Helium by Rudy Francisco REVIEW

Helium by Rudy Francisco REVIEW

Yes I know it’s been a while since I’ve done a review or a blog post for that matter but I’M BACK WITH ANOTHER REVIEW! This time it’s Rudy Francisco’s “Helium.”

I decided to review “Helium” as his use of repetition specifically anaphora, first person and personal stories combined with factual evidence in his work is both confronting, heart-warming and enchanting.

I have selected 6 poems (which are in no particular order) and provided my own interpretation/analysis for each of them.

1. Silence

Pretty self-explanatory. Simply put, Francisco outlines that noise does not always equate to being “seen” as “silence” has its own unique “rumble.”

2. Complainers

There’s a reason why so many people resonate with this one and why this poem made my 10 Sensational Slam Poetry Performances post.

Francisco begins by confronting the reader with raw recounts of personal upheaval experienced by himself and others, juxtaposing these situations with the pragmatic responses of those who experienced them. By doing this, he positions us to reflect on our “bad days” with more optimism. He emphasises through his use of repetition of “tell me” and alliteration of “stole the keys to your smile” that despite the unpleasantness of early rises and daily routine, it’s a blessing and shouldn’t be complained about as it is “so small it can fit on the tips of our tongues.”

“Tragedy and silence often have the exact same address.”

This line stood out for me as Francisco describes that whilst difficult situations can be dealt with pragmatically, they will always be accompanied by tragedy and silence. Here, he personifies these two words highlighting their simultaneous nature.

Francisco ends this piece on a positive note through his use of a simile and alliteration describing that “life is a gym membership with a really complicated cancellation policy.” He demonstrates that although some days are awful and unforgiving, one must continue persevering. This is further reinforced through his use of second person as “you are still alive” and thus must “act like it.”

3. Roulette


For those in the back and the front who don’t believe in climate change, this one’s for you.

Francisco uses a metaphor to describe the limitless nature of water during his youth as “it seemed endless.” This is further reinforced through personification as regardless of “where [they] were”, water “would always come running.” He contrasts the idea of the abundant nature of water with his now shock of its scarcity, through reflecting upon a childhood memory as he had read about “dragons and droughts” but never imagined he would “have to deal with them.” This shock is emphasised through alliteration of the hard ‘d’ constant.

Francisco confronts us with the uncertainty he now feels about the limitless nature of water by personifying the Earth as he wonders “how long it will take the planet to tell us we can’t live here.” He reinforces this idea by juxtaposing the simple pleasures of water and how it ran “through his figures” with the doubt he now harbours as he is unsure whether his “grandkids” will ever “hear [water] splash.”

4. When People Ask How I’m Doing

For those of us who say ‘we’re alright’ and continue through each and every single day just to avoid flooding our emotions onto someone else.

Francisco explores how debilitating his depression can be at times by personifying it as an “angry… jealous God.” He highlights its power through figurative language as it “wrings [his] joy like a dishrag and makes juice of [his] smile.”

However, he refuses to “ruin someone’s day with his tragic honesty” and uses a simile to explain that he combats his depression by treating his face “like a pumpkin.” He “carves it into something acceptable” and musters up an “I’m doing alright.”

5. Rifle II

This poem seamlessly connects guns and toxic masculinity to showcase the beauty that will arise if they are eradicated. Francisco explores the different uses of a gun, highlighting the similar effect they have on people by juxtaposing the ways in which they create these effects as a gun can be used to “take peoples lives” or repurposed into “musical instruments…that puts life back into people’s bodies.”

The second half of this poem deals with how violence equating to masculinity has been ingrained into young boys through his use of of a metaphor as his “bloody knuckles” are his “first piece of artwork…hung on the fridge.” Francisco expresses the confusion he feels for being awarded for his violence through an analogy as he knows he is “passing” but has “no idea what class.” He further reiterates his confusion as men “don’t even know” what the imperative “man up” really means. Francisco realises that violence and masculinity are not connected through a comparison of the heart and the fist as they are both the “same size”, but have “different functions.” He concludes this piece with another powerful comparison explaining how he has learned that the “difference between a garden and a graveyard” is only what is “put in the ground.” Here, he reinforces that destruction can be reversed.

6. Museum

“Museum” explains how vulnerability is unavoidable when being a writer especially a poet and that a spoken-word poet. Francisco emphasises using a metaphor, the limbo a writer dwells in when sharing their work as “patrons” are asked “not touch” but “only half of them respect the signs.” However, he ends this poem on a positive note, explaining that poets and their work stand as a lyrical refuge where one can “walk through” and “leave when they are ready.”

If you liked this review or have any feedback, please let me know!

Also, if you’re interested in purchasing Helium, you can do here.

Local Focus w/ Floral Peroxide’s, Alison Paradoxx [INTERVIEW]

Local Focus w/ Floral Peroxide’s, Alison Paradoxx [INTERVIEW]

The Adelaide Fringe season is well and truly here, bombarding us with a wide selection of shows including performances of comedy and cabaret.

However, for you poetryfiends out there, I’ve got you covered as I sat down with Floral Peroxide’s, Alison Paradoxx, to discuss her fringe show centred around performance poetry.

She talks about what inspired her to create this show, the challenges of living with deformity and the cathartic nature of performance poetry.

You can listen to a snapshot of Alison’s interview below.

[ME] How did you first discover poetry and when did you begin writing?

[ALISON PARADOXX] Well, my whole life I’ve always been a writer/reader. As a child, obviously with all the hospitalisation and surgeries, I spent a lot of time on my own. Fortunately for me, I was one of those kids that loved reading and creating stories in my head. So it didn’t bother me that much. And I always wanted to write but you go through life with various things happening to you and you just end up going through various jobs and finding yourself in jobs that you never envisioned as a career.

Eventually, in 2014, I was offered a job with BeyondBlue, and for some reason it didn’t feel right and I couldn’t work out why. I went up to my parents for dinner one night and we were talking about this opportunity and I just burst into tears which is unlike me. And my dad asked, “what’s wrong Al?” and I said, “I don’t think I want to do this job,” and he asked, “well what do you want to do?” and I said, “I just want to write.” And he said “you know what, you’ve always wanted to be a writer, it’s what you feel and you should just do it.” Up until that point I felt that I was letting my parents down and this job was to show them that I could be somebody but then I realised that they didn’t really care about any of that, all they wanted was for me to be happy.

So I started studying at the Adelaide College of the Arts, I was doing a Professional Writing Advanced Diploma, but half way through my second year we got to choose electives and I always thought I would be a dark humour writer and one of the electives was poetry and I thought I don’t know anything about poetry, I don’t understand it, I have no idea what makes a good poem, what makes a bad poem. I never studied any poetry at school, so I thought I want to challenge myself, I want to do this, I’m probably going to completely bomb out, but that’s okay, I just want to learn what this poetry thing is about.

It so happened to be the thing I could do which was really surprising for me. My lecturer at the time prompted me to go to some Open Mics, so I started doing that and I did a couple and the Australian Poetry Slam was coming around, so I thought I’m going to enter a heat just to get the experience, so I entered my heat and I won my heat and I honestly could not believe it, I think I was bawling my eyes out. So I went to the final and won the final and two weeks later I was standing on the stage at the Sydney Opera House just completely beside myself, like how the hell did I get here?!

It was what launched me to go, this is my thing now.

[ME] So who are some artists/poets that have inspired you?

[ALISON PARADOXX] Definitely, David Bowie, hence the [lightning bolt] tattoo on my neck. Huge fan of David Bowie, I consider him a poet, I consider him an all-round artist in every sense. 

And of course, Leonard Cohen, an all-round poet and musician.

Poetry wise, Sylvia Plath, a huge fan of Sylvia Plath obviously because of the familiar territory she crosses in her work and the power she conveys.

Also, with the multimedia approach that I’m taking with my performance art now, people like Laurie Anderson and Alison XYZ and spoken word artists that incorporate electronic music and other elements into their performance work.

[ME] What advice would you give to upcoming artists/poets especially those that are considered ‘disabled’ or ‘broken’ in traditional society?

[ALISON PARADOXX] I would encourage anyone who feels that they have something they want to say, to say it! I would also encourage people in general if they want to get their words out there to go and experience as many types of poetry and spoken word as they can. Writing as much as you can, taking workshops and studying because you can be the greatest performer on a mic but if you don’t know how to write those words it’s always going to come across as a half-performed act. So, there’s always value in learning the boring skills behind poetry.

[ME] Is there anything else you would like to add?

[ALISON PARADOXX] If you are a disabled artist, Access 2 Arts, are just phenomenal, the workshops I’ve done with them and the way that they have supported my work has been incredible. I have learnt so much from them and I think in making this show, I wanted to make a show that was accessible to the deaf and hearing-impaired community because why would you go see spoken word if you couldn’t hear anything, there’s no point. There’s a whole sector of the community being cut out here, so I wanted to do a show that had either AUSLAN or video captions. We had video captions in the end. 

And as always, if you liked this post or have any feedback for me, I’d love to hear from you.

Just Your Everyday Apocalypse by Amelia Walker REVIEW

Just Your Everyday Apocalypse by Amelia Walker REVIEW

jyea-cover.jpg

Okay, I must admit, this is probably the first contemporary Australian poetry book that I have properly read in a while. And yes I thoroughly enjoyed it and I must thank Amelia for giving me a copy. As always, I have selected 8 poems (which are in no particular order) from Just Your Everyday Apocalypse and provided my own interpretation/analysis for each of them.

1. In Translation

In Translation gd

In Translation is packed with metaphors and tells the story of hand-me-downs and thrifted clothing. Walker describes how despite numerous washes, the “fabric” is “flavoured” with “moments that are not [hers]” but of previous owners of the clothing. I really admire her use of alliteration when explaining that thrifted clothing is “a million mixed meanings” open to “minefields of misinterpretation.” It really makes you think about the previous owners of thrifted clothing, what they went through whilst wearing those clothes and the experiences they had. How rips or stains came to be? The mismatching of colours and the intricate stitch work? What era the clothing was from?

2. Beautiful

Beautiful

Short, simple and sweet. Dedicated to all the mothers out there with odd quirks and carefree attitudes. They might have a “crooked smile” and “varicose veins” but they are still “beautiful” nonetheless.

3. Walls

Walls

A poem that highlights some of the atrocities faced by female detainees, mainly focusing on the story of Cornelia Rau. Walker illustrates the horrid conditions these female detainees undergo as they are trapped in “windowless” rooms and must “sh*t” for an “audience of male guards.” She also describes the debilitating impact, life in a detention centre can have on an individual as after leaving and now “safe”, the former detainee is still unable to “let go of the teddy bear she clutched all those dark months.”  Walls ends in a startling fashion as Walker describes that even though the woman has left the detention centre, she is unable to escape the “walls” of society as they have “none.”

4. Reunion

reunion.jpg

A direct and brutally honest overview of different life pathways our friends, family and strangers have taken. Pretty self-explanatory.

5. City, Lover, Self

City Lover Self

I believe we can all relate to City, Lover, Self regardless of whether you live in Australia or not because we all have places that are like home to us. Walker demonstrates the connection she has with Adelaide, through her use of personification, as she describes she is “intimate” with the “rhythm” of Adelaide’s “soft tissue organs” and “strange scarred body.” By using figurative language, she depicts how each instant details a specific memory of “things that have been or could have been” as “every shop glass shines with the ghost of some moment.”

6. Submerging

Submerging

A point that’s inevitable and you’ll face sooner or later unless you’re extremely lucky. Submerging, as the name suggests, describes the feeling of losing your sense of self. In Walker’s experience, it happened to her “slowly” as she was already “neck deep before [she] realised.” She uses metaphors to describe the symptoms of losing one’s self as she begins “rejecting sun and air” and finds it “hard to breathe” as “glass” is “encasing [her] head.” The line that resonates with me the most is how Walker emphasises how people “who were close” to her feel as if they’re “a million miles away” as she struggles to “follow conversations.” However, the last stanza is somewhat comforting as she is consoled by Circe, the Greek goddess of magic, who now “holds her hand” as her harsh exterior starts to melt away.

7. Astrocytoma

Astrocytoma

Poignant and beautifully written. Walker details the experience of a loved one discovering they have astrocytoma (cancer of the brain) and how despite the crippling nature of the disease they still manage to stay “composed” as “science slice [their] skull into squished butterfly segments.” Here, Walker uses alliteration to explicitly portray the life of this cancer-ridden individual. I also particularly love her use of a Stephen Hawking quote.

“If you jump into a black hole, your mass energy will be returned to our universe, but in a mangled form which contains the information about what you were like but in an unrecognisable state.” (Stephen Hawking, 2004)

I believe this quote serves as a reminder to us all that regardless of the immensity of our problems/issues, they will always be insignificant and eventually be forgotten and “unrecognisable.”

The last lines of Astrocytoma despite being quite grim are also somewhat consoling as we find out that this diseased individual is relieved of their suffering as their “six year migraine” is finally “over.”

8. Tequila

Tequila Pt 1
tequila-pt-2.jpg

I just love how cleverly put together this poem is. Walker organises it into three parts and as you guessed it, it starts off with Part One: SALT, then Part Two: TEQUILA and lastly Part Three: LEMON.

Part One: SALT describes the various uses of salt and allows us to contemplate the nature of salt as it is used to “sanctify” in Japanese Shinto culture but also deemed “unhealthy” and “indulgent” in Western culture.

The last lines lead nicely into Part Two: Tequila as salt “addiction” causes “thirst.”

I feel Part Two: Tequila describes the intoxicating and blinding effects of alcohol but also, its power to provide us with temporary ecstasy. Walker’s decision to provide a short story of the discovery of Tequila really enhances this poem.

Part Three: LEMON delves into a fond memory of Walker “picking lemons” with her grandmother as a young child. She describes through her use of personification that her closest feeling of being drunk at that age is when she swims in “scents of citrus and cinnamon.”

I particularly love the last stanza which I feel is pretty self-explanatory.

If you liked this review, I would love to hear from you.

Also, if you’re interested in purchasing Just Your Everyday Apocalypse you can do so by emailing poetryisdangerous@gmail.com , FYI it’s only $10 a copy!

Local Focus w/ the Showpony Crew [INTERVIEW]

Local Focus w/ the Showpony Crew [INTERVIEW]

A while back I was fortunate enough to interview the team behind Showpony Music and Open Mic, Heather McGinn and Lachie Blackwell (pictured below).

1.jpg

So for those of you unaware of Showpony, as the name suggests it’s an open mic event where anyone can perform anything they’d like; whether that be poetry, music or stand-up comedy.

Have a listen to what Heather and Lachie have to say about Showpony below!

Also, I’d like to thank Amelia for introducing me to these lovely people and helping me with this interview!

And as always, if you liked this post or have any feedback for me, I’d love to hear from you.

5 Blogs to Check Out if You’re into Poetry!

5 Blogs to Check Out if You’re into Poetry!

1. Australian Poetry Organisation

If you live down under or just want to know more about Australian poetry, you have to check out the Australian Poetry Organisation’s website. They give you information about poet residencies, book launches, gigs happening around Australia, reviews, competitions and so much more!

 

2. Poetry Foundation

A Chicago based blog that caters to everyone. The dedicated team at Poetry Foundation have created a website thapoetry foundationt is easy to manoeuvre and provides you with poems to suit kids, teenagers and adults. Not to mention it covers a diverse range of poetry and poetry-related news. It allows you to listen to poems and provides you with a learning station to fully understand the literary techniques used in poems (because let’s face it, who remembers or even knows what anthropomorphism is, I surely don’t!).

3. Eat This Poem

Food and poetry combined. Yes please! Nicole Gulotta’s blog shares her love for poetry and cooking. With each recipe, she provides us with personal anecdotes and pairs it with a fitting poem. Her blog has also been featured in Poetry Foundation and The Guardian.

alex-6728-unsplash

Photograph by Alex on Unsplash

 

4. Button Poetry

button poetryAll about intriguing, contemporary, slam poetry! Yes, Button Poetry, probably one of the most well-known modern poetry organisations, has a blog. The team behind Button Poetry’s blog, provides you with reviews, writing prompts (for aspiring writers), a recap of their most watched poems, essays and even a merchandise store!

 

5. Poets United

For poets, by poets. Poets United is for those poets who have a blog and would like to share their work in an accepting environment with other like-minded writers. The blog doesn’t have a sole owner but works by poets all over the world contributing their time and expertise to run the site.

poets united

 

If you have any poetry blogs that I should check out, please let me know, I would love to hear from you!

10 Sensational Slam Poetry Performances that are Worth Your Time

10 Sensational Slam Poetry Performances that are Worth Your Time

Let me just say that deciding on just 10 poems to showcase was quite difficult because there are so many talented artists. However, this is by no means the best performances but poems that really stood out for me and are easily accessible. I selected these slam poems especially because they cover a diverse range of topics and I believe will change your opinion if you’re reluctant about poetry.

I will also provide a short analysis of each poem.

(Please note I have also excluded including earlier slam poets and I will do that in another post shortly.)

So, in no particular order, let’s begin!

1. Blythe Baird – “Pocket-Sized Feminism”

“I am ashamed of keeping my feminism in my pocket until it is convenient not to, like at poetry slams or woman studies classes. There are days I want people to like me more than I want to change the world.”

 

Baird explains the “guilt” she feels when despite being a feminist, only voices her opinion when it is a “convenience” rather than at crucial times when it is detrimental to herself and others.  For example, she mentions that she remained silent when a man “shoved his hand up [her] skirt” on an escalator because everyone around her was quiet. Baird highlights the reality of feminism through her use of irony when her father tells her “sexism is dead” but reminds her to “always carry pepper spray.” She also uses irony in her final lines to emphasise this point as daughters are told “to be careful” and “safe” whilst sons are told to “go out and play.”

2. Olivia Gatwood – “Ode to the Women on Long Island”

“And last week when a girl was murdered jogging in Queens, the women on Long Island were unstartled and furious. They did not call to warn their daughters, they called their sons, sat them at the kitchen table and said “if you ever, I mean ever so much as make a woman feel unconformable, I will take you to the deli and put your hand in the meat slicer. You think I won’t? You hear me. I will make a hero out of you with mayonnaise, tomatoes, dill and onion.”

 

Gatwood salutes the women of Long Island as the title implies and illustrates the strength these women hold. She performs this poem with ease, switching from the narrator (being herself) into different characters (being the different women of Long Island). I must say, I have never been to Long Island, but the ease with which she switches accents is so authentic. Through her use of characterisation, Gatwood explains that these women despite their tendency to “hack” and “curse” are wise and comforting as they reassure young females that there is no pressure on them to be in relationships. She also expresses that these women hold all their family members accountable for any incident, as a girl who was “murdered jogging in Queens” doesn’t provoke them to warn their daughters but instead their sons who have their “husband’s hands and blood.”

3. Nkosi Nkululeko – “Not Finished Yet”

“What’s a poem if it doesn’t dismantle or split, burn or crack. So there’s gonna be a couple of heads here, limbs, Trayvon of course will be here in metaphor form.”

 

At first I was confused by this poem as I didn’t quite understand Nkululeko’s approach. However, after watching it a couple times I finally understood it and was in awe of his approach in presenting this performance. From my understanding, Nkululeko’s inability to “start [his] poem” reflects the injustice black youth face as boys like Trayvon and Mike Brown are unable to live their lives in peace. He also uses this technique of continually starting his poem to reflect how America dismisses the issue of unjust police brutality on black people as the “printer keeps on whiting out the black” and how he as a black writer is inclined to “compose a dead thing out of his mouth.” I particularly admired the confronting simile he uses explaining that he is filled with “so many eulogies” like a “Russian doll of the dead.”

4. Jared Singer – “Just Take a Shower” 

I think this poem speaks for itself. An intense subject that is superbly said. (This poem does deal with an extremely sensitive topic, so please take necessary precaution. I would recommend watching this one in a place where you feel comfortable).

 

5. Jared Paul – “When I say that I Came Up Poor”

“When I say that I came up poor, what some folks derisively call hood, somebody else calls home.”

 

Paul uses a great deal of visual imagery to explain that despite coming up poor, the “hood” will always be his “home.” He illustrates the sense of community the neighbourhood upholds as “they don’t have any concept of what it means to be lonely.” He further emphasises this point, as neighbours are treated “as family” despite being from “three different groups of friends.”

6. Sarah Kay – “Table Games”

 

Heartbreak presented to you like sweet and salty chips. It will have you laughing and crying.

Side note: Sarah Kay was one of the first slam poets my teacher introduced to us and the first time I learnt about slam poetry.

7. Muna Abdulahi – “Explaining Depression to a Refugee”

“Depression is a white man’s privilege, we don’t have the privilege to have that much time to ourselves.”

 

Such an important message especially after the recent World Mental Health day and for families who are from a different cultural background who don’t really understand mental health. Abdulahi expresses the confusion her mother, a former Somalian refugee, displays as she is unable to fathom her daughter being diagnosed with depression. She explains the stigmatisation the Somali culture places on mental health as her “native tongue doesn’t speak of it to its existence.” The line that resonated with me the most is how Abdulahi highlights the detrimental impact her depression has on her mother as it is a “fight that she cannot protect [her] from.”

8. Franny Choi – “To the Man who Shouted ‘I like Pork-Fried Rice’ at me on the Street”

“You want to eat me, right out of these jeans and into something a little cheaper, more digestible, more bite-sized, more cooked, you want me lunch special.”

 

Choi emphasises the stereotypical nature of how Asian women are exoticized “brimming with foreign.” She describes how the man fantasizes about her as he wants to “eat [her] out” as she is “red-light district stuck in [his] teeth.” However, Choi cleverly switches up his traditional fantasy in the end by gaining her revenge as after the ordeal he is left “squirming alive” as she is “strangling [him] quiet from the inside out.” Personally, these last lines left me conflicted with shock but somewhat satisfied as the man is left debilitated, but I guess he got what he deserved.

This poem is from Choi’s debut book Floating Brilliant Gone, if you’re interested you can check out my review on her book here.

9. Rudy Francisco – “Complainers”

“When it feels like God is just a babysitter that’s always on the phone, when you get punched in the oesophagus by a fistful of life, remember that every year two million people die of dehydration so it doesn’t matter if the glass is half full or half empty, there’s water in the cup. Drink it, and stop complaining.”

 

Such a good reminder to us all. That’s all I’ll say for this one.

Side note: Okay, the fact that he was on Jimmy Fallon makes me so happy and proud.

10. Guante – “Ten Responses to the Phrase ‘Man Up’”

“Man up? Oh that’s that new superhero, right? Mild-mannered supplement salesman Mark Manstrong says the magic words “MAN UP,” and then transforms into THE FIVE O’CLOCK SHADOW, the massively-muscled, deep-voiced, leather-duster-wearing super-man who defends the world from, I don’t know, feelings.”

 

Guante deconstructs and reiterates the idea of what it means to be a ‘man.’ He explains that society expects men to be “massively muscled” and “deep voiced”, however those who do not fit these ideals are often isolated. He cleverly uses personification to describe that these men “cannot arm wrestle [their] way out of chemical depression” and the male community must acknowledge that these men are more than just “background characters” before it’s too late.

If you liked this post or have any other suggestions of poems I should check out please let me know! I would love to hear from you!

Local Focus w/ Amelia Walker [INTERVIEW]

Local Focus w/ Amelia Walker [INTERVIEW]

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of interviewing South Australia’s very own poet, teacher and creative, Amelia Walker.

A1
Photograph by Martin Christmas for Spoken Word South Australia

So before we begin, for those of you unaware of Amelia’s success in the creative arts, let’s get to it!

She has performed at various festivals including the Transeuropa/ Arts 4 Human Rights festival in London and the World Poetry Festival in Kolkata.

Not only that, but she also completed her PhD in 2016 about the value of creative writing in contemporary higher education and research at the University of South Australia.

Amelia is also the author of three poetry collections, and three poetry teaching books in Macmillan’s ‘All You Need to Teach’ series.

She was also the 2015 Winner of the Australasian Association of Writing Programs Postgraduate Conference Paper Prize in the creative paper and critical paper fields.

You can listen to a brief snapshot of Amelia’s interview below.

[ME] What first sparked your interest in writing poetry?

[AMELIA] I was 14 years old and I actually hadn’t really gotten into poetry at all because growing up in school the kind of poetry I’d been exposed to was rhyming, it was about flowers, we were kinda forced to write it. I didn’t think it was my thing. But then my sister and I together actually discovered on our parent’s bookshelf, a book of poems that was an anthology by the Beat generation and it was completely different to anything we had seen before. These poems were kind of rude, political, they were written in a style that was like your friend talking to you over a cup of coffee, it wasn’t this high, fancy language. So, they were raw poems that spoke to me and made me think wow I want to read more poetry and eventually I want to do this too. I could write this.

[ME] So could you please explain the meaning behind your poems “Ten by Ten” and “Cyber Tourist”? What thoughts were going through your mind when you were writing these?

[AMELIA] Both of those were written when I was down in Port Pirie, so this was almost ten years ago now and I was down there for an Artists in Regional Schools project run by Carclew Youth Arts Centre and the South Australian Youth Arts Board.

Port Pirie is an old town with a big lead smelter and there’s been a lot of stuff in the press about the effects of that on people’s health. There was a campaign to get the lead levels in people’s blood down to 10 micrograms per decilitre by the year 2010 and that actually failed in this campaign, so the poem is a reflection on that and a reflection on what mining and so forth has done to that town and done to a lot of people around Australia.

Now “Cyber Tourist” is not about Pirie but about Broken Hill. And that’s about anticipating a visit to Broken Hill for their annual poetry festival. And in that I was just looking on Google Maps at this place I was going to and had never been to before and it’s really interesting because all the streets in Broken Hill are named after different minerals that you can mine. So I was thinking about how the map of the city and how we name places tells a story but also at that time, it was also a sad story because if you go to Broken Hill, you see the memorial to the people who died in mining and you also see the ongoing effects on peoples lives. Around that time I was writing this poem, there was a huge lay off of people who were working in the mines and a lot of upsets in the town and a lot of struggle.

A2
Photograph by Michael Reynolds.

[ME] So what power do you believe poetry possesses?

[AMELIA] I believe it possesses all kinds of powers, good and evil. My email address is poetryisdangerous which people always think that’s a strange thing for a poet to say but I believe poetry is woven through every part of our lives. Poetry is not just that stuff we read in books or read at slam events and open mics, poetry is in advertising and on TV and sometimes that poetry is very, very dangerous because language is incredibly coercive, and language is the material in which we think. So I actually believe that by writing poetry, we become aware of the techniques that are used in advertising and propaganda: we can pull apart their mechanisms and become aware of how they try to get us thinking in particular ways. That means we can resist.

[ME] Do you feel a certain way when performing your poetry? Do you feel liberated when you perform?

[AMELIA] Yeah absolutely! It’s scary because often you are talking about very vulnerable things and particularly just standing up and public speaking on its own without it necessarily being personal on any level is known as one of those great phobias that people have. But I guess it is also like an extreme sport or jumping out of a plane, you get that adrenalin rush and sometimes really good things come up through it. And I’ve been on both sides of that.  You know standing in the crowd, hearing someone read a poem and think wow that’s an experience I’ve also had and I’ve been scared to talk about and you’ve been brave enough to speak about. And then I’ve had people say that to me as well after performing.

[ME] How do you believe poetry has helped positively influence those who have experienced personal trauma and mental health issues?

[AMELIA] Well I guess I said before about how it can start conversations and make people aware that they’re not alone and things. So, I think the forming of communities through poetry is a really strong thing. And you know there’s a lot of theories about bibliotherapy and various techniques that psychologists use and writing for people to deal with their mental health.

I also know there is a flip side to that. I also know that writing can actually bring up a lot of difficult emotional stuff. If you don’t necessarily put adequate support and self-care in there, it can take you into places that are quite raw and dangerous without necessarily giving you an out. I want to say it’s both of those things. It can be really healing and amazing and form communities, but it can also be quite terrifying. You can’t just rely on poetry, you do need social support and you do need to have counselling or whatever works for you.

And if you are planning to write on something that could trigger you or you’re planning to read an event that could trigger others, think about where you are going to be after this? Am I going to be safe? If I’m reading this out I’ll give a trigger warning and adequate time for anyone in the room who doesn’t want to hear this material to exit.

[ME] Who are some of your personal favourite poets?

[AMELIA] So many. One of the first poets who really kinda grabbed me was Lawrence Ferlinghetti, he was one of the Beat generation. And other poets in the Beat generation also really grabbed me. I’ll make a special mention of Diane Di Prima and Denise Levertov because they are two female Beat poets who perhaps don’t get as much recognition as some of the male ones.

Another poet who inspired me a lot as I moved into my late teens and early twenties and I was dealing with body image issues as a lot of women do, is Grace Nichols who wrote this amazing collection called the “The Fat Black Woman’s Poems” and it’s all in the voice of this character who speaks back against ideals and norms of beauty and it was very raw about what a woman can look like and can be anything.

One other poet I’ll mention, who is not normally called a poet, is Janet Frame, a New Zealand author, who is best known for her novels but she also wrote amazing poetry.

[ME] Is there anything else you’d like to add?

[AMELIA] A little disclaimer, advertising possibly, Adelaide has an amazing poetry scene and we have an amazing little Facebook page called the Adelaide Poetry Gig Guide, so, anybody who is looking to get into poetry and come to events pop on that Adelaide Poetry Gig Guide, there are gigs every week and there are amazing people, its supportive, friendly and you know, come join us!

If you liked this interview or have any feedback for me, I would love to hear from you!