My Chest, comprising of 21 phenomenal women telling their stories. Recently I had the chance to interview this Melbourne-based poet and talk about inspiration, writing advice, and poetry.  

 

Could you give us a brief overview of your current published poetic work? What are its themes and what would you like your audience to know before reading it?

 
Untold Journeys is about everyday life. Things we all experience: friendship, family, body issues, and so much more. There is at least one poem in there that you can connect with. If the poems aren’t giving advice then they are there to show you that whatever you are going through, you are not alone. Someone is going through the exact same thing too.

 
What was it like publishing a poetry collection at seventeen?

 
It was amazing to be doing something that not many people have done. However, there have been rejections because I am too young and inexperienced. But who cares, life is all about the good. If we start focusing on the negatives then we won’t be able to live at all. I’ve loved it. The support from my family and friends has been a huge part of how I got here. They help me stay humble and enjoy this experience at the same time.

 
What inspires you to create poetry?

 
People, their experiences, and their lives.

 

If you could sum up what you would like your poetry to evoke what would you say?

 
You are not alone. We are all going through the same things. In the end, it’s the things within us that make us more alike than we will ever know.

 

Could you tell me a bit about I Bared My Chest? What was it like working with and collaborating with other artists to create this anthology?

 

You could say it was an interview of 21 authors in book form. All participants were given a series of questions to answer, to show people someone else has gone through the same thing as you and to show people that artists are not [all] geniuses. We are [people] like everyone else, anyone can achieve what we have.

It was amazing to work with people who are so much more experienced than I am. I learnt so much from them and was in awe of how wonderful and cooperative they were. Most importantly, I realised we were all normal humans – we disagreed, we celebrated, we got sad and angry and happy.

 
Have there been any books/authors/poets that have deeply inspired you? If so, what are they?

 
Sue Lawson and Jackie French.

Sue came to my school once when I was in year nine and has been in contact with me since. And Jackie is such an amazing and inspiring lady. I contacted her to review Untold Journeys and she has been a huge part of my life since. I email her and she instantly replies, giving me advice and encouragement.

 
What advice would you give to other poets and writers?

 
Rejections make you want it more. It makes everything more meaningful too. I appreciate my work and others’ so much more now because I know what hardships we all have to go through.

 

What has been the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

 
If we start focusing on the negatives then we won’t be able to live at all.

 
Are there any upcoming projects that we can be excited for?

 
For now, I am on hold. I am starting university, so I am going to focus on that for now. However, once I am done with my psychology degree I will think about whether or not I still want to focus on writing and continue my writing journey.

 


Gilani’s book is available for purchase on Amazon and you can follow her journey on both Facebook and Instagram.

 


Interview by Georgina Banfield.

‘Bob’s Truth’ By Emmica Lore

Bob was a goldfish. He lived in a fancy house with all the fancy trimmings – coloured pebbles, a deep-sea diver blowing bubbles and an ocean view. Bob was happy. Until he was not. Staring into the world beyond had Bob thinking about the meaning of life. Enter existential crisis.

He had always admired pelicans – they were imposing yet graceful (well that might be a stretch) and had the freedom to discover new lands and wistfully watch the creatures below.

It was morning, or maybe afternoon (how the hell would Bob know? He’s a goldfish) when an idea arrived. An epiphany. A light-bulb moment. An irrational thought from inhaling too many oxygen filled bubbles. Are bubbles filled with oxygen? Whatever science, who made you the boss of everything?

It was in that moment that Bob hatched a daring plan.

He was quite a fit-fish and it didn’t take long for him to achieve his goal. Plop! Bob had thrust himself out of the tank and was now lying belly-side on the carpet. He flapped about instinctively.

“Hmmm…well this sucks”.

As his last breath was drawn, the flapping stopped.

Bob’s soul rose from his tiny neon body and floated outside above a sandy shore. He could see a sleeping bird, no, a dead bird. Then, Bob had another epiphany. Wiggling his tail and using all of his fit-fish-soul muscles he drove downwards and into the chest of the stiff creature. Opening his eyes, the world seemed sharper and brighter. The smell of salt filled his nostrils and tickled his tongue.

Bob was now a pelican.

He stretched out his wings, pressed his webbed feet into the sand and savoured his breath as he inhaled real air for the very first time.

Bob flew from the beach to the jetty. From the jetty to the river. He discovered new lands and wistfully watched the creatures below. Bob was happy. Until he was not.

You see Bob was now a pelican and what do pelicans eat? He just couldn’t bring himself to dine on his fishy friends and so eventually Bob died of starvation.

And that is why you should never leave your fish bowl.

Or maybe it’s be happy with who you are?? Yeah, let’s go with that.

 


Words by Emmica Lore.

red skirtEmmica Lore is a creative person. She is a writer, poet and avid op-shopper who also makes art from time to time. Emmica is interested in sustainable style, philosophy, politics, art, feminism, whimsy and nature. You can find her on Instagram @emmicalorecreative

‘Bob’s Truth’ has also appeared on Lore’s website https://www.emmicalore.com/ and was previously featured in an exhibition.

 

Photo by Julieann Ragojo on Unsplash.

How to be Held

How to be Held

Maddie Godfrey

Burning Eye Books 2018


Maddie Godfrey is an Australian born poet from Western Australia who has moved on to spend time living and writing in both America and the UK. She has won poetry slams across two continents and her work has been featured on a number of international platforms. An astoundingly talented person, How to Be Held is Godfrey’s first book.

There were a number of standout poems in this collection, some being those I recognised from Godfrey’s Youtube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/madfrey22) and ‘Kissing’ which was featured on Button Poetry last year.

Godfrey’s work deals with a myriad of issues including gender politics, self-love, trauma, and self-preservation. She shares with us a deeply personal journey through love, loss, heartbreak, and exploitation, constantly calling into question the expectations of society about gender, violence, and trauma.

Much of Godfrey’s poetry explores the difference between the binary, however ‘Labels are for Jars’ protests this, explaining that sometimes a person might not fit the binary or fit the binary comfortably. As she talks about her father, Godfrey reflects on her own ideas of not fitting the binary and how important that it is to be accepted for who you are.

With a mixture of the personal and political, Godfrey includes her 2016 response to a neo-masculine organisation called “Return of the Kings”. Reading ‘Birthday Parties’ was a pressing reminder of the dangers of being a woman—a reminder that women must think and act in a way that will constantly secure their safety whether they are consciously thinking of it or not.

Godfrey follows this poem with ‘Meeting with Mountains’, comparing the differences between women being taught to take up less space whereas men that they can take up all the space. As the book progresses the poems soften allowing the reader to embrace a sense of warmth and familiarity.

Self-love and self-acceptance is another important theme which is explored throughout this collection. A number of poems read like letters to a future self, a comfort and an acknowledgement that the person you will become is not necessarily the person you are today. In ‘For Days When my Feminism Does Not Include Myself’, Godfrey writes:

“you do not realise how capable you are

of growing into future versions of yourself”

Such a simple sentiment and touching reminder that you are not locked in as the person you are today, instead you, and everyone around you, are constantly evolving as different events and experiences shape you and your future.

Intimate and deeply moving, Godfrey’s poetry focuses on the need and the will to survive, to move on from past ordeals and fight back against the traumatic experiences. Her words hold you captive and at the same time make you feel safe and acknowledged. Godfrey guides you through her book gently while at the same time boldly and bluntly acknowledging her own traumatic experiences. Throughout her message remains clearly positive, reiterating that survival is key to negotiating both this world and her trauma.

How to Be Held was released July 1st and can be purchased online: https://www.howtobeheld.com/


Words by Kayla Gaskell

Photography by Kayla Gaskell

The Art of Taxidermy

The Art of Taxidermy

Sharon Kernot
Text Publishing 2018


Sharon Kernot’s Young Adult verse novel The Art of Taxidermy offers an intimate look at the mechanisms of grief and how it can make you strange. Charlotte is just thirteen, has lost her mother and her younger sister, and is obsessed with making the dead look alive again. Her obsession leads her to collect, and then later taxidermize dead animals she finds in the bush surrounding her Australian home. Her aunt is horrified by this behaviour, but her distant father defends it as the burgeoning habits of a young scientific mind. Kernot makes the collection of the dead feel like a natural extension of Charlotte’s grief and pain; much like the meddling of Charlotte’s aunt and the distance of her father is an extension of theirs. The desire to resurrect the dead with whatever means available is both naively young and incredibly human, and Kernot explores it with a matter-of-fact tenderness.

It is not only their grief that makes Charlotte and her family strange. They are German immigrants and her father and grandfather were interned in the Loveday camp, near Barmera on the Murray River. The verse novel is set in the years after the second World War ended and the family’s German heritage marks them as different, as Other. It’s hard to imagine this family living outside this deep saturation of sadness – their tragedies started before Charlotte was born and it feels as though they will continue long after she’s dead.

Kernot paints a family in freefall after the unthinkable has happened, not once but twice, with a sure and steady brush. The work couples the swift, clipped charm of a verse novel and the unpredictable beauty of the Australian landscape in a captivating manner that showcases an author entirely comfortable with her form. This is a novel easily consumed in an afternoon, but one that lingers in the mind for weeks afterwards.

The Art of Taxidermy is due for release July 2 and can be purchased from Text Publishing here.

The book will be launched July 18 at the Tea Tree Gully Library from 6:30pm click here for more information.

5/5 stars


Words by Riana Kinlough

Big Rough Stones

Big Rough Stones

Margaret Merrilees

Wakefield Press 2018


An awe-inspiring testament to the feminist movement in Australia, particularly South Australia and Victoria during the 1970s and 80s, Big Rough Stones follows the women of a collective throughout their lives together.

Focused on one particularly fiery lesbian, Ro, the novel looks back on her life, her achievements, her failures, and her relationships while firmly establishing her opinions—both those she put on and those she kept to herself. Ro spent her life pioneering to be a loud and proud lesbian who didn’t conform to the patriarchal power structures that guided and continue to guide the lives of a number of women.

Ro is dying, and in dying she wants to realise her dream of becoming a writer, even if she might have left it too late. She’s always wanted to write about her experiences being a lesbian and being involved in a number of protests and rallies. While she laments her writing dreams, she also looks back on her life, giving the audience glimpses into her past, in a natural and sometimes non-chronological order.

While the novel revolves around the character of Ro, we also get to know her friends and ex-lovers, in particular the love of her life, Gerry. Gerry is a country woman, self-sufficient and alone in the Victorian farmlands, living where there would have once been a dairy farm. She is stoic and capable, and somehow taken by Ro, who is very much loud, obnoxious and opinionated (even when contradicting herself).

The book works retrospectively, separated into four parts titled: “Now”, “A While Ago”, “A Long Time Ago”, before returning to “Now”. This shows how times have changed, how ideas from Ro’s youth have continued to inform her thinking, and how her opinions have changed as she grew older.

It was wonderful to read such a powerful, loud, book by a South Australian author and see familiar places such as Adelaide, Kingston and Grange. To hear about women living together, helping one another, and fighting for what they believe in. It was fascinating to hear about the protests, rallies, picnics, and meetings that would have contributed to the transformation of everyday life for women in Australia today.

Margaret Merrilees debut novel The First Week won the Wakefield Press Unpublished Manuscript Award in 2013. Fables of the Queer and Familiar was published in 2014 and was also broadcast around Australia as a radio serial.


3/5 Stars

Big Rough Stones is available for purchase from Wakefield press here.


Words by Kayla Gaskell