Darkfall is here.
You can order it online from your local independent bookshop. Some of them are hand-delivering in their neighbourhoods,.
It’s wonderful to have my first copies arrive in the letterbox.
I’m really looking forward to joining Eliza Henry-Jones and Julia Baird, chaired by Age journalist Kerrie O’Brien for the first of the Yarra Ranges Writers Festival Sunday Sessions – it’s on this Sunday 3 May. We’ll be talking on the topic of Grief and Other Memories. Book now – cost of tickets are on a sliding scale. What a beautiful way to spend our iso-Sunday.
My new memoir, Darkfall, has a music score. Each chapter is subtitled with the name of an eighties song from alternative or post-punk culture. The occasional pop song title is dropped in too. I gifted each of these songs to my younger self as a way to show her how to be strong and how to thrive on being different. Here’s a playlist of the songs.
I’m thrilled to be part of the Yarra Ranges Writers Festival, in the first of the Sunday Sessions. Join me, along with Eliza Henry-Jones and Julia Baird, chaired by Age journalist Kerrie O’Brien, for a digital session, Grief and Other Memories. Book now – there’s a sliding price scale for tickets: Booking link for Grief and Other Memories digital Sunday Session
My second book will be published by UWA Publishing in 2020. It’s a memoir, written in fragments. I’m ready now to tell you the title. Darkfall. This is an American word for dusk. I came across it while reading a young adult novel to my daughter. Dusk is one of my favourite times of day (I don’t think I can choose just one as my favourite, but all of my favourite times are when the light is soft or deep and nuanced).
Darkfall is set in my childhood and adolescence. I had many reasons to hide and disappear then. I lived in country Victoria, mostly in the north-west. Verging on desert. But not quite. It’s set in those places where I lived, but it’s also set inside me, in the imaginative landscape that I created in those times of my life.
The image here is a photograph that I took of myself a few years ago, on the pink salt pans of Lake Tyrrell, close to where the events and visions of Darkfall took place. Some say that this salt lake is a remnant of an inland sea.
Andrew Darling and I are are about to begin making our first movements into a major new work for our Illuminous performance project. We’re thrilled to be collaborating with Brooke Wandin, artist and community educator. The work we’re exploring is titled Stream of Consciousness, and it’s supported by an Arts & Heritage Grant from Yarra Ranges Council and auspiced by Deakin University. In this work, the three of us are participating in a series of conversations about the upper reaches of the river that flows through our home communities, physically, psychically, creatively. Birrarung. Our conversations will be spoken in the voices of our creative practices. We’re speaking with one another, and with Birrarung too, in dialogue, through our voices of improvised music, poetic text, weaving. Storytelling, through our various means. Speaking and listening, on the banks of the river.
These conversations of ours will be presented as a video installation work. The first screening is scheduled for November 23, 2019, at Warburton’s Mecca Theatre at the Upper Yarra Arts Centre, which itself is located close to Birrarung: you can walk to the back decking and look out to see and hear the river’s flowing.
As I write here today, I am sitting close to the river, and I’m listening. A lot of rain has fallen and the river is fast, its banks wide. I stop, and look in: see the patterns in the foam. I’m ready to start the talk with this body of water.
The image for this post is a delicate piece by Brooke Wandin, created for a NAIDOC exhibition.
Circling the Brink
Andrew and I are currently preparing for an Illuminous performance that will be part of the Circling the Brink event, Duplexity, happening as part of the PAVE Festival in Emerald, Victoria, this coming weekend. Duplexity will take place in Telopeia Gardens, a dreamy, lush, serene place. The audience will be taken on a guided walk through the gardens, seeing a series of wonderfully creative performances along the way. You can see us, amidst the ferns in what is perhaps the most shadowy nook of the gardens. We played on site earlier this week, experimenting with the projection (it’s not easy to create visible, readable projections of words in an outdoor location for a daytime performance, but I loved the effect we discovered in the process), and feeling into the atmosphere not only of the gardens themselves but also the micro-climate and moods and complexities of our little patch.
Our work is always site-specific and responds to what is right there in the moment. What emerges is unique whether in practice sessions or public performance. This was an intense practice, as we’d both had very busy and challenging weekends and were negotiating conversations and connection, the practicalities of working with the site – powering the projection, creating a screen for the projection and positioning it, assessing the light, considering the weather forecasts, working out where the audience would be, where I would sit and Andrew would stand (sometimes I like to hide a bit, sometimes I like to be more visible; Andrew likes to be able to see the projection if he feels to read my words now and then, but he also is drawn to play outwards to the audience rather than away), and then trying to drop in to actually playing and feeling our way into the place and time. As always, after a few moments of playing, we were deeply at home with this work and our connectedness as collaborators and friends.
Duplexity runs on both Saturday and Sunday, this coming weekend, but Illuminous are only performing on the Saturday, at 11 and then again at 2. Full event details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/782127531936472/
May 31, 2016
There’s a point in the documentary The Artist is Present at which Marina Abramovic says that doing almost nothing is the hardest thing in performance art. Moments of silence or stillness in the Illuminous sessions are the ones that fascinate me. They test my nerves, and I sense those of the audience too. Any tiny movement – Andrew letting his trumpet drift down to one side; me lifting my face away from the screen; a gaze met and held, an almost inaudible tapping on the trumpet’s valves. What are they doing? Why have they stopped? Are they finished? Isn’t it too soon? If they’re finished, why aren’t they acting like they’re finished? (And perhaps, sub-consciously… Where am I? What am I doing? Is this body really mine? Am I here? If so, how long have I been here? How much longer have I got? Is here even here? Is now even now? Am I breathing? When I see my breath in the air, whose is it now and where is it going?)
I love these elasticated, elongated minutes. To play with micro-moments. Tiny calibrations. Of body. Imagination. Emotion.
Yesterday, Andrew and I retreated to the redwoods forest for our first Illuminous improvisation session for the year. You can read about the Illuminous project here.
As well as trumpet, Andrew played medicine drum and sang. I was writing in my journal and caught up in a deeply incantatory state for much of the session. At one point words were drizzling out like water from a tap. I’m picturing one of the garden taps of my childhood in northern Victoria: all kinds of weird watery patterns came out of those wonky taps.
When we started the Illuminous project more than eighteen months ago, I wrote in my journal during our sessions for a long time before we started using a laptop and projector. Nearly all our sessions were in the forest or next to pristinely lovely Cement Creek or the river. Andrew didn’t read what I’d written until after the session or sometimes I could be convinced to read it to him, voice cracking in shyness. But an almost uncanny fusion almost always arose in the sessions. An overlapping rawness between us. The emerging of a shared space where it seemed possible to be truthful and authentic. To be creative and expressive from deep in the heart and the guts. For what arose in the moment to have permission to be there as precisely itself.
In our public performances so far we have used projection rather than having me writing in my journal. Andrew can see what I’m writing, as the audience sees it. Not that he’s looking all the time, just as I’m not consciously listening to every sound he plays. I’m not ‘writing to the music’. Andrew is not playing a response to the words.
We intend to experiment with taking projection into natural spaces such as the forest soon. But I also like what happens in the work when I am writing in my journal and the creative fusion happens differently to when we use projection.
During yesterday’s session, I lay on the ground and wrote slowly, letting the words fall in their patterns from the tap while Andrew played his trumpet. After a while he sat down nearby and began playing softly, and I stopped writing altogether, listening some of the time but mostly trying to let myself drift, resisting the need to have to do anything in particular. I was tuned in to the sounds down at the level of the forest floor and up through the branches of the trees, and our own sounds. I noticed tiny shifts in the light and the weather and how we seemed to respond to them sub- or un-consciously. Andrew put down the trumpet and took up the medicine drum and started playing it and improvising with his voice. I was writing again, and having a deep sensory experience of us and what we were doing and where we were.
In the work, a kind of score is created, a three-dimensional score in words and music and less tangible elements. Shapes and sounds. Inscriptions in air. The work is about everything that happens in the time and space of the session, and sometimes what’s outside the session too as it’s an ongoing work. Bodily presences. Movements, both small and expansive. Met and avoided gazes. I’m especially interested in the subtlest happenings. The scratching of my pen’s nib on paper or the tapping of my fingertips on my keyboard. (I never realised how rhythmically I write and type until we began this project.) The sounds of Andrew’s breathing as he plays, but my breathing too for my writing process is very much of the body. (In private I’m a noisy writer and very physical. It’s a challenge for me to dare to be that writer while others are watching, even Andrew, despite the trust we have built up between us.) Instants of transparency in facial expressions and body language. Sometimes, a silence or a stillness. And then there’s mood. Thought. Feeling. The tacit occurrence of life taking place: you can’t necessarily sense it, name it, pin it down. But it is happening, in the moment, and this work is documenting those profoundly delicate instances of moments passing in the lives of us and the audience and the location and by extension the world.
I am interested in this: tracing the minutiae of emotional life in the body and in the world through creative improvisation.
December 9, 2015. Warburton Pantry.
The postcards have arrived today from the printers: beautiful, decadent cards with photography by Kate Baker and design by Ann Roberts Graphic Design. I love the softness in the texture of the card, the creamy borders that bestow an antique look, and the 1920s postcard style on the back. It was important to me to make a ‘real’ postcard that hopefully someone will write a little greeting on, stick on a stamp, and send in the mail. The first one I will send will be to my sister, Dani, also a writer, with whom I have a long tradition of handwritten correspondence. Kate’s portrait of me (seen at the top of this page) is on the front of the cards.
On the back, you see this…
I intend to leave little piles of them, or maybe sometimes just a single one, with my own handwritten inscription, in the public spaces where I write. I have various performance artworks happening or in planning, but this is my personal one, quiet and gentle. It’s my performance artwork of a daily practice: writing, my practice enclosed by the small rituals of my tea preparations and sipping.
I put my journal on the cafe table. The tea paraphernalia arrives, and slowly I wait for a few moments as it steeps and reaches optimal temperature, and then I take the little milk jug from the cup, pour in my milk, turn the pot a couple of times, arrange the strainer over the surface of the cup (it always reminds me of a delicate bridge suspended over water), and pour the tea, a little stream at a time. I don’t take sugar, but I swirl the spoon without touching the bottom, to get the tea to the right colour. And I sip. I may open my journal then, but sometimes I leave it a while and think… starting the work deep on the inside. I am in my own space, but I’m aware of what’s going on around me too, aware of the people who pass by, all intricately laced up in the poems and stories of their lives.
If you comment here and you are one of the first ten to do so, I will send you a postcard.
I’ve been working on a poem called ‘Bleu Myosotis‘. It is long and chunky and I’ve been looking at John Berryman’s Dream Songs for his arrangement of lines. I’m noticing the relief I find in writing poetry. It gives me a sense of at-homeness that I’ve not really ever experienced in prose writing even though nearly all have my publications so far have been in prose. I like the presence of time and timing in poetry. I like the spaciousness. I like to dance and in poetry I am in movement. When I write poetry, I am dancing.