Tag Archives: writing

Momentum and Progress

For the first time in a long time I am feeling like I am riding the crest of a new creative wave; one of momentum and propulsion.
For the past few years, due to specific personal circumstances, my creativity has felt compressed and it was more of a release valve for me, by writing brief snippets of prose on paper, or writing poems on Post It Notes, and starting continuous line drawing.
None of it allowed me to build momentum and movement to pursue a project the way I wanted it to.
However I felt that if I stopped creating it would cease to be a significant part of my life in the way I believe it to be. Small pieces were a way of creating an equilibrium, allowing me to breathe above water.
This new year has opened up, and there is a great sense of peace and joy. I feel I am able to write freely again like I haven’t for quite some time.
Here’s to this year to bring dormant seeds to life.

Pendock and Progress – A Short Story

“Pendock and Progress” is the second track released from Solkyri’s forthcoming album, Mount Pleasant.

Pendock and Progress (Track 3)

Circling Pendock Close with a bloodied nose. Dripping on to his t-shirt and caking above his lip. Pedalling hard to take the sting out of the pain. Up to the end of the street to the intersection and hanging a left. Barrelling down the footpath to the next intersection, turning around, and coming back. Looping through the cul-de-sac and up the other side, hanging a right and repeating the pattern.

He wiped his nose tentatively with the back of his hand and it came away with claret. Still. Caught stealing ciggies from his dad to give to older mates at school in exchange for pieces of silver and gold. Canteen money for a packet of Twisties. His dad clipped him with a backhander. Shouted how hard he had worked for something he enjoyed and the little bastard was depriving him of that pleasure.

He cleaned his hand on the back of his shorts. Kept riding laps of the cul-de-sac. The bike was a pick-up from the local hard rubbish clean up. Driving home after the nightshift his dad spotted it and lobbed it into the back of the car after giving it the once over and deciding he could get it up and running. Dad lapped the neighbourhood looking for other bikes for the parts he needed. It was one thing he was proud of. A labourer’s hands that fixed something. Made something good. Most of the time it was fabricating houses for posh fucks to inhabit. Other times it was demolishing houses for posh fucks to build another, larger house.

“Here you go, have a ride.” That’s all he said. It was mismatched, given a once over with spray paint to cover the rusted parts but fully functional and solid. His dad had made it. Respect born out of initiative.

But initiative that didn’t know how to move beyond the curvature of the street. The boy understood when a labourer’s hands became idle from a lack of work, they became hands of construction and deconstruction of the family and its relationships. Casual labour and seasonal work, packing shelves or running registers. An array of King Gee, flannies and singlets on the washing line in each neighbouring yard. A system that violently protected itself by keeping people on minimum wage. Keeping the idea of education at the forefront of their minds but at the back end of budgeting.

The blast of a car horn and a wave from an old man at the wheel turning into the cul-de-sac. The boy waved back and watched as the car pulled into his driveway. He rode down the street and pulled up as Grandad stepped out. A firm and static handshake exchanged. Grandad was a bastard of a brute. Nanna had died when he was little. Probably to escape Grandad. Nanna was orange cordial and Scotch Finger biscuits. Grandad was Reader’s Digest condensed books and talkback radio.

“Where’s your dad?”

“Inside.”

“Your mum home?”

“At work.”

“Your nose,” he pointed.

The boy shamefully wiped at the dried blood.

“My dad gave it to me worse.” A declarative comparison indicating the softening of generations.

The car door closed, and Grandad’s shadow lengthened towards the house.

Even though Grandad no longer struck his father, the boy could see how the generations measured up. Toughness was measured in how close you could get to the line of confrontation, prodding, goading, pricking, without copping a smack in the mouth from a backhanded swing. But that line was movable. He could stand his ground. Fight for what he wanted, even if it was only to piss the old man off. But always knowing who had the upper hand.

A genealogy of violence so circuitous and labyrinthine the boy wondered if he was the Minotaur at its centre, or simply the progeny of what was monstrous lusting after flesh and attacking people the way his Grandad had attacked his father, who attacked him and his mum and siblings. The fact a penis swung between your legs meant power and authority through the erect salute made between the pages of Penthouse magazine, and the flaccid outcome of making a mess in your own hands and wiping it away with wads of toilet paper.

The boy kneeled down at the front tap next to the letterbox and turned it on, letting the water run through his hand until it became cool. Splashing his face to clean the blood off, watching the red stain fade through his fingers. Slurping at the water cupped at his chin and feeling it run off the end of his nose, like blood. His hand shot up to check. Finding it clean he wiped his hand across his face. He looked down and began rubbing the spots of blood between his fingers. His mum would be angry he had stained his clothes but if he kept out of her way, he thought he could avoid the sideways glances. On his bike he could avoid the sideways glances of his dad and grandad.

The boy picked up his bike from the footpath and took off up the street. Each house he passed was a photocopied mimicry of an original that once had purpose. Untamed lawn edges or attempted front yard gardens of roses or murraya hedges. Kids’ plastic trikes next to Ford Lasers and Mitsubishi Colts. Fibro walls were good for fuck-all. Fabrication of pretence and a façade of neighbourliness as dog shit was tossed over the nearest backyard fence.

On his next lap around the cul-de-sac his younger brother came out the front door, probably told to piss off outside, and sat on the concrete verandah with a fistful of Hot Wheels cars. Lined them up along the top step and took turns pushing them off, one by one, down the three steps. The clatter of metal on concrete.

The boy felt the distance between himself and his brother, between himself and his father. Absence and ignorance stung like a father’s fist and blossomed into plum-coloured bruises. When they were visible, he learned to use mum’s concealer to hide them. Like she does.

He remembered lining up with his classmates, dressed in the category of ‘normal’ in their uniforms. On the surface it looked the same: blue shirt, grey shorts, white socks and sneakers. Or leather shoes if they could be afforded. But it was the idiosyncratic differences of how someone wore their shirt tucked out, longer socks or all the buttons done up to the very top he noticed as normal, too. Normal was having the shit kicked out of you at regular intervals by your father and turning up to school in the same uniform as everyone else thinking they too had the shit kicked out of them by their fathers on a regular basis. It was never said but always understood, as if bruises had their own telepathy to communicate with other bruises and share the pain as a salve of solidarity as the colours faded like the clouds of a summer storm.

He felt an underlying prickliness in his stomach when he looked at someone and they knew, too. Pendock Close had many faces, poverty being the most obvious. Yet poverty of affection, poverty of acknowledgement, poverty of awareness meant the boy let the prickliness tumble through his stomach, pass some of it out like runny shit to alleviate the stabbing for a brief time. But it was always there.

The desire to be seen, and noticed, not as a meat bag, a human sausage to be pricked and tossed; the fragile skin casing threatening to burst at the impact of a pellet spray of words shot from an arse.

And the boy continued on for another lap of Pendock Close.

* * * * *

The song is based on systematic violence and cycles of poverty named after two streets where the band grew up. I took inspiration from the accompanying artwork to develop the concept of the cul-de-sac, a closed road, a dead end, a place of going nowhere as a sustained metaphor throughout the piece. 

The plan is to have a collection of flash pieces written, one for each track on the album, by the middle of the year after the album is released in March as a download. Stay tuned for details.

You can read the first story, “Holding Pattern.”

 

What Am I Reading in 2020?

Shastra Deo – The Agonist

For the past few years I have been tracking my reading: number of books read, author (male/female), genre etc to have a look what I have been reading and to see what blind spots I do have, and to make sure I am reading more in order to improve my writing. As an English teacher I also need to model to my students the importance of reading.

In my first year of tracking my reading (2017) I read 24 books. In 2018 I managed 32 books. Last year I only read 17 books (because reasons like moving house).

In 2019 I particpated in the Goodreads Reading Challenge, and I am having another go at it this year. I go back to work tomorrow, and classes start next week so I used my time to read some set texts for classes, and my own choice. I have read 9 books so far, the majority of them poetry anthologies. I am going to change focus and read a few novels but might intersperse more poetry between them.

Over on my Instagram @handwrittenpages you’ll find my brief review and an accompanying illustration, mostly continuous line drawings but for the two most recent texts I’ve changed the style.

My hope in reading more widely is to give me greater awareness of writing styles, imagery, description, characterisation, narrative focus etc so that the projects I have lined up for this year have a better chance of delivering what I want them to.

What are you reading in 2020? And why?

Post It Note Poetry 2020

2020 is the 8th year of Post-It Note Poetry. Not bad for something that started as a dare to write bad poetry on Post-it notes between two friends.

The JAR Writers’ Collective will host the month-long poetry event this year, co-ordinated by Jodi CLeghorn, in league with fellow Collective members myself and Rus VanWestervelt, and ably supported by eight brilliant Post-It Note Poetry Ambassadors.

𝗔𝗕𝗢𝗨𝗧 𝗣𝗢𝗦𝗧-𝗜𝗧 𝗡𝗢𝗧𝗘 𝗣𝗢𝗘𝗧𝗥𝗬

Post-It Note Poetry runs every day in February and is designed with two broad aims in mind:

1. To encourage people of all skills sets and persuasions to explore and have fun with poetry – whether they are seasoned poets or curious souls attempting poetry for the first time since their teenage years.

2. To create within a confined physical space (the size of a post-it note) as a positive limitation. It is also a way of making poetry composition possible for 29 consecutive days.

“𝗧𝗛𝗘 𝗥𝗨𝗟𝗘𝗦”

The rules are simple for those who’d like to play along at home (at work, on the bus or in any of those in between places perfect for scribbling poetic words on small squares of sticky paper).

🖊 Write/build/create a poem every day of February.

🖊 Poems must fit on a post-it note (or be an equivalent sized poem – ie. no more than 8 lines on a larger backing).

🖊Poems must adhere to the original light-hearted spirit of permission to write badly – in which poems can tackle serious content, but internal editors/critics all get a break over February.

🖊Post poems to social media with the hashtag #pinp20.

🖊Follow the hashtag and enjoy what others are creating.

We look forward to introducing our ambassadors in the coming days.

All questions or inquiries can be directed to me!!

If you’d like to join the Facebook group – you can do so here.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/460406284024429/

Holding Pattern – A Short Story

Solkyri are a Sydney-based post-rock band, and their fourth album, Mount Pleasant, is due for release February 7, 2020.

They’ve dropped the cover art and the first track to the album, “Holding Pattern,” and while I was listening I had an idea for a piece of flash fiction.

Using the track title as the inspiration for the story, as well as the liner notes that the record was inspired by the theme of deception, deceit and false facades, this piece came to be.

Having a look at the track listing, I have further ideas for other pieces of flash fiction. Something you could read while listening to the album.

I hope you enjoy the story. Click on the link below (Track 1) to listen while you read

Holding Pattern (Track 1)

She sped along the first-floor landing, her eyes focused on the stairwell at the other end hoping no one was coming up. The rubbery slap of her thongs on the concrete her measure of time. Shorten the stride to take the corner. Grab the handrail for balance. Every step touched. She didn’t see him seated at the bottom. Launched from the third last step and catapulted beyond him onto the grass. Pulled up short, losing her thongs. Turned around, picked them up and walked back to him.

“You made me lose my time,” she said.

“Sorry.”

He was new to the building. They were both twelve.

“Saw you move in. You staying here long?” she asked, sitting beside him on the step of the bottom flight of stairs. She and her mum had been there a while. Seen some residents stay a month. Others for years.

“Dunno. Mum reckons it’ll be short. Til we can find something better.”

“What number are you?”

“2B. Like the pencil.”

“Or Hamlet.”

“I get that a lot.”

She shrugged.

“I’ve seen you walking up and down.”

Another shrug.

“How long does it take?”

“Four minutes and thirty-three seconds,” she said. “When I walk.”

Three storeys. Three circuits. Three orbits of the planets as she described it to him. She directed with her hands the path of her movement: starting at the bottom, along the ground floor, up the first flight of stairs, back along the first landing to the next flight of stairs at the opposite end, up again to the second landing and along to the other end and back down to the start.

He imagined an old-fashioned game of Donkey Kong and looked at each landing as a runway for barrels.

When she ran the circular orbit, she had her rules, and failure to uphold them meant an automatic disqualification and the time was null: each step on the stairs must be touched up and down; if someone exited their door or interrupted the run by coming up the stairs; if you knocked something over. She ran wide at the corners to maintain speed.

“Like a holding pattern for planes. What’s your record?”

“One minute, seventeen seconds. Only once.”

A woman’s voice called his name. He stood and walked up the stairs behind her. She rose from the bottom step and walked away from the building, counting her steps in long strides equal to the number of stairs. Turning back, she saw him crest the horizon of the stairwell and trot along. He waved. She waved back before he was eclipsed by his door.

The rubber of her thongs was worn thin and a stone pushed up into her right foot. She let the pressure build until she could no longer ignore it. Looking out for bindis she sat down and pulled the thong off her foot and dug the random nugget of asphalt from the sole. She flicked it towards the apartment block. Tugged at blades of grass that itched her legs.

From her vantage point she pictured herself walking past each door; that she was the sun passing the planets. Isolated entities existing behind each frame. Each had their own individual orbits within their sphere. Born of collisions and random traditions where the building came to be less of a systematic community and more of an isolated block of cells where individuals charted a pilgrim life of searching for the uncertain for a sedentary (or was it sedimentary? She often confused them.) life of uncertainty.

A uniformed mother walked along the footpath, fishing in her large handbag.

“Hi, Mum.”

“Hi, sweetheart.”

Her mother was a cleaner at a large hotel down the road. She once spoke of the room she had to clean after a person took their own life on the queen-sized bed. And then another person stayed there the next night and didn’t know. Their own block of flats was probably the same. Layers of people; some who left their shoes outside the door in little boxes; some who had a pot plant by the front door; some without door mats; some with fly screens.

The old woman who lived next door once said to her that she lived frugally.

“It means she has little money,” her mother explained.

The girl liked the way frugal sounded in her mouth. It was pleasant. The mouth to taste; to let fill with saliva and dry out when there was nothing. To speak hungry words although they had no taste. To speak words as prayers or wishes or curses.

She found out more words to do with money. She elongated spendthrift and emphasised the “ffft” at the end. P-words. With emphasis. Prodigal was said contemptuously with a Sunday school cadence. Profligate. Pecuniary.

Week in and week out, the money ran in, and the money ran out.

Beer bottles and pizza boxes.

Match boxes and cigarette packets.

Cereal packets and milk bottles.

All running to something. From something. Or someone. Running to stand still. The viciousness of hope was a powerful drug. The vivacity of hopelessness was even stronger.

A week later she was drawing on the footpath using chalk she had taken from her classroom without the teacher knowing. Circles within circles within an elongated ellipsis that stretched as far as her hand could reach.

“It’s just gonna wash away when it rains,” the boy said.

“Then I’ll draw something else.”

She started to fill in sections of the overlapping circles in different colours.

“Mum said we might be here longer than she thought.”

The girl kept filling in circles.

“Can I colour some in, too?” he asked.

She shrugged.

Sharing the coloured sticks they filled in the shapes into a kaleidoscope of muted pastels.

“Can I run with you one day?”

“Only if you can keep up.”

“What if you’re standing still?”

“Then you’ll never be able to catch up.”

 

Listen HERE

Here is the track listing for Mount Pleasant.

  1. Holding Pattern
  2. Potemkin
  3. Pendock and Progress
  4. Meet Me In The Meadow
  5. Shambles
  6. Time Away
  7. Summer Sun
  8. Well, Go Well
  9. Gueules cassees

Launching Post Marked Piper’s Reach

It is not too far away now that “Post Marked Piper’s Reach” is launched into the world.

If you’d like an autographed copy, click over to the Post Marked Piper’s Reach bookstore to get one: https://postmarkedpipersreach.wordpress.com/bookstore/

If you want a copy for your digital reader, then pop on over to the Vine Leaves Press site for options depending on your preference.

https://www.vineleavespress.com/postmarked-pipers-reach

 

Post Marked Piper’s Reach Review

It is only a little over a month before “Post Marked Piper’s Reach” is released and  an early review is in.

Courtesy of Andrew Gillman, you can read his review HERE

Suffice to say, we are more than a little chuffed at his review because it encapsulates so much of the novel’s heart (of darkness).

Links for ordering copies can be found at the Vine Leaves Press page HERE in both paperback and ebook in a region best for you.