new work – atlas/pantograph punch

Exciting developments in writing life, one of which is a long time coming in a couple of ways. In the more general, longer term way, I FINALLY have a creative piece in a print literary journal. Hurrah! In the specific, shorter term way, I submitted this piece over a year ago, and it was allocated to the second issue of the journal.

But now, it’s out! Issue 2 of Atlas Literary Journal is out, and my piece, ‘Trading Pain’ is in it. It’s about hospital and scary things like emergency surgery and ketamine and nasogastric tubes.

Continue reading new work – atlas/pantograph punch

A year(ish) of music

Been a while since I’ve linked to pieces that I’ve written. I mean, admittedly, I’ve not done a huge amount of extra stuff this past year, but my usual glorious New Zealand Musician articles have kept on keeping on.

So here’s a wee round-up. (Excludes CD reviews.)

Anna CoddingtonMy favourite interviews are the rare occasions when I go to the subject’s house. Anna and I chatted while her little bub napped and giggled and had an occasional squawk. He’s delightful – so is she.

PrizegivingWellington gang who make good tunes! We had a good natter over Skype.

Huia. Another glorious home visit. We sat in her little lounge looking over the bush of the Waitakere Ranges and drank coffee and talked about music and communications and motherhood and cats.

Purple Pilgrims. Arguably my favourite musical discovery of the year. Dreamy electronica with all kinds of fascinating instruments to create their own unique sound. And both the sisters (Clementine and Valentine) are amazing beautiful fairy women.

Shunkan. Okay, so this was technically the end of 2015, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned it yet. This was my first fully-fledged cover story, and I felt so goddamn proud. Plus their brand of up-tempo LA-meets-Invercargill rock is just perfection.

And coming soon on the website will be my interview with Paul Cathro and a piece on The Eversons. Keep your eyes peeled.

Salt Lick

last time
all of us
a smaller, self-contained, of the moment
kind of all of us
we sat at the water
she went into the ocean
her feet cautious then
enraptured
the elongated vowels of a toddler
whose life is
overwhelming/exciting/in danger
pick one
she’s not sure herself
trying to stamp down
the water as it licks her ankles
swift kicks and sun hats
and sandals up on the sand

we watched and laughed and talked and said
we’ll keep in touch

Planet Earth is blue

 

One of my very closest friends in high school was – still is – the biggest David Bowie devotee I’ve ever known. I knew a little – I was already trying to broaden my musical horizons, the way that you do when you’re a teenager with deep feelings of nonconformity.

But Changes gave way to Looking for Satellites and Golden Years and it heralded the start of my investigating music from the past. Apart from my parents’ Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel.

Sometimes we played records, even though it was 2005. There were windows all along the lounge, and the sun shone and so did our hearts. We were fifteen and took on affections of traditions that weren’t our own. Mostly, though, the click wheel of an iPod mini, whirring, stopping, whirring again as we realised we’d overshot it because D is awfully near the start of the alphabet.

We were sixteen and at the beach, and we listened to enough that I started to agree that he was the superior part of Under Pressure. I bought Best of Bowie. I bought Hunky Dory. You had a LiveJournal username homage to a track from Low. We knew all the words – you already did, I learned them by immersion.

We were in our version of teenage love, an impermeable bubble of joy and eternal phone calls. We were learning what love and gender meant. Queer wasn’t a word I could use for myself yet, I was too cautious, too saturated by the surrounding world, but as we unpicked our existences and what they could mean, Bowie was a part of that. Performance of gender, stories of Jagger relations, when you’re a boy, other boys check you out, ‘trisexuality’.

Everything helps.

I’ve never been afraid to be a little off-the-wall – one of my sister’s classmates in primary school told his mum ‘I’d rather be weird than cool’ at a tender age, and we’ve taken that on as a family adage. But at the same time, that particularly package of music and poetry and glamour and fluidity was new, and simultaneously enriching and comforting.

I’ve always liked the idea of getting a lightning bolt tattoo – an homage to formative childhood and teenage influences – Harry Potter (I’m a child of the phenomenon) and David Bowie. It’s been cemented now, with a loss that has been felt far more acutely than I could have ever guessed.

Take your place back up in the stars, you magical man.

SPRING HAS SPRUNG

…and I’m sick. Naturally! Evil vile lurgy winding its way through the bookish types of Wellington. Hoping that tomorrow dawns a little healthier. It’s really an inopportune moment for this to be happening.

That being said, while being attached to my bed and/or couch (bed yesterday – forced self to couch today) I have been productive – I’ve written a book review for Booksellers NZ, I’ve made a ‘Briar Does Books’ video for reasons not altogether known (watch it below), I’ve interviewed a musician for one of two NZ Musician articles I’m currently working on (busy busy bee!). I’ve also ‘finalised’ the Sargasso Press website (as much as a website is ever finalised) and am quite satisfied with how it has turned out.

I’ve also been Making Plans of various sorts. Big publish-y projects – more on that as it develops. And it will. I’m determined to make it happen. Fitness/fun-time plans, like finally learning to skate properly. I’ve had the derby skates for about five or six years now, about time I actually used them.

It’s going to be grrrreat.

Now, back to Doctor Who and healing vibes and tannin-tummy-regret.

CURRENT THINGS THAT ARE HAPPENING

READING: Wake by Elizabeth Knox (among other things)
WATCHING: Season 1 of Doctor Who / Season 4 of Torchwood
LISTENING: Eb & Sparrow (self-titled LP)
DRINKING: Harney & Sons Vanilla Comoro black tea. YUM.

the karaka tree

the karaka tree was full of berries
we couldn’t eat them / orange and hard
tiny cherries of another time
crushed them between our fingers
and rubbed into the grass
I scared myself into scalding
hot water / the only way to be sure
that I would bite my nails
chew a knuckle bored in the boughs
die a death of karaka-stained teeth
a small blonde body in the jonquils

fears

Tumblr has become my confession box; this place remains slightly more honed. But my most recent ‘yes, this deserves a frenzied Tumblr post’ moment seems to have grown and spread, an idea or a virus. The end result is what will tell the difference, I suppose, but ultimately it is this – what are the fears that are creeping on my mind, and will  writing them out, sending them into the internet (so the world and the ether all at once, audience depending) change anything? Will admitting them in this space lighten the load, or simply provide more ammunition for people to doubt me, and for me to doubt myself?

Only one way to find out.

Here some things that I fear. In moderate detail.

I fear that my best writing days are behind me, that I haven’t improved my craft since I was sixteen. I have not had creative work published since I was in my first year of university, and that was only because I’d been lucky enough to have work submitted by my glorious former English/Creative Writing teacher at high school. I had chances to make the most of noteworthy names in my undergraduate courses – but I was too anxious, too depressed, too insert-synonym-for-terrified to let my classmates see my work, let alone the tutors and lecturers that we had. I passed my stage three prose course with a fairly good grade – but I’m sure it could have been an absolutely glorious grade if I had gone to more than the first lecture and workshop and then had borderline panic attacks every time I thought about going to a class taught by Witi Ihimaera.

On that note, I also fear that if I did find myself accepted into a masters programme (as I have wanted to do since the aforementioned English teacher basically introduced me to the concept of the IIML etc), I would descend into the same I’m-not-good-enough spiral, that I would take all judgements too harshly, that I just couldn’t hack it. Honestly, that sort of fear is probably part of why I decided that I should investigate publishing and editing as a career choice. So that I could think critically about my work from the perspective of the people with the power. So that I could learn what people are looking for when they work their ways through submissions. The contacts and connections that I have made since I moved to Wellington are probably helping that somewhat – I don’t feel like the total outsider to the literary world that I once did, but I still live on the fringe.

I fear that I have shot myself in the foot with pursuing ‘journalistic’ writing in various forms, especially over the past few months. It’s not that I don’t enjoy writing these things, but I feel as if it jeopardises some people’s opinions of me and my work. Yes, I have written reviews, and feature type pieces, and musician interviews – but that doesn’t define me or what my goals and intentions are. My first and foremost love is still prose (and sort of poetry too, even if I won’t admit that up front terribly often). Articles are a way of getting paid to write things. And that’s still rather amazing to me.

Not everything has to do with writing, don’t worry.

I fear loneliness. Oftentimes, since I’ve moved here, it feels as though my connection to friendship is through the internet, and real life is just a place where I work and go to class. I don’t choose for it to be that way, but I’m still so stuck in my ways of the same group of friends through undergrad, and attaching myself to D’s friendship groups – and generally just using the (reasonable) excuse of being too sick (both in body and mind, thanks hindsight) to put effort into things like socialising. I’ve lost my touch, if ever I had it – and the problem is, the people whose company I tend to like most are probably those who least feel the need for another person in their life.

Related to that, I fear my own desirability – both romantically and platonically. I look at myself critically, and struggle to figure out what would draw anyone to me. This is before I even take into account the whole busted gut situation. Sometimes I worry that I’ve thrown myself too far into this book world – it is, after all, all that I’ve ever really known. Music, and words. I know that in theory there is more to me than that, but so often I struggle to come up with anything else. It’s reading, writing, publishing – or listening, playing, singing. Every gerund rooted in decisions that I made many years ago.

I have never felt ‘attractive’. I have always been the pursuer in any potential relationships (not that my backlist is terribly heavy there), I don’t have people paying attention to me in any way. When the fact that I ‘like’ someone comes up (rarely do I let that happen, but happen it has), I’m always faced with a ‘wait, really? I had no idea’. I just don’t know how to show it. I fear that this is something I just have to accept, that people don’t consider me a possibility until I put myself out there, ready to be shot down. It’s what I have come to expect. I didn’t walk away from the three years with Dom and keep my ability to trust people intact.

I fear my body, what it does and what it may not be able to do. This is where things maybe get a bit heavy. You’ve been warned. I have a chronic illness – we know that. It’s not fun, but for the most part, it’s manageable. Ish. But let’s now add to that the fact that at my age my mother had melanoma. One of my medications also makes me more susceptible to melanoma. More recently, she has had seizures and been hospitalised for them.  My father, not yet 60,  has had arthritis for years, has another autoimmune condition (not Crohn’s, like I do) and has also had heart issues. So I come from… imperfect stock healthwise, shall we say. All of this contributes to a fear of my health’s twists and turns. I already get IBD-related arthritic pain, at times. Bad knees are not the domain of one in their mid-twenties.

And related to all of that, I fear for my future. I was an IVF baby. I took eight years to come about. And whilst my two younger siblings then came about naturally, there was obviously something not cooperating that needed to be nudged for things to start happening. Because of the strange tag thing on my ear, Mum used to say that they mixed me up badly in the lab – now it feels a little more self-destructive to say that, since my health has deteriorated. So I fear having a genetic tendency towards problems in the future – not to mention the fact that since I have already had abdominal surgery and am guaranteed at least one more… it all adds up to make things like pregnancy that little bit more difficult. And it’s all the worse to worry about these things when you don’t really have a means to make them happen, anyway. It was one thing for me to wonder about it 6+ months ago when I was in an established relationship – not as something to have happen any time super soon, but something to be aware of.

Now that there’s nobody alongside me, it feels pointless to even wonder about these things, but still they play on my mind.

There are other things, of course – noises in the night, disasters, the usual. I am lucky, I suppose (ha), that I don’t have any crippling phobias of any kind, I can dislike spiders but not leap away from them – I’d flinch if a mouse scurried by but I wouldn’t scream.

But these things, even if they are me wrapping myself in knots, are weighing me down.

distance

Some side effects are not known until they are experienced; nobody keeps a record, because the list would be too long. The side effects of distance present themselves to the individual as time goes by, and all cases are different.

I sat in Civic Square, after everything was established as being ‘okay’. For the time being. I walked behind a tourist family who chattered away, wondering at their whereabouts. The mother noticed the gulls padding around, screeching at one another, and commented that they must be back near the sea.

They were, of course, and yet all I could think about was seeing a lone seagull in Montreal, several months into my time there. Montreal is on an island, but it’s a long way from the sea. It was a moment not unlike the first rainfall that I experienced while there (rain! this is so exciting! it’s warm enough to RAIN!), but a little more emotionally fraught.

Homesickness is a bitch.

But this isn’t about homesickness, not exactly. It’s about difficulty, it’s about frustration, it’s about being in the wrong place – or someone else being in the wrong place, at least. It’s about distance.

I have already written here about how my dad is in Honiara, in the Solomon Islands. Fortunately, it has been a milder couple of weeks for them since the floods and storms and earthquakes of earlier this month. But the worry still exists – the thought that something even more dire could yet happen, while I sit in my windswept but mostly safe house on a hill in this strange little corner of the world I call home.

Then, closer to ‘home,’ yet still far away, Auckland looms to the north. Last night, I forgot to turn off my alarm, and so I woke up earlier than I meant to. In scrabbling to turn the sound off, I saw missed calls, texts. And so, I found out, seven-ish hours after the fact, that my mum had had a midnight ambulance ride to the hospital, and was still there.

Things like that will really reinforce the distance.

She was discharged late this morning, and I had just gotten off the phone to her when I sat down in Civic Square. I accidentally dropped a bit of my sandwich, and was inundated by gulls and pigeons. After the initial furore had died down, I watched them wait in hope, a couple of them clearly in positions of authority as they puffed themselves up and marched towards others, undeserving of this chance at scraps. I went to the library, I went to work, my head trying desperately to keep everything level. We drank gin and tonics at the end of the day, and I caught the bus home, everything still churning, and all sorts of write this down! ideas came and went, but this one was the most obvious one to stick with.

And so here it is. Distance.

une année sans lumière?

I should be happy.

In the sun, on the street, behind and between pages, there are moments, but they come and go and I have no control over it. Every night, getting into bed, clambering back out to take the little white pill that is supposed to make everything okay. But the pill is to the body like I am to this city, and we both rattle around in this space, not quite sure what we’re doing, not quite succeeding at whatever it is we set out to do.

I feel like I exist in class, at work and at home. That’s it. I have never needed constant social interaction, but to have nothing beyond those three spheres is difficult. The time when I am ‘free’ from academic and work commitments is spent recuperating from life, trying to hold onto this fragile thread of adequate health that I’m depending on. Knowing that I can go (and have gone) weeks, months, without physical human contact is overwhelmingly soul destroying. Nobody to talk to about feeling down, nobody who I can break down in front of and not worry about being judged.

The two months (ish) that I had before I moved down here were the most painful I’ve had. November was the worst I have ever felt in my life, and I don’t say that lightly. I thought I had some certainty, at least in being loved, even if I wasn’t sure what I was working towards in any other facet of my life. Now I am alone, and I am working towards a life in an industry with an unknown future.

The worst part is, that half of it is beautiful. Wellington is wonderful, as a city, and some of the people in it are fantastic, but there are few things more difficult than establishing close friendships from the ground up. My classes are great, the projects I will be working on are brilliant, and my job is the bookstore dream. I have met people from all over the book world, and it has been thrilling – but after every class, every event, every shift, I get on the 14 bus, and go home. The internet, a book, a few notebook scribbles, and bed.

I drink too much coffee. I drink coffee, and then my insides twist and wrench and ache. But I’m tired, because I’m sick, so I need the energy. Hell of a vicious cycle. I eat fruit, because I’m sick of eating junk, and then it hurts all the more. I should be eating low-residue, because everything has fallen to pieces, but it takes a lot of self-control to do that, and when there’s a high chance I’ll be in pain anyway, why would I bother? Like right now. I haven’t eaten anything typically uncooperative, but waves of pain still come. So the tramadol comes out, as do the tears of frustration and pain.

I want to be happy. I know that I have ups and downs even when things are ‘good’, but being lonely drags the downs deeper, and keeps them there. I want someone to cuddle me and tell me my hair smells good. I want to have people to hug hello and goodbye. I want to have stories to write that don’t all peter out because the protagonists are either trapped in a room and it depresses me, or their lives are more cheerful than mine and I find myself jealous of my own creations. It’s easier to sit, watch, occasionally read. Trawl through the internet in the hopes of finding some spark of inspiration or light, or just to pass the time until sleep or the final hope of interaction for the night has been extinguished.

I write this because it is all that I can do. Words are all that I have, because I don’t want to rely on my unpredictable emotions anymore, worrying that the wrong/right Nick Cave song will come on at work and be an emotional trigger, because it represents when Things Were Good. I don’t need to have exactly what I had before, I realise that now – most of the time – but I need to have something. I need to be able to love my life, and not just the city and the books inside it.