Ned Evans | Nick Kind | Andrew Kidman | Yusuke Hanai | Richard Murphy | Jim Oatley | Lisa Bow | Ashliee MahRiee | Jess Sides| Jared Ward | Roy McConnell Tom | Petahegoose | Damien Luciano Venuto | Graham Nunn | Chris Pash| Joseph B. Cleary | Natasha Narayan | Jessica Paige
Frame Lines #5 Communication
Communication: Expression and the Written Word I have the pleasure of putting together this magazine, and communicating with the artists and you the reader. I’m also blessed with the pleasure to choose what I eat for dinner, the luxury of turning on a tap to stream hot water in the shower and a full education. I drive my car to work, shop for clothes when I get bored with what I wear, go on holidays, and why wouldn’t I? This normal for an Australian, yet as I turn back to the front cover of this magazine, and think about the content... tears well in my eyes, because at this very present moment in time children in Kenya and around the world are struggling to survive. Children all over the world are fighting against disease, hunger, abuse, neglect... what can I do about it? Well I can start promoting the work of organisation such as Reason 2 Smile, or I ask collectively, what can WE do about it as a society? At Frame Lines we are determined to help protect the health of our planet and to improve the lives of the people who inhabit it. No company can aspire to have that kind of impact by working or thinking alone - CHANGE IS A GROUP EFFORT. We are privileged to be literate and educated, and be able to communicate through the written word, but all too often I see our global communication network being used and abused to showcase celebrities who do nothing but drink and snort away millions of dollars in disregard for the culture they helped propagate - whilst two thirds of the world’s children would do anything for just one dollar. When we started Frame Lines we wanted the organisation to showcase the work that individuals are doing to make a difference to change this world for the good. I feel blessed to have come across Keela Dates and her mission to care for these children lost in the fragment of time in this world. All we ask is that as you enjoy this free magazine, please consider donating to Reason 2 Smile or get in touch with Keela so that you may be able to help. We are also calling for artists, poets and musicians to get involved with a Frame Lines exhibition which will be held to raise money for these children. This will be the first of many events to come, raising money throughout with the help of some unique talents for organisations such as Reason 2 Smile.
Sarah Nolan Managing/ Creative Director
Lil’ Diddy, ‘bout Shaq ‘n’ Diane... I love language. I mean, it really sets us apart from the animals huh? Certainly it’s one of the founding principles of us being who we are, and no doubt forms a pillar supporting this great global society we all lean on to a certain degree. It governs us, guides us, greets and beguiles us. “Surely not a greater gift to man hath [insert favoured religious figure(ine)] bestowed unto us.” Or greatest curse. Perhaps taking all the scriptures (fables) a bit too literally might not be a good thing eh? One thing I love to do is twist simple sentences into prosaic print, blur meaning and metaphor and tangle truth and imagination until absurdity reigns. I can’t even say if I’m that good at it yet, but I’m happily steering it headlong into the unknown. Maybe I should take up poetry; I’ve attempted a few Haiku for shits ‘n’ giggles, but nothing of real importance. But as they say, “This guy’s the limit...” Multilingualism is not something to be taken lightly, and as an Australian gallivanting across the globe, I can’t help but notice its complete lack of importance to us. Take my own experience for example. I studied the German language in school for nine years – nine years, and I can barely remember a thing. One reason is we don’t learn language like they do in most of the world. I can hardly remember speaking German even in German class. Only when I began travelling in Latin America in 2005, did I realise what speaking a foreign language was all about. For me, studying Spanish was an important part of the experience of being there, not just in class, but learning the street words too; learning to express oneself, to jest, to curse and swear all over again. And might I add, repeatedly and repeatedly with great delight. Our language’s huge vocabulary is growing yet larger with all the internetworking that’s going on between us these days. I refuse to accept that I’m getting out of touch with the Generation Y-speak, though I plainly am. I Wiki’d ROFL to find out what it meant, and if you didn’t know either, it’s escaping you just the same. I can’t finish this piece without mentioning the most popular mode of webmunication, the so far insurmountable Facebook. If I’ve agreed to be your ‘friend’, you may browse through my applications and quotes, write on my wall, or view the many photos of me looking a little worse for wear, posted up and tagged dutifully by the other ‘friends’ in my life. “Let a man not be judged on the weight or merit of his actions, but for the volume of friends he hath on Facebook and the ‘chumps’ his e-Vampyre doth infect.” jeremy’s web-mates: three hundred faces plus five how many u got? Jeremy Thomas
Contents FRAME LINES ‘Well I may not be you, and you not me’
Artists and Writers Reason 2 Smile education Steve Cartwright Cartoonist Speed Poets poety Queensland Poetry Festival
a free magazine edition #5
Caitlin Chapman writer
PatricSandri Conceptual illustrator
Jessica Scranton www.jessicascranton.comwww.scrantonphoto. blogspot.om
Regular features Non-Profit Profile Reason 2 Smile
Tameika Brumby photographer Patrick Tommay author Elizabeth Marchitti poet Salvatore Buttaci poet Lorraine Berry writer Patrick Flynn poet Kaitlyn Gallagher
Gerald E. Monaghan Jr. poet
Exhibitions Unsensored 08 Global Graffiti - Jeremy Thomas Jeremy our resident culture sleuth share his experiences with us Music - Laura McNeice Jess Shulman Book reviews - Lorraine Berry Live through this Landsman I’JAAM Fanon by John Edgar Wideman
* All contributors bios and links to websites can be found at the Frame Lines website www.framelines.org The articles appearing within this publication represent the opinions and attitudes of their respective authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or editorial team. The reproduction of any editorial or images without prior permission is strictly prohibited. All Photography, music and all works appearing in this magazine are protected by ©copyright Reproduction without expressed permission from the artist is strictly prohibited. All images are copyright of the artist.
QPF is a magnificent engine for poetry in Australia. Each year its cogs turn a little harder and I, along with the rest of the audience get to experience some of the worldâ€™s greatest poetry in one of the most diverse performance programs in the country. I am thoroughly inspired as a writer and reader of poetry by the work that is presented at QPF. QPF is a vital organisation for poetry and poets in Queensland and each year we provide essential opportunities for emerging, mid-career and established poets. QPF is a veritable force in Queenslandâ€™s cultural landscape and I feel honoured to serve the community as Festival Director for 2008. I am the youngest person to have directed the festival, and am equally anxious and excited about the strange words that will be spoken at QPF this August. I am prepared to win and lose, hit and miss, celebrate and learn. I am ready for it all, and so grateful to the seven other people on the committee who work their arses off for the festival and allow me to see how far I can drive this wonderful engine. I feel proud and honoured to represent them and the greater poetry community in Queensland. Julie Beveridge - Festival Director
Image Credits QPF photography - Elleni Toumpas ltmusicphotography.com
Rowan Donovan What makes volunteering worthwhile? For me, volunteering to be on the festival committee has always been about the intrinsic sense of satisfaction you get when you know, after all the months of commuting, meetings, deadlines and difficulties, you have been part of a team that has put on a very successful festival. We all work in demanding jobs by day; we are all “time poor”. The festival is growing and demanding more from each committee member and you see how hard everyone else is working to make the festival a success. I also get to met some wonderful poets and I get to hear the best poetry Australia and our overseas guests have to offer. What does the festival mean to you? For me the festival is about celebrating the spoken and written word: Working with good people who share the same enthusiasm to help shape an event that showcases the diversity, the richness and the possibilities that poets and their poetry bring when given the opportunity to stand up and present their work to an audience. On a personal level, it is also about comparing and contrasting, meeting and greeting, growth and learning.
Zenobia Frost I first got involved with the poetry community when I was fifteen. When SpeedPoets gave me the confidence to develop my performance work. In 2007, I got involved and I got to see it all first hand as a committee member (and as something of a ‘rehearsal space poet-wrangler’). For me, the festival is an opportunity to immerse myself in stirring, sublime and sometimes startling words, learn more about how events like this are managed. I also have the opportunity to interact with all the characters of the poetry world, whom I have learned are often more down-to-earth than their author photos would have us believe. After all, if you put so many poets in one building together, adventures are sure to occur. I think the visitors to the QPF would agree that all days seem to run effortlessly. For the committee, but particularly for Julie and Graham, the festival happens only after a year of hard work. I’m in awe of the dedication that the committee shows. It just proves that there is a lot of love for poetry in Queensland, and it’s not going to die any time soon.
Moon for One The moon for weight Hung itself Upside down On a star Leftover from midnight And I for one Couldn’t contain The full extent of it Couldn’t sustain The very thought of it So I sat for as long as Forever takes To write the moment Right the wrongs Of a life Spent submerged in waters Far gentler than this This moon For weight Hangs itself Upside down In a sky left blistered With stars And I for one Would never dream To change The face of it
RAT I am the cloaked detective. I am the silent choir. I am the top of the slush pile. I am sleeping inside your pocket. I am the gatherer of secrets in my nest of old headlines. I am Icarus, scaling the maze before flight and I am Houdini, with supple spine. I am a mathematician; I can multiply. I am looking to master mischief’s map, whatever X might mark the spot of.
The Wind Came Knocking The night I left, you said the wind jumped the horizon, tore overland pummeled mountains, stole their dark sleep snatched at trees and left them gasping
I first became involved with Queensland Poetry Festival in 2001 as an artist. In 2002 and 2003, I again performed at various events as part of the festival. During closing night of the 2003 festival the current Director(s) spoke to me and told me that they would all be standing down and so effectively, there would be no committee in 2004 willing to run the festival. I stepped up and offered to take on the role of Festival Director. Having the opportunity to inhabit the role of Artistic Director of the Queensland Poetry Festival from 2004 to 2007 was the experience of a lifetime. It was a role that demanded a distinct creative fingerprint be stamped on it, and looking back I think this is something that the creative team and I did and did well. As volunteers, we are given the opportunity to develop creative partnerships with venues and arts organizations, network with the global poetry community, and to be part of a team that produces a vibrant festival that celebrates poetry in all of its elegant diversity.
and then sped to our house to where you lay alone. You heard it arrive at the window: it rapped on the pane demanded to be let in. You did not move glad of your bed on such a night wishing that I were there to pull you close, calm your strange unrest whisper: it’s only the wind It hit again, grew wild, began to wail knowing that you were shut within and would not surrender. It threatened: you lay still. What if it was somebody but who at 1am? Man or beast or spirit you would not go alone to see. You rolled over: told yourself nothing or no-one. It sighed and slipped away, quiet as any man.
Not Enough Traffic Lights Late nights this week, I have been drunk on words and music. They nourish me in ways that solids can’t. The only time that I am thankful for every red light, allowing me to capture each phrase as it springs into being fully formed. The car’s rhythmic rumbling forms a backdrop, forms a sound scape, forms a canvas on which I paint my thoughts as the voices of so many poets buzz through my head, lighting and illuminating. “This is why we do this”, they say. “This is it”. They are compelled as I am compelled. I am compelled, as life is short and time is short and memory is short... I am compelled to keep it short, although the words, the thoughts, the voices are still buzzing. There are not enough traffic lights.
Tonight I return. Wait at the door real and whimpering as any wind. Listen: outside your horizon is breathing.
Nerissa Rowan I’ve long been in love with words. I love the way they look, the way they sound and they way they sing if you string them together right… poetry takes the qualities of words and uses them to create art. And, as with all art forms, it’s about self-expression and sharing your vision. The festival offers a chance for poets to meet, network and gain exposure. Projects like ‘Poetry Unearthed’ have uncovered some amazing local talent. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to contribute to this and ensure others had the chance to be inspired. I love volunteering – I’ve worked on a range of different events and for notfor-profit organisations and have gained so much. My volunteer roles have also gained me invaluable experience and helped develop my career. It’s definitely worthwhile.
Alicia Bennett I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to attend the QPF as either an observer or performer since 2004. I was hooked after my first year – the energy and atmosphere is overwhelming. For me, volunteering as the Secretary of the festival committee has been an honour and at times, daunting. The passion and professionalism of Julie Beveridge and the committee members is infectious. I have found managing my time between family, fulltime work, writing and the committee commitments challenging, though more than worth it. It is great to see how festivals work from the inside out.
Treading Water Early morning flesh heavy and sleep warm sheet creased wade from your quick sand dreams to the surface where my tenderness treads water.
FRANCIS BOYLE fl. Why did you get involved with QPF? Let’s say it was a long time ago in. . . Queensland. Well, Queensland yes, but a different Queensland. OK, it was the mid nineties and memories of the Bjelkemander were finally fading but the damage was still all around us. Poetry, well it could finally speak its name but usually didn’t – at least not in anything above a low whisper. Now a few people saw that it didn’t have to be like this. I won’t name names or claim to be one of them. When the story comes to be told, as it should be, there will be time for names and I hope I will be there to speak them but, for now, let us say the idea was abroad, in a culture that was only learning not to fear ideas, and a few of us were privileged to be in a place where we could see the possibility of making something. Or maybe it just seemed like a good idea at the time. I’m not sure it was easy to have expectations and I don’t think there was ever any grand plan but there was nothing to stop us because there was nothing in the way. I mean poetry in Queensland. Surely, some kind of joke. “Don’t you mean the Queensland Poultry Festival?” (and yes, I do believe this actually happens). But then something happened. We did it. We discovered that we had written the book on how to run a poetry festival, at least in Australia, but that didn’t stop us, so we kept going. Something like this was too good to lose.
Holly Buschman I got involved with QPF because of my participation in the ‘Poetry Unearthed’ series last year. I am so thankful to have discovered this vibrant, thriving community of inspired people! The benefits to my writing have been enormous. I feel good putting some energy back into helping organise and facilitate events that I greatly enjoyed last year. Poetry is, unfortunately, not a widely read genre. Because the festival is welladvertised and held in an excellent venue, QPF also gives a chance for the general public to have some exposure to poetry.
El Torero (the Bullfighter) he stands erect gilded in velvet and hosiery a murderous ballerina on stage in a dance with death his cruel accomplice those cheating picadors they soothe the matador’s nerves by severing those of the bull illusions of immortality set in sunny Spanish afternoons as Man stares down black-horned, hot-breathed Death and lives on triumphantly ….if only behind the vermillion veil. *the bullfighter
Haiku The moon like an agile stone floats behind your head. This is my vision.
Eleven eleven//11:11 by Patrick Toomay
Context is always important. Often the emotional states being traversed are intense. A creative surge. Divorce. Death of a loved one. Periods when our normal sense of time fragments. In the midst of such a maelstrom, your eyes wander to a clock, a calendar. Aimlessly, it seems, casually, just a haphazard glance, but what you see is startling. The numbers seem to punctuate the moment. 11:11. But it’s odd. What could this mean? You shake your head. The coincidence is compelling, but mysterious. Ultimately, you decide, it’s unfathomable. Then the flux of life intrudes, washing everything away. But then it happens again. Maybe it’s a month later, or a year. Again, the emotional state is intense. Maybe you’re driving to an important appointment, passing through a pregnant place. Or looking through old e-mails, reviewing communications from a turbulent time. And there they are again, reverberating. 11:11. It’s inevitable, then. Instantly, you recall your first encounter with them. Suddenly, you’re wondering: “What’s going on?” These days astrologers speak of a “Gateway,” but the heavenly tug of this formulation can divert one from the primary destination and that is one’s self. The Hermetic formulation is instructive here: “As above, so below.” This “Gateway,” then, can be seen as an opening, or an invitation, to a path of self-understanding. But it’s an unconventional one. Archaic but indisputably organic, it’s an opening to a wider world wherein the environment can furnish clues to those darker regions of psyche that are begging to be made conscious. Animals in odd places at charged times. Freaky weather. The uncanny appearance of the lines of a poem, or a paragraph of text. These elements can be either “positive” or “negative” depending on the compensatory needs of the individual -- what he is being asked to take in at a particular moment. My article “At the Cusp,” included in this edition of Frame Lines, gives an account of just such a moment, revealing the magic that can arise in the harrowing mess of life. Jung’s psychology of religion, as it incorporates his synchronicity theory, is apt to such states, especially as recently re-visioned by Canadian analyst Robert Aziz. Former monk and American spiritual writer Thomas Moore is also plumbing the 11:11 orbit. As is British Classical scholar Peter Kingsley and American playwright/novelist David Rabe. Among many others, of course. This path is quintessentially of the heart and coincidences mark the way. Move with your heart and affirmation will follow. “Practice precedes insight,” say the Buddhists. “Knowledge is the reward for action.” Required of the practitioner, then, is a kind of “headlessness.” A giving over of the intellect to the intelligence of one’s heart. An inversion, in other words, of our usual way of meeting the world. Meditation can put one in touch with these realms. Inwardly, getting quiet. One finds then that the feared “emptiness” is actually a fullness beyond comprehension. The order present there is not the sort we are accustomed to encountering. Rather, the order is of Soul. With its own logic and intentions. To glimpse it is to begin to grasp one’s own complexity, and by extension, that of the larger world, opening for us a range of possibilities that we never imagined existed.
a Reason 2 Smile //Writen by Caitlin Chapman
Every life is valuable and every growing person deserves a reason to smile. Reason 2 Smile is an organisation dedicated to the children of Jambo Jimpya - A School (located just north of Mombassa, Kenya)– putting smiles on their faces by providing them with a safe living environment, proper nutrition and a quality education. Your butt is slowly going numb in the plastic or metal chair in which you currently sit. Your back is absolutely killing you from hunching over that slab of wood they call a desk; fluorescent lights beat down as your eyes strain to see what is on the overhead projector. This is (or was) your classroom. Now, close your eyes for just a minute while I show you something. Picture yourself in your classroom. A chalkboard with indecipherable scribbles hollering at you from its position. A podium or desk stands with authority before the couple of dozen desks that cower with students, spaced out faces that are reliving last night’s adventures in their hung-over brains. Now, take away the chalkboard, the podium and all of the desks. Remove all of the windows, reflective tiles and sobering students. Replace them with dark mud walls and dirt floors. Try to conjure a picture of a little girl on the backs of your eyelids, about five years old (although she does not know her own birthday). Her skin is a glowing golden brown hue that is sprinkled with freckles and matches her wide, innocent eyes that stare up at you from a broken wooden bench which is sitting on a dusty, dirt floor. Her name is Mariam, and she is holding a long stick that she found outside earlier today. Tear your gaze from hers, let your eyes trail down her face, then her arm, across her hand and bony knuckles, sliding down the length of the stick to meet the Earth. There is a word scrawled on the floor: C-A-T. This is her notebook; the Earth, and the stick, her pencil. No desk sits neatly in front of her with a hurried cheat sheet carved in it to help her remember the alphabet. Now, let your eyes travel back up from the three dirt letters. Glide up the stick, back across her fingers, up the arm showing you each bone that constructs it, and find her
mouth. Watch it, as each side curls up and stretches, reaching for her ears. Once they stretch as far as they possibly can, a hint of white appears between her lips and widens until you are staring at a true and brilliant smile. The room in which Mariam is sitting is her Kindergarten classroom at Jambo Jipya School in Mtwapa, Kenya. It isn’t much, but without this school, Mariam would be wandering aimlessly through the dangerous streets of a coastal African village; being introduced to the world of drugs and sex trafficking; selling her body by the age of ten in order to get money so she can eat. This is the case for a large number of Kenyan children. With no place to go during the day to receive food, love, and an education, they turn to sex, drugs, and extreme violence (like joining rebel groups). One woman saw this scenario all too often and after one particular morning about eight years ago, she decided she was the one that had to make a change. Christine Mwende was walking hurriedly to the hospital in Mombasa where she works as a nurse. Beads of sweat dripped from her forehead and ran down her cheeks, the sun was blaring, its rays begging Christine to stop and take a sip of water. As she slowed her pace, she spotted a small hut sitting quaintly in its mud frame. Holes in its roof made for the ultimate skylights and made up for the lack of windows, but what she noticed more were the three bodies that were gathered just outside the thin mud walls. Three children were huddled together, their twig-like arms wrapped around their bony knees, rocking back and forth on their tiny bums. They felt Christine’s presence and looked up at her, meeting her
Childrens Art Work
gaze with eyes full of despair. “Is something wrong?” Christine asked the children. One of the little boys spoke up and in the deepest, steadiest voice he could muster replied, “Our mother is inside the house, she is very sick.” Christine felt an obligation as a nurse to see the extent of the woman’s illness, so she asked the boys if she could step inside to see their mother. They obliged, grateful for any sign of help. Upon entering the home Christine immediately recognized that this woman was mere inches from death’s door. She turned to the boys and reassured them that she would be back very soon with medicine for their dying mother. She kept her word and was back within the hour. The children were waiting outside, unable to witness their only family member left dying right before their eyes. Christine rushed inside to attend to the women, the children at her heels. She kneeled down and picked up the woman’s hand. It was cold. She looked up at her face and realized she was too late. In the short time it took for her to get the medicine and return three children had become defenceless against the dangers of the African
world. Christine slowly turned around and saw three orphans staring her in the eyes. She knew that this was not at all an uncommon situation to be in, and that children all over Kenya and Africa as a whole were left to fend for themselves from young ages every day. But try looking into a child’s eyes who has absolutely no one left in the world and simply saying: “I’m very sorry for your loss. I have to go now. Goodbye and good luck. Try not to turn to drugs and prostitution.” This was not an option for Christine. She couldn’t walk away from these children knowing what would surely become of them. So, in 2004 Christine began what would become not just a school, but a place to love, be loved, and be fed. In essence, Christine created a home that these children had never known. She not only took in the children she met by the hut that fateful morning, but she took all of her savings and built a small community centre where these three children and children just like them: orphans and at-risk children (children who deal with abuse and neglect in their home lives) could come during the day to receive medical attention and an education. Christine spent her days at Jambo Jipya with the
children and her nights at the hospital in order to make enough money to supply the children with food and other supplies they desperately needed. She literally has been giving the food off her plate and clothes off her back for these kids that are sorely lacking those simple pleasures of food, clothing and shelter. Jambo Jipya is now on its way to becoming a fullfledged independent school with no government funding whatsoever. Christine was and still is adamant about keeping Jambo Jipya independent. Government funded schools are free for the children, but require that every child must be able to purchase a uniform, shoes, and food for lunch. The lessons are strict with no variations allowed from the teachers. Many children cannot afford luxuries such as a uniform and shoes, so they are restricted from an education. If Christine wants to be able to fully meet the needs of these children, she needs to stay independent from the government. Meanwhile, back in the United States in May 2006, Keela Dates was graduating from Wells College with certification as an elementary school teacher. Her original plan was to secure a teaching position in her home state of New York, much like her mother. Before settling down, however, Keela felt the need for a life changing experience. She was introduced to Jambo Jipya, which means “Something New” in Kenya’s native tongue Swahili. It was perfect. Something new was exactly what Keela was looking for. The program would send Keela to volunteer for three months in any way she could at a small, independent school consisting of a few mud huts in Mtwapa, a small town on the coast of Kenya. By February of 2007 Keela was on a plane to Nairobi. By the time Keela became part of the Jambo Jipya family, there were already over 100 students. It didn’t take her long to fall in love with each and every one of them. One nine year old boy, Joseph, took up a particularly special place in Keela’s heart. Christine had first met the family two years ago in an embassy. Joseph’s mother was extremely ill with HIV, and his father had left the family to be with another woman. The children were very thin and had rashes covering their bodies. Christine offered them a place at Jambo Jipya, but for about a year they never came. Christine believes the children went to live with the father, but were kicked out by his girlfriend. They then lived with their grandmother who drank heavily and could not afford to feed them. Luckily, they eventually came to Jambo Jipya. Keela and Joseph became closer than just student and teacher, exchanging pictures of elephants they drew for each other, Keela let him wear her hat, and he smiled big for her pictures. By the end of her first month in Kenya, Keela realised that when she was going to return to the states in three weeks time, it wouldn’t be for long. Although she had already decided that she would be coming back after raising some money for the school and making money to fund her return, it was next to impossible to convince the children she would be back for
Student and Teacher Keela
Photography by Jessica Scranton www.jessicascranton.com
them. They were all too used to being abandoned. They just asked: “Please don’t forget us, Teacher Keela.” With just a few weeks remaining in her stay, Keela was all of the sudden faced with an unusually difficult day at school. Joseph was not quite himself, he was quiet and reserved, not playful like usual. The sun beat down on his face in the play yard and splashed a look of anguish across his complexion. Back inside, Joseph wrote Keela a note that consisted of a picture and four words: “my sister is dead.” Not knowing exactly what to do or how recently it had happened, Keela thanked Joseph for the beautiful picture he drew her and they continued to play. About an hour later, Joseph approached Keela and simply said, “Teacher, my sister is dead.” “I’m so sorry, Joseph.” Keela’s heart sank at the thought of losing a sibling, having a younger brother herself. Keela informed Christine of what Joseph told her and Christine asked Keela to bring him to her so she could find out exactly what was going on. The language barrier prevented Keela from understanding Joseph’s full story. He came to Christine
and told her, in Swahili, that his four year old sister had died three days ago. Chances are, the little girl was HIV positive, but she was never tested. Joseph and his brother were absent from school that Monday for the burial. In their culture, they must take a dead body back to the father, even if he is not a part of the deceased’s life anymore. When Joseph’s family found the girl’s father, he refused to bury her and they were forced to pay a man to dig her grave. Before leaving to go home for the day, Keela took Joseph aside. She rubbed her hand over his tiny back and told him it was okay to be sad. He refused to cry even though Keela was watching the tears well up behind his eyes. Before long, they were surrounded by a small group of other students that had seen them sitting quietly alone, detached from the rest of the kids. Timothy, a fourth grade student, spoke up. “Teacher, you go with that one to America?” Keela asked Timothy what he meant by his question. “You go to take that one to America when you leave?” He asked, pointing to Joseph. “Why do you ask that, Timothy?” “He really loves you, Teacher.” Keela’s heart exploded. She wanted to scream, “Yes, Yes! Joseph, you’re coming home with me if that is what you want to do!” But, it isn’t that easy, so her response was careful. “I love Joseph too. And, I love you, Timothy, and you too Mwanaisha.” Keela replied looking at each of the children standing before her with their eyes fixed on hers. “I love all of you, but yes, I do love Joseph too.” The children dispersed leaving Keela and Joseph alone again. “I do love you, Joseph.” She offered him a hug and told him that she would miss him on Friday, as the family was going to visit the grave. His eyes began to water; he refused the hug and turned away. Nine years old and he rejected any visible sign of sadness. Society had already shaped him; men do not show emotion. Keela watched as he dragged his red flip flops through the dirt, heading home to his broken family. On a hot Saturday in March, Christine took Keela to visit Joseph’s home. Christine wanted Keela to get an idea of how these children lived while not at school and although she had prepared herself for a fairly disheartening situation, what she saw was shocking. Outside the tiny mud hut which they call home were ten drunken males sitting around drinking an illegal alcoholic drink that Joseph’s grandmother makes from coconuts and sells as her only source of income. After talking to her for a bit (with Christine as the interpreter) Keela learned that the grandmother must also sleep with the men on
a regular basis in order to keep them coming back to buy more of the drink. The grandmother invited Keela and Christine into the house. It consisted of two rooms that were about 5’ by 10’ in total. The walls - though they could hardly be called that - were made of mud, though in much worse shape than the school’s and full of holes. The extremely low roof was thatched with many holes through it, including one about two feet long along the peak. The front room only had enough room for the bench they sat on, a couple of pans, and the folded up, rat-eaten, bug infested piece of foam the size of a twin bed that all five of the children slept on. During the conversation, they learned that the only reason the family has a house is because the grandmother (who is about forty years old) slept with a man in order to have him build it. Keela also learned that Joseph’s little sister had died right there on the same mattress. The hardest part of this heartbreaking experience for her was knowing that Joseph’s environment is not the exception with their students, it is the norm. Since then, a year has passed and Joseph still remains at Jambo Jipya. At the beginning of April 2008 he approached Christine and told her that his Grandmother had left a week ago and had not yet returned. He and five other children including his brother, another sister, and three cousins, were alone in a house with their 24 year old aunt who makes money as a prostitute. They were being constantly exposed to drugs and alcohol, and due to their young age, are heavily influenced and easily persuaded. So, after each school day, Christine slipped the children each an extra meal before they walk home at around four in the afternoon. This was the last time they would eat until lunch the next day. A month later, Joseph’s Grandmother was still missing. Christine finally decided that she needed to make some more room at the school. She paid a visit to Joseph’s Aunt and made a deal that if the Aunt could take care of the two young girls, then the boys could live at the school full time. Everything was agreed upon and Joseph, his brother and cousins now reside at Jambo Jipya. Christine had begun planning for a renovation of the school. The number of students was constantly growing, and therefore so must the number of staff members. Although Christine and Keela were excited that more and more children are finding a home at Jambo Jipya, the problem lay in the fact that they were quickly running out of room to house them. Christine began to pick out students that fit the necessary qualities to be “boarders,” or students that live at the school 24/7. These included children who were beaten and neglected or starved, as well as children whose walk to school took over two hours because they couldn’t afford a bike or a ride on the Matutu (a van that serves as public transportation).
Students at Jambo Jipya
â€œJambo Jipya wants every child to have right of education whether is poor or sick, HIV/AIDS or bastard child... a child is child. â€? -Christine Mwende-
After an extremely careful and difficult decision process she approached a small number of students and asked them if they would be interested in calling Jambo Jipya home permanently. All of them jumped at the chance, eager to spend more time with the people who loved and nurtured them instead of beating and neglecting them. Christine cleared the decision with each of the children’s families (who were also happy with the idea of having one less mouth to feed) and they moved in before renovations were even put into the works. Every night after all of the other students leave for home, the boarders pull mattresses into a classroom that has been cleared out for their use. Just a couple of mattresses are available, so up to three children sleep on each, their tiny, sweaty bodies, exhausted from a hard day’s work can curl up and fall asleep knowing they are safe. Although the plans for the renovations are on paper and in mind, one thing is missing: money. The only money going into the school is from Christine’s pocket and she certainly does not have enough to pay for food, staff and supplies in addition to a brand new building on new land. Keela recognised as much as Christine how critical it is that Jambo Jipya gets an expansion. So, with a whole lot of faith and encouragement from Christine, the students, friends, family and her undying trust in God, she has created Reason 2 Smile. Keela started Reason 2 Smile with a hope: A hope that people all over the world would find a kindness and a kin to these children within their hearts. Her hope began as just that: a hope. When her hope came to life through generous donations and support from friends and family she began to share her knowledge with anyone who would listen, eagerly gushing about the children she had come to love and regard as her own family. Her local church stood strong behind Keela, and even now as she is pushing paperwork through to have Reason 2 Smile recognised as a legitimate not-for-profit organization, the Adirondack Community Church has let Keela run her organisation through them. This not only allows Keela to have an entire congregation supporting her, but also enables donations to be tax deductible. In order to make Reason 2 Smile more accessible and well known, Keela (with the help of her uncle and a friend) created a website: www.reason2smile.org. When navigating through the website, a viewer can go to a gallery and see pictures of Keela and the students of Jambo Jipya. A specific page is donated to showcasing a single day at Jambo Jipya, including the daily routines of the children and staff with pictures alongside to give people an idea of the conditions in which these kids work and play. Keela lays out the past, present, and hopeful future, telling people how they can help by donating or sponsoring a child.
On February 22, 2008 Keela and Christine were discussing the dilemma of the lack of space for housing students. At this point, Jambo Jipya was being called home by 45 boarders. In reality though, almost all of the 200 students needed to be living there. They left the school late and frustrated; since it was after dark, they took a taxi. While on the ten minute ride home, they noticed Saidi, Husseini, and Mohammad (ages 3, 7, and 9) walking home from school. Their fingers were interlocked, but if anybody “red-roered” them, their ragged bodies wouldn’t stand a chance. Christine pulled the taxi over and told the boys to climb inside. If they had continued walking it would have taken them another two hours to get home. After a while, the boys told the driver to pull over because they were in front of their house. A line of trees obscured the view of the home, so Christine got out and escorted them inside. A few minutes later all four of them re-emerged and climbed back into the taxi. Christine instructed the driver to take them back to the school. Keela sat silently next to Christine. She saw the effort it was taking her not to cry and decided to wait until Christine told her what was going on when they returned home. The taxi waited while the women took the boys inside and gave them each a pair of shorts, a toothbrush, and a tube of toothpaste and explained to the other 45 children that they had three new brothers. When Keela and Christine finally got home, Christine revealed to Keela that beyond the line of trees there was a fenced-in enclosure full of goats. There was no house, no guardian, just three boys all under the age of ten. It was up to a nine year old boy to gather food for the other two, get them to and from school, all the while making sure they were safe and healthy. These renovations needed to be done as quickly as possible. Since May 2007, Reason 2 Smile has raised about US$85,000 and every single penny is being given directly to the school. These funds are used for food, clothing, medicine, supplies, and various other necessities. What hasn’t been used is being saved to buy multiple acres of land that a brand new school and orphanage will be built on. Although eighty-five thousand dollars sounds like an enormous amount of money (some may say more than enough) it is nowhere near how much Jambo Jipya needs to survive and flourish. Just one month of school requires $2,500 in funds for the items and services listen above. Within a year, Jambo Jipya had grown from six mud hut classrooms and two toilets consisting of holes in cement, to nine cement classrooms, four porcelain bowl toilets cemented to the floor, two shower rooms, and a large kitchen
Typical classroom at Jambo JIpya School 2007
Jambo JIpya class room 2007
Typical Student House
Jambo JIpya School 2008
“Jambo Jipya wants every child to have right of education whether is poor or sick, HIV/AIDS or bastard child... a child is child. ” -Christine Mwende-
big enough for preparation, cooking, cleaning and storage. The population grew from 85 students and four teachers, to almost 200 students, 50 of whom live at the school (as of June 2008). There are now ten teachers, and seven other staff members including the cook, the aunt (who stays overnight with the boarders), and a security guard which was needed with the recent outbreak of political violence after the 2007 presidential elections. Unfortunately there is no more space for expansion. This is why Keela is intending to raise another US$75,000 by September 2008 for the purchase of 10 acres of land near the ocean. This brand new school will have room for classes from Kindergarten through twelve (including music, art, and library classes) and trade schools so children may learn specific skills such as sewing, cooking, farming, building and many others. The new land will also have enough room for a dormitory large enough to house each attending student. Outside, the students will still have plenty of room for play with space for a proper soccer field and a basketball court! These may seem like everyday regularities, but for these children it is currently a mere dream. We have an opportunity to make their dreams come true. The eight months Keela spent in Mtwapa turned out to be eight of the most uplifting, heart-wrenching, frightening months of her life, especially the last two months. A few weeks before Christmas 2007, Keela began to feel very ill. Her temperature spiked and her muscles were weak and sore. She couldn’t move without crying. Christine realised that Keela had malaria and needed medicine, lots of it. She went to the hospital to get the best medicine available and brought it back. She nursed Keela slowly back to health, and with thirty hours of straight sleep, some heavy medication, and a wealth prayers from her friends and family back home, she was feeling well enough to get up and around, just in time for a Christmas visit from her parents and brother. Unfortunately, Keela’s hardships didn’t end with malaria. The New Year brought with it a plethora of political strife over the supposed corruption in the presidential elections. As a result there was incredible violence and overall looming dangers. Keela, stuck inside because of the dangers of being a pretty, young, white woman who could be easily kidnapped and killed, wrote of the new obstacles Kenya faced in her journal: People are afraid. It’s incredible how one day changed this entire country. The government has banned all live media, so we aren’t getting much news, but I do know that there are many unhappy people. People who lived peacefully as neighbours are now killings each other. I can sense the fear and uncertainty amongst the people that I have grown to know and love. Everyone feels like Mtwapa, a town that I have come to feel comfortable in, is a time bomb ready to explode. Hundreds of people have died in the past five days. Well over 1000 people were killed, while over 300,000 were displaced due to the drastic reactions by the Kenyan citizens in the first two months of 2008. People were losing their businesses, homes, families, friends, and their own lives. Violence was everywhere, lurking around every corner. It became apparent
to Keela, that the majority of the people creating the violent uproars were young, uneducated, and unemployed men. Due to their lack of education and money these men had no hope and nothing to live for. Many of them saw a hope for the future with the inauguration of a new president. When this plan was foiled, so was their belief in their country and their hope for a new tomorrow. Perhaps if these young men had somewhere to go, like Jambo Jipya, then the cost of this political strife would not be so high and the number of lives lost would be much less. Schools like Jambo Jipya help to mould young minds into productive and progressive-thinking mature adults who have the ability to make responsible and wise choices. This new generation would bring a new model Kenyan citizen, and with it, hope for a better future. For a long time, it looked as if Keela wouldn’t be able to travel to Mombasa, the closest city with an airport, to get out of Kenya when she was scheduled. Her family yearned for her to leave early and get out while she still could, but it was getting late already. She couldn’t even go to the store for a bottle of water and a banana. Eventually, she was able to get to the airport as scheduled, and was even accompanied by some of the children and Christine. Before leaving school, she had said goodbye to every single child individually, giving each of them their own picture that said “Twiga Keela loves you.” (Twiga means giraffe in Swahili, and it has become Keela’s nickname because she is so tall and blonde) She read them a book, “Giraffes Can’t Dance,” which got some good chuckles out of the students because of the well-known fact she is a terrible dancer. Keela hugged each of the children that came to wish her off and turned to pass through security before letting the tears flow. Christine did not like to cry, or have her staff cry, in front of the children. She believes that it not only shows weakness, but also scares the children. Seeing tears come from Keela would make them think that she will never see them again, this simple thought would depress them to no end. As it was, many of the students were withdrawing and giving her the silent treatment because she was leaving them. Although others got closer to her than ever, as if to say: if I hold you tight enough, you won’t be able to let go. But, she did let go and she got on the plane and flew the many hours back to New York. Now, it is time for Keela to work for the students of Jambo Jipya back in the States. She cannot be with them, watch them grow, love and learn, but she can do something. She will hold presentations all over the state of New York and is looking to expand her outreach. These presentations produce hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars in donations. She will also continue to work on Reason 2 Smile, recruiting advocates and activists like myself to spread the word and the story of the 200 children that deserve what each child does: health, happiness, and the right to an education. Since the moment Keela decided to travel to Kenya I have been a part of her journey. I was present when she received her very first passport. I saw her after she had gotten attacked by a doctor and his needles, helping her prepare medically for
a strange new land. I was there when she could barely stand still as a result of her overwhelming nerves and excitement. When Keela finally got to Kenya, she had with her a long list of family and friends who were keen to accompany her on her journey via email. Almost weekly I received emails that were up to ten pages long (she offered people shortened versions; it was difficult if not impossible to read all ten pages in one sitting). Immediately, I could see the connection between Keela and not just the school and the children and people, but the land of Kenya. There was something so innate in her speech, something so incredible and attached. I did not need Keela’s words to tell me she was where she was meant to be. Keela spoke candidly about the children, their progress, and hers. She has grown with these children and has grown to be an amazing inspiration to so many of us who know and love her. I grew so fond of each and every child through her emails. I can picture Joseph’s piercing eyes and John’s stunning smile if I shut my eyes for just one moment in time. This past year, I sponsored Pendo, one of the cutest little girls I have ever seen.
This year, I am sponsoring another little girl the same age: Mariam. From the pictures Keela has sent me and the things she has told me, Mariam has an innocence and passion about her that could light a fire in anyone’s heart. It isn’t just easy to sponsor a child in need, but it is fulfilling. You may think that you do not have enough to spare, as I first did (being a college student can drain your funds), but every penny helps. It is easy to have a jar lying around where you dump your spare change each night. This is my Mariam jar and you can have one too. It is inspiring to know that there are people in the world that care enough and feel close enough to the students of Jambo Jipya to give even the smallest bit in hopes of helping to provide a better life if even for just one child. There are hundreds of more pages to fill with stories, hopes, aspirations, and experiences. So much more can be said about the children, the organisation, both the past and the future. What remains most important though is the simple fact that for many of these children, there is a future there now that was never there before because Keela sees the difference in a smile.
Christine Mwende founder of Jambo Jipya school Kenya... Laughter and singing can be heard pouring from the Jambo Jipya school grounds thanks to the love and dedication of one woman - Christine Mwende. Jambo Jipya (meaning ‘Something New’ in Kenya’s native language Swahili) was founded in 2004 by Christine Mwende, she recognised the lack of care and attention being paid to many of the poor and orphaned children in her community Mtwapa and decided to act. “I am a nurse by profession. I have been working for about 16 years in different hospitals and when I was working at Mtwapa Bakarani Hospital I came across many sex workers. From 1999-2001 there were a lot of infections like STDs, malaria, TB, and pneumonia. Most of the sick were young women. They could not even afford to pay their treatment bills and most of them were HIV/AIDS positive. I felt they needed someone who could help and understand; that person was me. So I could treat them and put the bill to be deducted from my salary. Most of them died of HIV and then I took their children to school. To increase my income, I had to work 24 hours so that I could meet their basic needs and [those of] my kids as well.” “In 2000, I decided to start a CBO (Community Based Organisation) whereby I could take care of and support each child. I started with five children. The number increased. My decision was made to open a school (2004) so that I could manage them together, including food and treatment.” Jambo Jipya Community Center School is dedicated and committed to serving the community with dignity, unfailing love and compassion, and to preserve the dignity of HIV/AIDS infected children and the vulnerable ones by giving them an environment of hope, security and empowerment.
For more information on Jambo Jipya, contact www.reason2smile.org and see the difference in a smile. The name of each child has been changed for their protection.
I’m Dad’s Daughter, a Pilot by Gerald E. Monaghan Jr.
Remember the lunch I spoke to you about. Daddy made a plain and fancy meal. The morsels of food marinated, With the morsels of the mind. He still is my window of the world. I recall the bookshelf was my tarmac. The Star Wars Lego still waits for me. Daddy kept my inspiration for the heavens With the family picture as I received my pilot wings. He was on my first flight! He was like a parent seeing me on stage. My opening night a bit different, The passengers were as a captive audience. The captive cabin was my first Boeing 777. The sojourns at Daddy’s are too short It was the time for my departure I prance the skies piloting a jet. Dad didn’t teach me to fly but reach for the sky.
Paris // A moment in time
Le troubadour des sentiments I met Jeny Grenier while sitting in the immense courtyard of the Louvre museum in Paris. She sat down beside me, probably guessing I was a tourist, and asked “Font vous aiment la poésie?” Of course I had no idea what all that meant, which prompted her to repeat the question in my native tongue, “Do you like poetry?” “Naturally,” I replied in the affirmative, and proceeded to tell her all about Frame Lines. “I will read you a poem then,” she stated directly, and who could disagree? I was in Paris, the city of romance, and here was a perfect stranger about to read me poetry. What I couldn’t have guessed was the unwavering look she gave into my eyes, a look of passion, of humility and of anguish. And that’s what the poem, ‘Le troubadour des sentiments’ is about. A tale of unrequited love, misdirected to one, the troubadour, who could not return it. I cannot speak French, couldn’t understand her words, but there was something about the way Jeny was reciting, that I knew it was a love poem, and when she was finished, I vowed to put the poem into the next edition of Frame Lines. In return, she gave me her poetry book, which I have been carrying around in my backpack ever since. - Jeremy Thomas
Le troubadour des sentiments Je puis vous dire une chose, C’est qu’à mon tour, je m’indispose de votre amour, Monsieur le troubadour des sentiments, Monsieur, l’artiste flâneur aux quatre vents. Dans une rue, Le visage engourdi, La mine si peu réjouie Et le ton interdit ; Cet amas de colère que nulle ombre jamais n’avait voulu entendre, Et qui à mon cæur toujours vous sembliez cacher ; Vous aviez en ce jour voulu me l’exposer, Vous paraissiez chercher une âme vers qui vous épancher, Quelqu’un à qui parler, Qui vous dirait comment changer ; Et mon cæur à cela ne sortit pas un mot, Il comprit simplement, Quel était votre sort, Il comprit que vous seul en déteniez la clef, Que nul autre ici bas ne pourrait vous aider. Quel est ce drôle d’état dans lequel vous aviez laissé faner mon cæur ? Car oui je vous aimais, Monsieur le troubadour des sentiments ; Vous qui chantiez, dansiez et embaumiez, Chacune de mes journées d’un tel parfum de liberté. Vous pour qui chaque heure était un feu d’artifice, Vous pour qui tout portait à révérence, Je m’étonne, je m’afflige, de vous voir ainsi triste sans sourire à offrir... Votre gaîté fanée, C’est ainsi qu’à vous seul, Vous vous étiez perdu, Aux yeux de ce monde qui continuait sans vous à tourner malgré tout Et de par votre fuite en arrière, Vous aviez déchaîné mes refus et colères. Jeny Grenier
At The Cusp by Patrick Toomay
I don’t watch much football these days, but still I hear about it, and occasionally a game will hold me in my chair for a while; a short visit to ESPN will bring me news of this or that triumph, defeat, or newborn king in the sport. Those too, in the injury report, with an occasional sidelight shone onto the problems of longevity among NFL players, or the effects of the pension structure on early players, the neglect and the steadily surfacing consequences of the carnage they lovingly endure for the game. The effects of concussions and, in the worst cases, the suicides that seem to have spun out of them like a trail of serpent’s bites with slow-release consequences.
one calling for medical tests, and two knee operations, one in each knee. So I have my scars. Each surgery had its own particular qualities and worries, and residual aches. The last was in 1980. But if I’m honest, it’s the first that haunts me, the first cut. This was in the days before the minimal incisions of laparoscopy, and before the current advancements in anaesthesiology. Because of the enormous size of many of today’s players, whose mass multiplies the force of collisions, injuries then were not as cataclysmic as they can be today. But the actual surgical techniques were far more primitive then, the incisions vast, a kind of flaying. I was eighteen.
Like Andre Waters, the hard-hitting Philadelphia Eagle safety, who listless and depressed at 44 despite a successful coaching career, ended his life by putting a bullet through his head. An examination of Andre’s brain tissue by Pittsburgh neuropathologist Bennet Omalu yielded a diagnosis of postconcussive brain dysfunction, as did examinations of brain tissue from two other prematurely deceased football players: Pittsburgh All-Pro center Mike Webster, who became homeless and cognitively impaired before dying of heart failure in 2002; and veteran Pittsburgh lineman Terry Long, who in 2005 committed suicide by drinking antifreeze. Receiver Bobby Hayes, my friend and Dallas Cowboy team-mate was declared Fastest Man Alive when he won the 100 meters at the ‘64 Tokyo Olympics. While Bobby’s speed revolutionized the game, post-career drug and alcohol addictions savaged him. Now, Bobby lies in an unmarked grave in Jacksonville, Florida, when by all rights he belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Indisputably, hospitals can be places of initiation, and true to form, something happened in the aftermath of my first surgery that altered the course of my life. Perhaps strangely, it was an encounter with the work of a poet named Alan Dugan. Though Dugan was relatively young himself when he wrote the words, they nevertheless inspired in me a search for meaning that continues to this day. I’ve come to refer to it as “Dugan’s poem.”
Sometimes I get irate and pontificate about the injustice of it all, the misunderstanding that abounds about it all, as I lecture an empty room or a captured friend. I’ve been known to write long, polemical e-mails. Other times I just feel lucky to have survived with as little damage as I have. Not that I’m unscathed. I’ve had two or three serious, out-for-a-long-time concussions,
I was in the hospital when I first read it, recovering after my first knee surgery. It was late March of my college freshman year. I had hurt my knee the previous fall, but not too badly; it had simply locked up during warm-ups before our final football game. “See me in a month,” said the team physician after a cursory examination in the locker room. “If it’s not any better, we’ll go in and take a look.” I wasn’t able to play that afternoon, but a month later, when I went back to see him, I was feeling fine. In work-outs the previous afternoon I had leg-pressed 400 pounds. An occasional click was the only discomfort I felt in the joint. However, after glancing at X-rays, the doctor insisted on operating. “Could be bone chips,” he said. “Maybe a cartilage tear.” “But I’m fine,” I protested. “Really, I’m fine. I feel good.” I
told him that in work-outs I’d done heavy-weight squats and leg-presses without any pain. “It’ll just be a little routine exploratory surgery,” he replied with a grin. “We’ll have you back on your feet in no time.” The surgery was scheduled for spring break, so it was the Monday before Easter when I checked into the hospital, late that afternoon. No sooner had I changed into my hospital gown than a surprise visitor dropped by—it was Dennis Dooley, my freshman English teacher. Carrying a book, and with several bottles of beer stashed in the pockets of his sports jacket, Mr. Dooley handed me the book, then, pulling up a chair, flopped down. “It’s sort of a get well present,” he said, indicating the book. “Something to read while convalescing.” The book was an anthology of poetry entitled The Distinctive Voice that he was planning on using in the fall semester. I set the book on my nightstand, then, with the beers he uncapped, we settled down to talk. Since the anthology had struck a chord with Mr. Dooley, we started off with that, but it wasn’t long before we’d segued into a discussion about academics and athletics, and the difficulty of doing justice to both. Mr. Dooley argued for the necessity of subverting one to the other if excellence in either were to be attained. Naturally, he believed academics should take precedence. I was feeling fine, rather playful actually, as I stubbornly refused to come to his point of view. But then, as he was about to leave, he made a small sarcastic remark about the university’s athletic department, which, though meant merely to reaffirm his position and perhaps to make me laugh, set off in me a ripple of concern. “Yeah, well, look what happens,” he’d said from the door. “You get hurt out there and the ungrateful bastards, they won’t even spring for a private room.” Was I supposed to be in a private room? I let myself think about it. Being a freshman, I had no idea what arrangements the athletic department had made with the university hospital regarding accommodations for its injured ballplayers. But a private room didn’t seem out of the question, especially for an injured Big-Time-College-Football-Player, which was what I had automatically become, I thought, the instant I had accepted my school’s offer of a scholarship. “This might sound like a dumb question,” I said to the night nurse when she stopped in on rounds after my English teacher had gone home, “but I was wondering, you know … I mean, am I supposed to be in a private room? I was thinking maybe I was supposed to be in a private room.” She flipped through some papers on her clipboard, to my chart, presumably. “You’re the ballplayer, aren’t you,” she remarked. I nodded. “Yes, well, apparently this bed was the only bed available when you checked in. I’m sorry,” she smiled. “Holidays, you know. People get sick.” “I see,” I said, still feeling vaguely uneasy.
“Okay?” “Oh, sure. Fine,” I said. “Thanks very much.” After she left I lay there trying to figure out what was bothering me. It wasn’t so much the fact that I was not in a private room; it wasn’t that at all, actually. It was something else. I couldn’t put my finger on it. As I lay brooding, a nurse’s aide came in, a woman, fat and black, with perspiration stains creeping out of the armpits of her green uniform, as she struggled with a large pink bucket sloshing with hot soapy water. “Hi, honey,” she said, as she crossed the room and dropped the bucket at the foot of the high-railed bed tucked into the darkened corner off to my right. “What you doin’ in here, anyway?” “Are you talking to me?” I whispered, confused and more than a little irritated at her rudeness—there were, after all, other people in the room, and they were all asleep, I thought. “Who you think I’m talkin’ to?” she demanded. I stared at her. “You in maintenance, honey,” she said flatly. “But don’t you fret none, everything be fine.” Then she dragged her bucket around to the side of the bed in the darkened corner, and after wiping her hands on her dress, reached for, and flipped on, a light switch. Maintenance? What? “Rshflx,” sputtered the pile of bedclothes that was the patient in the high-railed bed, and as the white fluorescent light above him flickered all the way on, there arose from the heap a strange sort of reptilian hiss. Jesus Christ, I thought. Scooting up in my bed, I leaned forward, craning my neck for a better look. He was a kid like myself, from what I could tell, perhaps seventeen- or eighteen-years-old, but he was all dishevelled-looking. His bedclothes were worn and dingy, his hair was matted with grease, and his skin, while hard and red and scaly in some places, was mostly white and soft, pasty, almost, like wet flour, although his bed had been positioned beneath the only window in the ward as though to better take the light. He was also, I realized now, utterly inert. The nurse’s aide was giving him a kind of sponge-bath and he just lay there, limp, as she manoeuvred and scrubbed his shrivelled limbs. Suddenly something inside of me gave a great shuddering heave. “Maintenance? You mean …?” “Ain’t no need to fret, honey.” “You mean …?” “Ain’t no need to fret, honey. I’m tellin’ you. Ain’t no need at all.” Oh my God, I thought. These people … I’m … I slumped back down in my bed, hot, my bedclothes sticking to my suddenly sweaty body, my nostrils twitching as the air seemed suddenly full and foul with the sour reek of urine.
“How long you be in here, sugar,” said the nurse’s aide. But I couldn’t bring myself to look at her. I was feeling fluttery inside—I needed something to calm me down. Wondering if the night nurse wouldn’t oblige me, I rolled over and eyed the button on the intercom beside my bed. She would, surely, I thought. That’s her job. All I have to do is press the button. All I have to do is ask. “You be in here all week, right? You be frettin’ all week, too?” I reached for the button, but then hesitated. Wouldn’t the night nurse first have to contact the doctor and explain what had happened and why I wanted what I wanted? Wouldn’t the doctor, seeing in her explanation a character flaw, a sign of weakness in me, as he surely would—wouldn’t he feel obligated to tell my coaches? He would. The crusty old bastard—they were great buddies. He would tell them. And the thought of what he might say and of them snickering when they heard made me shudder again. “Hey,” said the nurse’s aide softly. I looked over my shoulder at her, my finger poised but trembling on the knob. “They jus’ like us, honey. They jus’ folks,” she said. And she tousled the hair on the head of the patient in the high-railed bed. “Get to know ‘em some, everything be fine.” Maybe she had something there. “I’m tellin’ you,” she said. My hand fell away from the intercom. “This is Peter.” I sat back up in bed. “He in a coma, okay. Has been since a truck hit his motorcycle four, five months ago. But he improvin’ though honey, sure ‘nuff. Why the last couple times I washed him up, he gots the stiffest ‘ol dick you ever seen.” I wasn’t sure she’d said what I thought she’d said: “What?” “Wanna see?” As she lifted his threadbare gown and reached for his shrivelled scrotum, I sank back down in my bed. “Understand,” she said— but I didn’t want to understand. As she began to touch him and to explain the neuromuscular benefits she felt comatose patients derived from sexual stimulation, I pulled my covers up around my neck and, to block her out, began counting the tiny holes in the ceiling tiles. “Ain’t sleepin’ are ya?” “What?” I bolted up. “I gots one more to do, then I’ll get outa here.” “You … gots …” I rubbed my eyes and blinked. I had dozed off apparently, for she was finished with Peter, she had dragged her bucket into the narrow space between my bed and the bed next to mine, only the legs of which were visible behind the stiff white curtain drawn around the bed along the metal tubing suspended from the ceiling. “What? You mean there’s somebody in there?” I had thought the curtain merely a partition, part of the room, and the realization that it wasn’t sent through me a surge of apprehension. “Ain’t no need to fret, honey.” “But you don’t—I mean—”
She reached up and grabbed a handful of the material. As she walked around the bed, I gasped and turned away, for propped up in the bed was an old man bloated nearly twice the size he should have been, with fresh scars slashed across his swollen chest and running all down the insides of his swollen legs, and with a seeping hole in his gray distended belly and with tubes jammed in every orifice. I trembled, fingering the unravelling hem in my hospital gown—and all at once I had a sickening thought. “You’re not … I mean, what you did to Peter. Not again, right. Not to—to him, too, right?” Fuck this, I thought, and I lunged for the intercom and began pounding the button with my fist. “He not comatose like Peter, honey. He just sick and be needin’ a bath. Ain’t no need to fret, I tole you.” “I don’t … I—” The night nurse appeared in the doorway but then turned and hurried away. “Hey!” I shouted at her. “Where the hell- come back here, dammit! You can’t- come back here!” From behind the counter at the nurse’s station in the corridor beyond the door she gestured irritably for quiet. I flopped back down in my bed. She was on the telephone, talking to the doctor, probably, but I didn’t care. I cared only about getting away from the old man. I could feel the heat of his tumid presence radiating against my naked back. I could hear the short, wet, rasping heaves of his labored breathing. I could smell the rottenness on his fetid breath. “Here,” said the night nurse in a low, gentle whisper as she reappeared beside my bed. She held out a plastic tray upon which sat two red bullet-shaped capsules and a paper cup full of water. “You can’t move me? I mean, you can’t get me out of this goddamn place?” I sounded to myself like I was begging. “No, I’m sorry.” She smiled apologetically. “There just isn’t any other place to put you.” I grabbed up the capsules, threw them down my throat and then gulped the water. “You’ll be all right,” she said. “Believe me, you’ll be fine.” I waved her off. Fuck you, I wanted to say, but I didn’t; I just shook my head and lay back down and began again to count the tiny holes in the ceiling tiles, only out-loud this time, and with a determined clip to my voice, as if an outward display of resolution could forestall an inner collapse. The night nurse patted my arm reassuringly. “Louise,” she said to the black woman, and nodded at the door. “Yessem,” Louise replied. And I could hear her beside me walking the curtain around the bed again and then gently whispering to the old man, “Good night.” I wanted to go to sleep and then I didn’t want to wake up. I knew I didn’t want to wake up. But somebody was prodding and pushing me and pulling at my hospital gown- “What,” I sputtered, and opened my eyes. I beheld a pair of hands, thick and black, male, the left holding a clear plastic vial upside down in a ray of morning sunlight, the right guiding a long
thick needle into the vial’s cork top. These were not the pair of hands that had been prodding me and pushing me up on my side. These were a second pair of hands. I knew because, as the clear liquid in the vial began to fill the metric chamber of the hypodermic syringe, I could feel the first pair of hands taking hold of my legs, clamping them as objects in a vice. Alert now, sure of where I was and what was about to happen, I glanced at the curtain draped around the adjacent bed and hoped that I wouldn’t be fucked up like the old man when I awoke after surgery, or like Peter across the room, or like anybody else who might be lying with me in here. I wondered what I was doing here in the first place. Then the hands holding the implements vanished and the ray of sunlight hit me full in the face. I lay blinded and blinking. On the left cheek of my butt I felt the sudden chill of evaporating chemical and then the prick of the needle and the sting of the solution as it penetrated the tissue and all at once I was floating up and out of my bed and moving laterally through the air and then dropping like dead-weight to the white-sheeted surface of a stainless-steel cart that had somehow materialized beside my bed. Now other hands were covering me up with a thick woolen blanket and tucking the blanket under the narrow mattress beneath me, tucking it in and pulling it tight, and I was beginning to feel claustrophobic, as though I might suffocate. The blanket, pulled tight around me, had pinned my arms against my sides and my legs against the surface of the mattress itself—I could not move and it occurred to me that this was why I had been put in here, to glimpse the place where I would spend the rest of my life, a wheezing, dead-brained victim of oxygen deprivation— No! I roared at myself. No! It’s okay! It’s fine! Relax! And I tried to relax. But then, when these hands produced straps with which to cinch me to the table, and when I saw these straps and realized their purpose, the possibility of suffocation crystallized into certainty. Suddenly I knew I was going to suffocate, and the moment I knew, I panicked; I began to kick and thrash against the straps and blankets and sheets and hands, to kick and thrash and scream— I sat up in the dark, panting and sweaty, my left leg bandaged, stitched and swollen, and just beginning to throb through the fog of aesthetic. Tensed and still, I sat and waited for the wash of relief I knew would come as soon as I realized that I was awake and all right, that I had survived the surgery and that my suffocating had only been a dream. I was thirsty, I noticed, really thirsty, and I had this kind of crawling sensation on my skin, but I could do nothing to alleviate either of these discomforts because my hands were busy doing something else—I had them pressed over my ears against the shrillness of the screaming that seemed about to burst the room. It was the same screaming that was in my dream, but I didn’t let it bother me; I just sat there and listened to it, and waited for it to go away. But then it occurred to me that maybe I was still in the dream—that maybe I was sitting up in my bed, screaming, without really realizing it. Alarmed at the possibility, I cupped my mouth with my hands but the screaming didn’t stop. On the contrary, it grew stronger, and then more shrill—and all
at once there arose to my right a violent commotion. It was behind the stiff white curtain draped around the adjacent bed, and it seemed to bear some relation to the screaming, for as the screaming climbed in pitch and reached what seemed an impossible crescendo, through the curtain, hurled as though by some supernatural force, came a stainless-steel rack laden with bottles and jars, all hanging upside down and full of some kind of plasma. The rack, as I watched, crashed against my bed, and then bounced to the floor, the bottles shattering, splattering the floor with a thick dark ooze that could have been blood. Then, undiminished in intensity, as though it had never ceased, the screaming began again, and then the thrashing, and I realized that the screaming and thrashing from my dream was the old man screaming and thrashing in the bed behind the curtain. I was awake now. I knew I was awake and I knew the old man was in trouble. Straining against the stitches in my swollen knee, I reached through my bed-railings and, grabbing a handful of the curtain fabric, pulled myself and my bed as close to the curtain as I could. Then I flung it back and out of the way. On the bed before me the old man lay propped up and writhing, his eyes fluttering wildly in their sockets, his hands clawing desperately at the tube extruding from the black-edged hole in his bloated belly. It was the last tube of the many that had connected him to the bottles and jars on the overturned rack and now he had it in his gnarled hands and was wrenching it dripping from the hole and now the brown juice which had been seeping from him was spewing out, gushing forth, as though from a geyser. I started to cry. I was wet with the spray of his bile and frightened as I’d never been frightened before. Worse, I did not know what I could do to help him. I thought I would know when I saw him; I thought the knowledge and skill would come to me, that it was all implicit in my intent. But it wasn’t. The old man was convulsing now. He was shaking and flailing and spewing, and the palm of my left hand, which I seemed to have pressed firmly over the hole in his belly, was compressing the spray and diverting it from the vertical. But it was also sending a concentrated jet of fluid directly into my chest, and then, when I adjusted the position of my hand and exerted more pressure, directly into the twitching face of the old man. He reacted with ever more violent lurching and a horrible wracking cough which almost immediately became a choking gurgle. And more brown juice, welling up from within him, gushed forth from his mouth with a force and velocity very nearly equal to that of the stream gushing forth from the hole in his belly. Dripping now with his slickness, I withdrew my hand and raised it trembling to my mouth and sat staring at him. I have no clear memory of what happened after that. When I awoke with a start, it was at first light the following morning. As I lay blinking in the dawn stillness, I had no clear memory of anything. The next time I awoke, it was as though what had happened the previous night, all of what had happened, had happened in a dream. Moreover, as I gradually came to consciousness, I could find nothing in the scene unfolding
before me to dispel this impression. My hands and arms and hospital gown, all of which should have been stiff with a coating of the old man’s spewed bile, showed no such effect. Similarly, the linoleum floor, which should have been splattered with the plasma and littered with the shards of broken glass from the bottles and jars that had shattered when the stainless-steel rack had come crashing through the curtain—the linoleum floor was not only clean but shining brightly in the yellow light, as though it had recently been scrubbed and waxed. Even more perplexing was the fact that the stiff white curtain, which had heretofore remained more or less permanently drawn around the grotesque figure of the old man, was now pulled back and tied off against the near wall beside the old man’s bedside table. And the bed was empty. It was freshly made, its crisp white sheets drawn smooth and taut across the surface of its mattress. Had I dreamt the whole thing? The old man? Everything? Had I simply fallen asleep when the nurse’s aide was in the room, and dreamt it all? It was a possibility. To do this, however, I would first have to resolve the paradox presented by the painful rhythmic throbbing which seemed to be coming from the knee joint in my left leg. If I had dreamt the entire sequence of events, then I could not yet have had the surgery. If I had not yet had the surgery, then I should not yet be experiencing this excruciating pain. Might it, too, be but residue from the dream? Slowly, I raised my head and allowed my eyes to wander down the length of my body. It was not so much the sight of the raw gash carved in a rough arc along the inside of my left knee that sent a chill down the length of my spine. Nor was it the sight of the bits of rough black thread, which, cinched and knotted across the wound, seemed all to be holding that part of me together. Rather, it was the sight of the draped figure lying stiff and still on the stainless-steel cart parked just beyond the foot of my bed. For I knew in an instant that it was the old man lying dead beneath the bloody sheet. And so what had happened between us—all of it—had not happened in a dream. I laid back down and tried to steel myself against the emotion churning away in me. I tried to make myself numb, and, to some extent, succeeded. When, after a while, an orderly came to retrieve the corpse, I was able, with some effort, to match his cavalier attitude and his air of unconcern and to maintain the pose for the short time he was in the room. Almost immediately after he left, though, the scene of the old man writhing and bursting in his bed came into my mind and began to play and replay with such vividness that it made me shake and want to sob. My first impulse was to get rid of this image and I tried by watching television for a while but the fabricated scenes of people and products and soap opera households were insufficient to override the things running off in my head. They were clean, and perfect, and in some way a negation of what I had seen and felt the previous night, but they weren’t what I needed. I didn’t know what I needed.
I saw then the volume of poetry my English teacher had left two nights before. It was lying on the nightstand beside my bed. As I picked up the book however, I felt a vague sense of foreboding, a feeling that I should not do what I was about to do - or rather that I should not do what I was thinking about doing. I had yet to open the book, I was still really only thinking about it, and a little voice inside of me was warning me off. It was the same little voice of warning you hear if, when peering down from some great height, you allow yourself to contemplate leaping, or if when driving late at night, you allow yourself to contemplate swerving into oncoming traffic. It was that little voice and it is a voice one always heeds and I wanted to heed it now but for some reason I couldn’t. The book was in my hands. It was only a book. I opened it and read: What’s the balm for a dying life; dope, drink, or, Christ, is there one? I puke and choke with it and find no Peace of Mind in flesh, and no hope. It flows away in mucous-juice. Nothing I can do can make it stay, so I give out!, and water the garden: It is all shit for the flowers anyhow. That was Alan Dugan’s poem and I couldn’t stop reading it. Balm. Choke. Flesh. His words! Then it dawned on me that I had just turned to the damn thing. How could such a thing happen? After a minute more, I saw that the poem was untitled. In fact it was buried in the text of a letter regarding poetic voice. It was page 244. I had skipped 243 pages to get there. I read Dugan’s letter, looking for clues, wanting some sort of explanation. “I don’t know what my voice is or was,” Dugan wrote, “but I know that my voice is changing; I’m sick of wit and eloquence in neat form and am trying to say what is hardest to say; that is, words wrung out of intense experience and not constructed ... This is not a plan. I don’t know what I’m doing until I do it. Even then I’m not so sure. Also, on July 12, I got four rimed quatrains straight out, after not having rimed in months, so this whole statement is suspect.” That was all he had to say, ending abruptly, as if he wanted to snatch back everything he had said about voice, but then a few days later he felt compelled to write his editor again. “Reconsidering my statement on the poet’s voice in my letter of July 14 to you, I decided I was a little too ambiguous. I said
I wrote 4 quatrains on July 12, but did not include them, so here they are, as assonant irregulars, abba.” Then it came, the poem I couldn’t stop reading. It was an afterthought, an example of something. “How’s that for a hard-made affirmation?” Dugan wrote in closing his note. “I hate cheap affirmations about how nice the universe is to human beings.” That was it—all there was to learn or know in that hospital bed. I was eighteen. I was stunned and I started to feel that something in having found the poem the way I did was overwhelming everything else, no matter how drastic and powerful. I had skipped past other poets, far more renowned poets, landing on Dugan. I had to read it again, over and over again, feeling its power and relevance. Today, I would say that what I sensed then and could not resolve was that I had not “skipped” these other poets, but I had been ushered past them. Fortuitously, I had been ushered past Pound and Frost and Eliot to Dugan to settle on this—this—I don’t know. It was as though the very thoughts scudding through my mind had condensed and fallen out on the page, one by one. It was uncanny. Despite the rawness there was no real escape then, nor is there now from what I was seeing and feeling. I had turned to Dugan’s poem.
The story behind a group of passionate people in Queensland Australia, dedicated to keeping the art of poetry alive
Sunday 3 August - Brisbane’s longest running poetry event, SpeedPoets returns to The Alibi Room (720 Brunswick St. New Farm) from 2pm after a mid-year hiatus, bigger and bolder than ever, with features from host of 4ZZZ’s Literate Latte, Amy Clare and the enigmatic Brother Man Dude. As always there will be live sounds from Sheish Money, Brisbane’s hottest Open Mic session, zines and giveaways. Entry is a gold coin donation. SpeedPoets is a community of writers, engaging people with poetry in a very public forum. There is nothing that specifically defines SpeedPoets. It is what it is - a creative space where many of Brisbane’s finest poets/spoken word artists experiment with words backed by the freeform musical powerhouse Sheish Money. Each month there is Open Mic, a feature poet and singer/songwriter, free poetry magazine and giveaways.
From Graham Nunn: The Brisbane scene today is vastly different to the one I entered almost ten years ago. I attended my first poetry event at the end of 1999, looking for something fresh and exciting, a change from the band scene that I had been part of since the early 1990’s. I had long been into spoken word - artists like Burroughs, Laurie Anderson, Steve Kilbey and Patricia Smith - and I was interested to see if there was anyone playing with soundscape and pushing poetic boundaries on the local scene. I went away from the event feeling both satisfaction and discontent. Satisfied that there were events and opportunities out there and some incredibly innovative artists, but I wanted more… something raw, something with sustained energy. In 2000, I teamed up with another local poet, Rowan Donovan and together we started performing at Open Mic events,
incorporating song, drama, costumes and cut-up techniques into our performances. The response was positive and by the end of the year we had developed a complete show and had featured at a couple of events. In 2001 we were invited to perform at the Queensland Poetry Festival and it was here that we met the nucleus of what would become SpeedPoets – Fakie Wilde, Stefanie Petrik, Brentley Frazer and Robert Lort. There was immediate electricity between us and a unified desire to take the poetry scene by its ankles and give it a damn good shake. Emails and phone numbers were exchanged and before the end of the year, we got together on Fakie’s verandah, each of us armed with poetry and the thrill of something new. That night it was agreed that we would put on a live event that combined the best elements of the live music scene and poetry scene, an event that was inclusive, an event that created the sense of community we all craved, a community where all poets were welcome and encouraged to push the boundaries of their own work, to constantly question their voice, an event where no one person stood in the spotlight for more than two minutes, an event driven by spontaneity - hearing a piece of music and going with it, and we would call it SpeedPoets. In 2008 we are now in our third year at the Alibi Room and our seventh year as an event. Alongside events such as Contraverse, Kurilpa Poets, No Frontiers and ouTsideRs, SpeedPoets showcases the best local and touring talent and continues to provide a much needed sense of community. Today, unlike the Brisbane of the late 1990’s, it is not unusual to read about poetry in the major papers and street press and to have new poetry events pop up regularly. SpeedPoets has been at the forefront of paving the way for this growth in the poetry scene. Seven years on, SpeedPoets has maintained its sense of urgency
and spontaneity and unique blend of live music and poetry/ spoken word. The raw passion that started it all still burns in the gut of everyone involved. I look forward to seeing how the event will evolve over the next few years and continue to promote poetry as a vital and exciting artform in Brisbane and beyond. SpeedPoets is held the first Sunday of each month at The Alibi Room, 720 Brunswick St. New Farm, Brisbane, QLD,
Australia from 2:00pm â€“ 5:00pm. Visit the website www. speedpoets.org to subscribe to the mailing list and keep up to date with all things poetry.
by Kaitlyn Gallagher
Stuart was an alert and satisfied infant, who gave his polite attention to each new experience that life presented him. He was a large baby, with a very round, bald head, red cheeks and a pointed chin cushioned by several successive supporting chins. On rainy afternoons, his mother would sit him on the window seat overlooking their small yard, where for hours at a time Stuart watched the arrival and departure of birds. He soon could accurately anticipate the passing of the squirrels on the fence, as they commuted in their daily work of collecting fallen walnuts and burying them in untidy mounds. The messy flowerbeds did not worry Stuart’s mother—Stuart did. He never cried. He slept soundly for long periods. He drank his milk with gusto, and had no gas. And when with uncanny, though not inconvenient regularity, he filled his diaper, only a faint cloud of expression crossed the wide blue sky of his features. When she changed him he did not mind, but gazed up at her adoringly, his curiously unblinking eyes drinking in the features of her face with studious intentness. Stuart’s mother had read the baby books, had talked with her mother and with other mothers. There was no doubt in her mind: Stuart did not behave like a baby at all. At first, Stuart’s mother was simply embarrassed. She had nothing to complain about to her friends, whose horrific tales of colic and biting and sleepless nights she met with sympathetic sounds. Her friends crowded into the little cottage where Stuart and his mother lived, wailing babies in their arms, and frankly examined Stuart. Their eyes darted around the room, as if hoping to light on the key—the secret to his happiness. “It isn’t right,” said one friend to another when Stuart’s mother had gone to get coffee in the kitchen. Stuart sat before them on the carpet, placidly gnawing a yellow rubber ducky and watching them with wide-open eyes. “It’s not natural!” replied the other. “He must be ill.” Stuart’s mother came to believe that Stuart’s contentedness was an illness, and rather than enjoying her incredibly good fortune, she spent her time delivering herself and her son to countless clinics and specialists. This went on until one doctor, a tall paediatrician with a boisterous air, finally pronounced Stuart well. “He is perfectly content and healthy,” he said, laughing at the small anxious mother he saw before him. As he talked, he swung Stuart back and forth in his large hands. Stuart beamed down at his mother, as if to reinforce the doctor’s assurances. “So, why don’t we find out what he’s up to inside that head? I think he is a smart one.” The doctor arranged for Stuart to undergo a series of tests, in which he played with objects and moved pictures around while being
observed by a young assistant who made notes on a small pad of paper. The doctor called Stuart’s mother with the results. “You did it, Mom! A real baby genius! Listen now—when he gets a little older, we will find a good school for this great boy. Until then, expose him to all sorts of things, everything you can. But most importantly, relax. Be happy, and enjoy your son.” Stuart’s mother began to relax. Before having Stuart, she had been a librarian. Hearing the doctor’s voice in her head, she began to imagine the wonderful things she could show Stuart. She made cookies that were puzzles and cakes shaped like letters. She pointed out the ants in the kitchen, and the moss on the trunks of trees. Stuart learned to smell cheese and squish pudding through his fingers. He learned to draw in the condensation on the windowpanes in winter, and in the spring he played in the squares of sunlight on the kitchen floor. He knew to listen for the click of the postman’s chain as he approached the door. To all these things, Stuart gave his strangely alert and rapt attention. Once engaged, it did not stray. One morning just past his second birthday, as Stuart sat in the window seat watching the birds, his mother had an accident. She was a slight woman, prone to frights, with a dread of spiders. When a large black spider appeared on her coffee cup, she jumped back, fell over an open cupboard door, and was knocked unconscious. When she awoke, she called out to Stuart. She heard nothing. He could be hiding, she thought, afraid of what had happened. He must have been terrified, she thought, to see his mother on the floor. He will be crying under his covers, she thought. She sat up. She called to Stuart again, assuring him that she was coming. She looked at the clock—more than two hours had passed. Then she saw him. Stuart sat in the window seat, still watching the birds. For weeks afterwards, Stuart’s mother was in pain. Her pain was not, however, from the bump on her head or the bruise on her leg. It was a pain in her chest, a deep aching soreness that she felt with her first waking breath in the morning, and with her last at night. The pain was a solid mass, a heavy burden. She ate little. She was always cold. She slept as much as possible, often folded into an armchair in the living room while Stuart played on the rug at her feet, but even that was difficult. When she looked at Stuart, the pain worsened.
In his mother’s illness, Stuart flourished. He learned to make toast and to heat soup, to pull the covers straight over the beds, to push the sweeper over the floors and empty it into the wastebasket. Soon he took control of all household chores, approaching them with energy and confidence. Each morning, as Stuart made breakfast, he tested the heat of his milk with a few drops on his wrist, as he had seen his mother do. The pain grew worse, and Stuart’s mother worried that she would become too ill to care for him. But then she watched him, doing each chore precisely as he had done it before, in the same order, at the same angle, with the same force. The pain surged. She shut her eyes, wrapped her quilt more tightly around herself, and fell asleep. Stuart’s mother awoke. The room was dark. In the stillness she heard soft sounds of movement from Stuart’s room. She rose—the pain was better just after sleep, little more than a memory of the ache. Still, she wrapped the quilt around her shoulders and held it close at her chest as she walked down the hallway, toward the open door of her son’s room. Stuart heard his mother’s footsteps—he was never surprised. He turned his large, round head to look at her, and she saw a change in him. But before she could give her attention to that change, she was distracted by what she saw in his room. Her crocheted afghan, on his crib. Her reading glasses, and her book on the nightstand. Her nightstand. She stepped toward him, confused. She stepped onto her small braided rug, the one that lay in front on her bed. She turned to Stuart and opened her mouth to speak, but at that moment the pain returned in a cold wave that broke sharply over her body, and she reached out for her armchair, which she knew would be behind her to the right side of door, just as it had been placed in her own room. She sat down. Stuart walked toward her, and at the sight of his smooth, plump, muscled body the pain rose up terribly, making new dark paths inside her chest. His head was cocked to the side, and he held out his arms in a loving, pitying gesture. She could see the new way he had, the change in him. He took her hands in his and led her to the crib. She lay down gratefully, and her son settled the quilt around her, ending with the two neat, comforting pats on the back that she remembered as her own. She watched him climb onto the armchair and turn out the light, leaving only the dull blue glow of the nightlight in the corner. For one week, Stuart’s mother lay in the crib. She ate a little of what he made for her, and she slept for many hours on end. The house was always very quiet. She heard the sounds of Stuart doing chores, of Stuart playing, of Stuart eating. From the crib, however, she could not see the rest of the house, and so she could not see Stuart until he came down the hallway. When she saw him coming, she turned her face into her quilt. This helped the pain to lie quietly inside her. The phone rang one afternoon, and Stuart answered it. He had been answering the phone for some months now, always simply asking the caller to try again later. But after this call, the phone would not stop ringing. Soon, Stuart stopped answering
it, and seemed not to hear it at all. The doctor stood on the little porch of the cabin, knocking quietly but steadily. It was early evening, just getting dark, and the birds in the trees were talking up a storm. Even so, he thought he heard sounds from inside, but could see nothing through the curtains. He continued knocking, only stopping to say, “Hello, this is your doctor. Hello, Mother—Hello—.” Finally, he walked around the corner of the house to look in the bay window. Stuart stared at him from the center of the room, naked and proud, holding in his hand the sweeper as a warrior holds his weapon. His face had changed, the expression of intent concentration made sharp, into a challenge, by the moist halfsmile on his lips. Through the window, the doctor raised his hand in a silent greeting. Stuart raised the sweeper high in the air, held it there for a moment, and brought it gently down to the floor. He crossed the room and opened the door. They walked in silence down the hallway to Stuart’s room, where his Mother’s body lay in the crib. At first, the doctor didn’t recognize her. Her form under the quilt was so small, he thought, this is a child. When he uncovered her, he saw the soft roundness of her face, her unlined skin, and the translucent eyelids. How strangely death alters us, he thought, how completely it releases us. The doctor looked around at Stuart, but he had gone. When the arrangements were made, the doctor walked quietly in the yard behind the cabin. Only the sound of birds, cutting through the air of the clearing like perfect dark arrows, broke the silence. Stuart emerged from the trees, his body a pale glow in the black green of the evening, his wide open eyes revealing nothing.
The Art of Doing Nothing by Elizabeth Marchitti
It takes a special skill and I am an artist. Sometimes, when I sit on my deck on a mild autumn afternoon, I drop my book, notice what the sparrows are up to, wonder what they find to eat on the dead sunflower stalks. What remnants are left, now that the goldfinches are gone? A pale grey flash, almost like light-a whirr of whistling wings-a mourning dove appears suddenly, flying into the garden from beneath the feeder. I donâ€™t need to read, I donâ€™t need to write, I am doing nothing-or am I?
Crumbles by Patrick Flynn
Voyeuristic moon, peeks through the branches of the Pohutukawa tree above, like a nosey neighbour, disapproving of the vision before its gaze. Worn paint on weatherboards crumbles cold into my palm, while the other hand caresses the warm softness. We kiss, eyes staring into mine, they ask questions, to remain unanswered, an imagined fairy tale already at the “Happily ever after” page in your head, But Prince Charming, I’m not. Cold breeze via Mana blows in across the bay, licking at the small of my back. We embrace, still closer you pull me. An ending or a journey begun
Steve Cartwright Cartoonist & Illustrator How did your relationship with illustration start? I was very much a born illustrator from my first few years; drawing comic books, thrilled by colours, excited by taking a blank piece of paper and transforming art onto it from the mysterious, deep pools of my psyche
. Did you attend any educational studies on illustration, cartoons or art? No, I copied the work of artists’ whose style I liked, taking a bit from here and there and turning it into my own unique style. When creating art, are there linear steps you follow toward its completion? I almost always start with a pencil sketch. I do penand-ink; humorous illustration; stylized-realism; neo-art-deco. For the last several years I use the immense Photoshop to colour my art. If separated from Photoshop for even a few hours I begin shaking and baying at the moon (even in the daytime).
I’ve always loved the visceral feel of a lead pencil over paper, or how a pen seems to delineate an invisible object on the page. I reluctantly learned how to colour in Photoshop, and when I got the knack of it I had a spiritual awakening from its revelation. I didn’t just call you “little grasshopper” did I? What moves you, inspires you to draw and create? To create is to bring form to thought, so our creative muse is mysterious and unknowable. When I create art, I am surprised and amused by the process as though I’m merely the tool, not the artist.
What relationship do you have with your art? I love my illustrations as though they are my children. I do art every day; Freud said artistic talent is a neurosis, I say more like a kind addiction. It has been a comfort during life’s low ebbs because I do feel its contact with a thing bigger than myself.
Do you take an interest in other art, other than your own? I like popcorn.
What kind of activities are occupying your time at the moment? Mostly magazines all over the globe, the odd book, art pro bono for animal rescue groups - I have an affinity for dogs. Can we glean a final insight from you? My sense of humour verges on the absurd, certainly on the silly. Welcome to my mind. Please wipe your feet.
â€œArt is our expression of the world around us; the first caveperson was elated when he/she touched the cave wall with a muddy hand and left an artistic representation of themselves. Then there was the mandatory art show with wine and cheese, dinosaurs and tar-pits.â€?
“I awake every morning anxious to see where the Muse will take me today: to a retro cigarette ad; a nocturnal forest; a laconic woman with emotive eyes; a phoenix rising from its own ashes; a surrealistic hand where through “I” I glimpse the cosmos.”
Jesus Saves by Lorraine Berry
The mix CD arrived in the mail, a present from my 24-year old lover to me, a newly divorced 38-year old woman, who, after the ravages of marriage, wasn’t all that certain that she still had it going on, sexually. The songs did not all come out and say directly, “I want to fuck you,” but the rhythms within them, some fast and hard, some languorous and soft, all bespoke desire. I couldn’t stop playing the CD in anticipation of his arrival. I was so anxious to see him that I told him I’d save him the last hour of his trip by picking him up at the penultimate bus stop, an hour from where I lived. It’s a wonder we didn’t crash. Almost immediately, he had sought my flesh as I drove, his hand on my thigh, his fingers brushing my belly, stroking just under the waistband of my jeans. I forced myself to keep my eyes on the road, my hands on the steering wheel. I pulled the car off at the next exit. The tiny town comprised a couple of gas stations; a school; a fast food restaurant; and a church, a boxy building with large, red neon letters that proclaimed: JESUS SAVES. I parked in the darkest part of the lot, and then both of us yanking aside clothes, I straddled him, my palms pushing against the roof of the car for leverage. As I came, JESUS SAVES glowed against the screen of my closed eyelids.
Lost Paradise by Patrick Flynn
Bodies lie prone on sandy bed, comatose from vodka and lager the night before, as grumbling buses elbow past cars on Bondi Road, carry to weekend ritual, a delivery of hopeful cargo. Glamorous faรงades await, beach real estate available, buy or rent, in towel sized blocks, prices measured in millions of dollars or grains of sand. Bikini clad sirens lure suburban Neanderthals from rusty cars with the ancient songs of skin and lust, dashing the unwary fools on the rocks of life. Bondi Hotel, sentinel of Campbell Parade, standing guard over lost Paradise, awaits sun-bleached redemption.
Now You See It by Salvatore Buttaci
Magicians can pull rabbits and scarves popping out of tall stovepipe hats. They can saw folks in half, make coins appear and disappear, wave wands over a handkerchief from which out of nowhere ascend white love doves. I have only an alphabet of letters to form words fashioned from what keeps my heart beating against the chest of me, only new-made poems to walk you through line by line until you are taken by surprise and dancing light and carefree you take to the soft mid-air as the angel you are. These poems wrapped in good intentions are my only gifts, my only sleight of hand. I have no white gloves, no real magic at all. (I confess this with words.)
One Drizzly Day by Elizabeth Marchitti
Rainy days and Mondays don’t get me down. I love the rain, And a rainy Monday suits me fine, perverse poet that I am. Walking in the wind I see pink and purple petunias, dripping with drops of rain. Listening to whispers of lovely leaves soaring through damp drizzly air, Thinking my own thoughts, loving my life, the sojourn of my seasons. I’m in my alliterative mode. I can’t shake it, and I don’t want to.
Patric Sandri Conceptual Illustration
From the first strike of an idea to the final image, what steps do you follow? So, I usually start to collect a lot of information. I sketch simple picture-ideas, first black and white, very rough sketches in my sketchbooks. Then, from time to time I try to work them out in a specific aesthetic which fits the best for each theme (eg. Pixel, silk print, collage, painting). I think every detail in the pictures or how a picture is done, the aesthetic is very important for its message.
I’m interested in exhausting the different ways to do illustration. Sometimes it’s kind of funny, ‘cause lots of people ask me and aren’t sure what I’m doing - graphic design, fine arts or illustration? That’s the best compliment for me!!! How do you draw and what are your tools of the trade? For me it’s very important to use different media to make a theme which fits the best for the job. I really like to show the little ironic and subtle things about a theme! So, what I like about illustration is that I am able to create impossible pictures and complex contexts which you can’t make with a camera. For me it’s not very important to be able to draw or to paint photo-realistic... because of that, I like to work more in a ‘direct’ way (like with posters). I don’t like the way of decorative illustrations, like those in the fashion magazines! But the first step is always an idea, I have it in my mind and then it takes time to work it out… What are your sources of inspiration? What moves you? I prefer to travel around and get different inputs from different countries, cultures and lifestyles. I often take my inspirations from the media, but many works are just thoughts I have during the day (which I always draw in my sketchbooks), from dreams; or just from our ‘wicked consumption world’ - things I hear from people talking on the bus or the trains. That’s the best way to get new ideas for my works...
I think I am really fascinated with different cultures and politics. Sometimes it is easier to have the distance to get or see the invisible things from another country or culture. For example: It would be much more difficult for me to show or pick out the things/details from a culture which I am part of or I am used to… Are you interested in other forms of art, other than illustration? I am interested in graphic design and fine art (painting, printing). I like the ‘in between’, I mean art which cannot be well-defined, but I think it’s important for me that an artwork communicates something that touches me.
I many cases I think that the art scene is kind of conservative (not in an aesthetic way!!!). I think lots of artists and galleries
like what looks ‘trendy’. I don’t really like the art scene in general. There are a few good artists, but most in the scene think they are very intellectual, but aren’t very open to a new kind of work... They don’t really look at the content, which I think is the most important thing!!! My work is more accepted abroad (in the UK or USA) than in Zurich. Perhaps Swiss people aren’t really humorous! What do you enjoy most about your work? That I am free to show my opinions in a kind of anonymous way, that I am free to travel around, to see something of the world and to be my own boss in timemanaging etc... It’s a great opportunity to do something I really like. I couldn’t work as a banker; I need the liberty to work on different things. I am not an illustrator just doing children’s books, posters or visual essays. That would be boring. But sometimes it’s difficult, as clients want illustrators who are specialised especially in one thing. But I don’t care about that. For whom do you think art is created? Does an artist have a duty toward his/her peers, and if so, what would that be?
I think that ‘art’ shouldn’t be just for an intellectual audience. Art should touch someone. It doesn’t matter how; that’s always different from artist to artist. Every artist should focus on what he really wants to do or communicate. The most important thing for me is that I am honest to myself… Can you tell us about what you are working on now?
Now, I am working for different magazines and newspapers to gain some money. Personally I am working on a series of paintings - ‘hunt’ (acrylic on paper, 130cm x 90 cm), with two other friends from Germany. I am planning to go to New York to do a visual essay about its five boroughs (like I did in London) while working for a publisher. I am planning to go for three months and looking really forward to working completely free!!!
“Every artist should focus on what he really wants to do or communicate. The most important thing for me is that I am honest to myself…”
“I think that ‘art’ shouldn’t be just for an intellectual audience. Art should touch someone. It doesn’t matter how; that’s always different from artist to artist”.
The voice within by Salvatore Buttaci
In her last years she explained it away by saying she was afflicted with a touch of poetry. Her lungs rasped with words that had strayed from a heart heavy with secrets to tell in metered lines. A touch of poetry in the trembling of her gnarled fingers that gripped the pen against the white field of paper, shaking out words like seeds dreaming of springtime, Like the hand waves of a queen tossed at crowds. She had spent her days in the busy vocation of housewife and mother. In good health she did her best to make a difference in all their lives, but for herself, she ignored the voice within that begged her time. A touch of poetry in the way her thin lips quivered when she mouthed the rhythmic words of a heart bursting with the need to dictate those escaped moments, those tiny joys and sorrows she had experienced once and needed to write down. The years had galloped by. Evenings she lay in bed remembering and could not sleep. The years had galloped by. And her pen would tell the stories line by line: ink and tears, tears and ink—a legacy of sorts. She hoped they would find her in those verses. A touch of poetry and eventually she’d go to sleep and dream herself away. A still life, old woman with folded hands, Mother, wife, friend, neighbour, recorder of dreams. What, they’ll ask, took her from us? She seemed fine. And if they read those notebooks lying there, Read each poem that filled her lungs, coursed through much travelled arteries, spoke to her in lonely times, Said all of her reasons for being born and living long, They will be comforted and treasure those words she touched.
Crumbles by Patrick Flynn
Voyeuristic moon, peeks through the branches of the Pohutukawa tree above, like a nosey neighbour, disapproving of the vision before its gaze. Worn paint on weatherboards crumbles cold into my palm, while the other hand caresses the warm softness. We kiss, eyes staring into mine, they ask questions, to remain unanswered, an imagined fairy tale already at the “Happily ever after” page in your head, But Prince Charming, I’m not. Cold breeze via Mana blows in across the bay, licking at the small of my back. We embrace, still closer you pull me. An ending or a journey begun
Tameika Brumby Photographer My name is Tameika Brumby and I am originally from Tasmania where I studied photography, I then moved to Melbourne to start fashion design and work as a hairdresser. Melbourne being the creative city it is, I followed whichever way the creative path was taking me. I then started studying journalism by correspondence under Simon Townsend and loved it! But one day I was on a shoot for street art and snatched the camera out of my girlfriends hands and explained to her different ways of shooting; mind you she is a journalist for the Age! From that day she was constantly telling me to keep using a camera. Since that day four years ago I havenâ€™t stopped taking photographs!
The images are of Sudanese chidren living in Melbourne, why did you choose to photograph the children? I have many reasons. In Melbourne every day we all get caught up in what we are selfishly doing. No one has time to stop in the city and really look who is living right next door to us. Yeah, we know we live in a multicultural city, but a lot of us do not take the time out to meet others or learn about them. Taking photos of children could be the best way to express [who they are]. They do not lie to the camera.
The photo reminds me of the personalities coming from these children, they are very loving people but they know how to protect themselves.
Do you still visit the children? The really sad thing is I am now living in South Australia in the desert! I would still love to be walking through the park where the children happily play and chat to their mothers. I found the women shy at first but later very polite and welcoming.
fWhat photographic projects are you currently working on? I like to keep my immediate plans to myself, I am a little secretive! But I can tell you I am getting great shots of the outback at the moment. Children’s photos here are something all the mums are very keen to have. Roxby Downs in S.A has lots of children!
fl. How did the experience of taking these photos leave you feeling? I am someone who thinks a lot, and deeply! I have expressed happiness in the photos but it left me feeling angry. The Sudanese are beautiful people, who as most of us know, had copped a slandering from the media not so long ago because a couple of them were caught up in a gang. It does not matter where we are from, someone of our own race will be caught up in something bad. We can all be so arrogant and caught up in our own selfish lives to not stop and meet others around us. At the time a new rule for freelance photographers had just come in - no more photos of children. I do not entirely disagree with this, but for those of us that are purely taking photos for professional reasons, the freaks out there have spoiled it for the innocent. This includes a mother at her own child’s sport day! The world is starting to make no sense!
Are you working on anything for upcoming shows or exhibitions?
From the images you sent, which is your favourite photo and why? It would have to be the shot of the little boy with his fist up at me. I was walking through the park at 10pm at night and I was taking some shots on the soccer ground at the fitzroy flats. I remember the sky was really clear which happens a lot in Melbourne; there’s a sharpness sometimes created by the weather and the city lights. I looked ahead and the boys were in the distance. I started snapping away at them. They started screaming, “What was that? There is a ghost over there! What is it? What is that light?” As they began running [toward me] they were still yelling, “It’s a ghost! It’s a ghost!” They were ready to attack! The little boy in the front was raising his fist in the air! But in the split second his friends were saying, “Ah, it’s a girl [with] a camera, we thought you were a ghost!”
What is the most challenging aspect of photography? If I am working on a journalism job I sometimes need to work on a few jobs in one night. You need to be fast in getting from one spot to another for different shoots. I get caught up in the moment, so I need a speedy Hover Craft!
I am actually. I am about to do some fantasy fashion shoots with some of the girls here. Fantasising is something every girl does and I am going to have fun with that idea! I would love to go back to Melbourne to hold some shows when I am done here. Photographing any third world country would be an attraction for me. To show all of us as closely as I could how lucky [we] wealthy are. In Australia, the middle classes are still wealthy enough. We are fortunate.
â€œPhotography is an awareness. It is not just what you see or create, it opens the eyes of those who view your work. You often see people flicking through a newspaper, books or magazines only to look at the photos because instantly the photo tells a story.â€? I started studying journalism by correspondence under Simon Townsend and loved it! But one day I was on a shoot for street art and snatched the camera out of my girlfriends hands and explained to her different ways of shooting; mind you she is a journalist for the Age! From that day she was constantly telling me to keep using a camera. Since that day four years ago I have not stopped taking photos for one single day!
He Taught Me to Dance Trilogy by Gerald E. Monaghan Jr.
I visited Daddy the other day. He was absent of my arrival. Maybe at the grocery store, Luncheon with a peach cobbler, Purchased by him. Tucked under the ottoman were the shoes. I was responsible for their newness. Seeing them, gathering the dust of time I remember! The shoes uppers branded into my feet. Daddy always wore them when we would dance. I used the uppers and learned to dance. Golly did he enjoy music when he got home from work. It was some sort of a dash for me to the upper shoes. His shoe uppers never needed the polishing spilt shine. Psst! Daddy did start my clubbing nights. When the guys ask me to dance I always take the lead. I recall when the training wheels came off. We were at the party. My brothers were getting into trouble. My Daddy so wise, knew the song for us. The DJ went into his stack for our song. “May I have this dance?”- “Yes” I whispered. That night was my first prance on the dance floor. This was my first occasion - not on the uppers. I tripped the night fantastic. We danced! We danced, He taught me to dance!
The Beech Tree Club by Gerald E. Monaghan Jr.
Remember the day I told you about. Daddy wasn’t home yet. I strolled to the bench in the yard. The tree and its canopy of leaves, This was the climbing tree. Thus filled with all sorts’ vultures. My birds of prey were my brothers. Always picking and pecking at me; Geezze Louise my brothers didn’t own the tree. Daddy said the tree house was for all of us. They foolishly thought it was their private fort. If I had a sister we’d be scheming the demons. My friends created the BEECH TREE CLUB. We girls rocked - the prey from the perches. When we ascended above the house. We were enraptured as all the raptures. We learned to vault above any glass ceiling. Together we reached the sun.
with Jeremy Thomas
PARAGUAY: A LAND DIVIDED 28 Aug 07 – 19 Sep 07 Like most of us on this earth, I had never heard of Paraguay. But in my quest to conquer the globe, it would be a place I would have to visit. Even as I made tentative plans to go while in Brazil, everyone would ask: “Why are you going there?” “They have nothing,” or “It’s boring.” “Well, have you ever been?” I’d ask, and I’d always receive an emphatic “No” as a reply. I wondered how people could be this negative about a country they barely knew about, but I would eventually discover many countries in South America had this opinion of their neighbours. This only fuelled my desire to visit; to discover something of worth from a country steadfastly ignored, not just by backpackers and tourists, but by the few people who were aware of its existence. Firstly, where exactly is Paraguay? In short, it’s a landlocked, peanut-shaped country that borders Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia. It has the third-best football team on the continent, and produces some of its best dairy. The tap water is drinkable. Most of its six million inhabitants live in the south-eastern third of the country; much of the rest is made up of thorny scrub which bakes in the winter dry season and becomes an impassable mire in the wet. Extreme too is the human condition: widely regarded as the most corrupt country outside of Africa, it is the second-poorest country of the continent, yet the wealth of its richest people outstrips those in economic giant Brazil. Nevertheless, there was something instantly likeable about the capital Asunción, beyond the classic Latin American grid-patterned streets. I quickly discovered the city has a smalltown feel, a closeness which one wouldn’t expect to find in a country’s capital. Despite a metropolitan area containing 1.6 million people, policemen still whistle and gesture traffic through intersections surrounding the Plaza de los Heroes in the centre of town, while gardeners water the grass in the plazas from hoses. The thought struck me on my first night that I hadn’t seen any homeless people yet in the city, but while investigating an old tram permanently marooned on a median strip, I spied the glow from little campfires in Plaza Uruguaya, across from my hotel. Dark shapes huddled around, the smell of cooking wafted lazily through the night air. Had these people been here the whole time and I had never noticed? Who were they? It wouldn’t be long before I found out... Once I had checked out of the hotel the following morning, I set off to investigate. Sheets of sheer black plastic stretched over ropes: crude shelters here between the trees. Upturned pine crates as tables, chairs; washing drying on makeshift lines. Indigenous women near smouldering cooking fires left from the night attending to chores. Sweeping, washing, feeding small children from exposed breasts. Skinny strays, everybody’s and nobody’s strayed closer to the older kids. A community dwelled here, in a public park a scant five blocks from the centre of town.
In between sips of Tereré, Paraguay’s national beverage, I discovered that the indigenous people had been living in Plaza Uruguaya for six months or so. The government had sold their homeland and failed to live up to a promise of allotting them a new place and teaching them farming skills. Two hundred of them eke out a wretched existence in this small park in the middle of the noisy city, subsisting off handouts from outreach groups. More still live in another park in another part of town.
Despite the fact that not as many people fluently speak Guaraní as in times past, the people of Paraguay still have strong ties to the language and folklore of the indigenous groups. Paraguay remains a strongly religious country, but worship is divided between Catholicism and the stricter Protestant orders. It is considered normal for a woman in rural Paraguay, either indigenous or mezcla (mixed) to have ten or more children.
But despite knowing their story, they were still distant faces and figures, many speaking only the native tongue, Guaraní, but I was desperate for photos to immortalise these forgotten people in a forgotten country. I armed myself with my camera, a bag of sweets and a Guaraní phrase: “Ikatupa anohe′ foto peeme”, and set off again to Plaza Uruguaya to ask permission to photograph them. They were more than happy for me to take their photograph, and I wondered at the time what would become of these people.
The Palacio de Gobierno is an imposing white building on the Rio Paraguay, complete with trimmed grass, immaculate garden, parade ground and its naval frigate parked on the river. On the day of my visit, it was guarded by soldiers carrying assault rifles. On the western side, hidden amongst trees was a cluster of low buildings. It was almost like a tiny village, down an embankment at water level, with a dilapidated fishing boat moored out the back. What a poignant portrayal of Paraguay lays here, a common slum practically in the shadow of the Governor’s great palace.
One day, toward the end of my month-long stay in Asunción, the indigenous people were gone. The fires had been put out, the black sheets removed. The dogs no longer sniffed around. Life and laughter and depression left a void, a disappearance. A dry wind kicked up raw dust; discarded plastic products waited in piles for removal. The indigenous people were already removed. Shifted by government order to a military reserve within the city confines. Maybe soon, in the minds of the fruit sellers, street sweepers and schoolgirls, it would be as if they were never there. Their plight continues; as far as I know, justice has yet to be done.
My curiosity with Paraguay continues. Young women work as live-in cleaners, earning US$70 per month. Wealthy men race powerboats on the river on a Sunday afternoon. More people are forced from their lands for the latest hydro-electric project; the power is sold to neighbouring countries for a pittance. The nephew of Alfredo Stroessner, the previous dictator is allowed to run for President. Almost all the Paraguayans I met were wonderful, hospitable people, and I still keep in contact with the friends I made there.
UNSENSORED 08 Melbourne, Australia Exhibitions
Like everything; the way we take photographs has changed. There has been a huge push to digital technology in recent times, which has made the process of taking a photograph just that bit simpler and cheaper for the average consumer. But what about film? Does this shift to digital mean that your beloved film camera is pushed to the back of the cupboard to gather dust? Analogue cameras and film sadly seem to be getting lost amongst the digital haze. But they’re not lost to everyone. Through the wonders of www.flickr.com, a group known as the Melbourne Silver Mine (‘Silver’ after the silver compounds used in the monochrome photographic process) was formed. The Melbourne Silver Mine is a non-profit incorporated association based in Melbourne, Australia. The group has been formed by a group of enthusiastic analogue photographers; its main purpose is to encourage and promote the continued use, unique features and appreciation of traditional photographic techniques and equipment. “We are not anti-digital by any means,” says committee member Jaye Loring. “In fact most of the group’s photographers use both mediums for their work; using the format that best suits the purpose of the image. We embrace a mix of techniques and firmly believe that analogue photography still has a keen role to play in today’s photographic landscape.” Frame Lines spoke to the group’s committee members and asked them why they freely dedicate their time and resources to this project. “I do it for the love, of course!” says President Rhys Allen, “Time isn’t sacrificed when it’s spent doing something you enjoy. MSM is a worthwhile endeavour, and getting people to be a part of a movement which acknowledges the value in old crafts is challenging and rewarding. The common interests of the group and their diverse styles of photography makes for an interesting and engaging bunch of people which I love being a part of.” The Melbourne Silver Mine is planning numerous events and projects that aim to achieve this purpose. “Eventually we’d like to introduce workshops for members and the greater community, which can hopefully give people the opportunity to get into film photography for the first time. We hope to be able to provide them with ready access to different types of equipment, to encourage experimentation,” says committee member Tim Heraud. Fundraising is currently underway and the MSM group hopes to gain the additional support of sponsors and grants to help realise their goals. The Melbourne Silver Mine’s 2ndannual group exhibition of analogue photography, UNSENSORED08, opens on the 8th August 2008.The exhibition is a showcase of analogue photography from members of the group. This year, thirty photographers have come together to exhibit their work, each approaching the film medium in their own way. From 35mm to large format, pinholes to Hasselblads, plastic toy cameras to antique collectibles, UNSENSORED08 covers many styles and blurs the line between old and new techniques. It aims to show how film photography remains uniquely beautiful, simple, accessible and entirely relevant in a digital age. This year’s event has doubled in size and will without doubt be a highlight of the 2008 Melbourne photographic community’s calendar. Works will be on sale, a photo book of the work of the exhibiting photographers will also be available for sale at the gallery and via the Silver Mine web site: http://silvermine.org.au If you are interested in more information, or becoming a member of the Melbourne Silver Mine, you can contact their President, Rhys Allen (email@example.com)
UNSENSORED 08 Presented by the Melbourne Silvermine Inc. Opening Night 8th August, 2008 at 6pm Collingwood Gallery, 292 Smith Street Collingwood, Melbourne Australia
Exhibition showing 8th-20th August 2008 Mon - Fri 11am - 9pm Sat & Sun 10am -5pm
Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destruction Seven Stories Press (2008)
with Loorraine Berry
In one of the first published feminist novels, The Awakening, Edna, the heroine of the story, in an act that we are supposed to see as libratory, commits suicide. For the price of recognizing her personhood—and how the culture she lives in will forever deny it—Edna swims out to sea and drowns herself. Some of our greatest creative geniuses—Woolf, Plath, Sexton—also chose suicide. Many women have written of the painfulness of being fully awake and present in a world that still treats women as the doormats upon which many men feel entitled to wipe their feet upon. Things are changing. But as a woman who has been observing the world for 45 years, I wonder whether our glacial progress will bring us to true equality before global warning renders all of it moot. To be creative is to walk around sometimes as if the top layers of skin have been removed from your body and the world is experienced hyper sensitively. It is hardly surprising that creative women are drawn to self-destructive behaviours. Certainly, speaking from my own experiences, they’re not intended to be self-destructive so much as an avenue toward relief. Relief from feeling too much; relief from the constant putting oneself out there and risking rejection; relief from a sense of being so different from everyone else that you don’t belong; relief from feeling like a fraud in thinking that you might have any talent; relief from life itself which on certain days just kicks your ass. Live Through This is a collection of 19 essays by women artists who have walked across the hot coals of their own self-destructiveness. They are confessionals, cautionary tales, but mostly, I think, they are messages of sisterhood to those of us out there who struggle. The dedication of the book is “To the ones who think they are not going to make it.” And so it begins. In an essay by “Anonymous,” she describes the cleaving in two that is so common among those who are driven to create: “Space grew between my two lives. One where I danced, another where I cut. One where I was responsible, another where I was drank too much. (sic) One where I was a feminist, another where I binged on food and starved myself. One where I accepted my sexuality, another where I had sex with people I didn’t want to. One I could control, one I couldn’t. One where I wanted to help. Another where I didn’t. I endured injury after injury and missed shows and opportunities. I became raw from having no skin and no edges, no truth I could withstand.” Each essay tells a similar story of too much feeling, followed by numbing, followed by embracing art and life. Similar tales but all radically different. Yet each has a hook where I found I could connect myself to, even if the story being told bore no resemblance to my own. There was resonance in the voices
that spoke of moving through. Toni Blackman writes: “You have lived and loved with the intensity of a bandit on the run, and it frightens you more than anything in the world. The very thing you seek is what you shun the most. You are thwarted by your need to know, your fear of existing in that space of uncertainty.” And yet, despite the commonality of the hurt, it is not being in a state of hurt that makes great art. Certainly drawing on those feelings can illuminate creation, but it’s not a great place to try to make art from. It’s difficult to see when you’re sitting at the bottom of a well. Daphne Gottlieb writes: In a depressed state, we might find a few words, a perspective, an idea that can move or delight us or just capture something elusive. But art demands control and perspective, and it’s only possible to make consistently transcendent art when our brains are working right.” The first writing or painting or composing done in the face of trauma can look like vomit on a page. A symptom that someone is hurting, but not something that you want to get close to. But, as each woman artist explains, when you have worked your way through the pain, and when you have worked and reworked the text, then there is magic. Carolyn Gage: Before I even understood that I was a trauma survivor, I had already intuited that my salvation lay in presenting testimony in front of active witnesses, telling a story refined and attenuated by interminable rewrites and rehearsals until, like some kind of homeopathic emotional tincture, there remained no trace of the original traumatic affect—only the healing resonance.
I’jaam: an iraqi rhapsody, SinanAntoon, City Light Books: 2007 “Prison literature occupies a large space in the Arab literature scene nowadays, and it plays a dual role. On the one hand, it serves as a document of our reality, one that is besieged by dictatorships that crush humans. On the other, it is a laboratory for new literary styles, and a testimony to art’s capacity to transform the resistance to death into a defense of life’s powerful forces of self-renewal.” From the introduction by Elias Khoury I’jaam: an iraqi rhapsody manages to pack more in its 97 pages than most novels pack in quadruple that. Ostensibly the story of a writer who is held in one of Saddam Hussein’s prisons for a long period while he is investigated for his subversive poetry, the book also manages to interrogate language, the nature of writing, the cowing of intellectuals when living under the harshest of regimes, and to mock the pronouncements of The Great Leader. Oh, and there’s also a love story interwoven into its plot. I’jaam refers to the Arabic alphabet, which requires dots to change the skeleton of certain letters’ phonetic characteristics. Furat is an student of English who writes poetry, and who, to “keep himself sane,” frequently rearranges the pronouncements of The Great Leader who, as the war with Iran continues, keeps his subjects on edge with increasingly contradictory statements that tell them at once that they are safe in their thoughts but must adhere their most private moments to support the war. When Furat’s inevitable moment comes, he is taken off to prison, thrown into a room, and then subjected to the most degrading of tortures. (As if torture, in and of itself, is not degrading.) But, one day, he finds himself brought to see someone who is not identified, but who appears to be some kind of cultural officer. Furat is told: “You know, I look at this subject from an ethical and political perspective, not just a literary one. Culture can never be divorced from reality. For example, we are, right now, in a state of war. Not only are our borders threatened, our very existence is threatened as well. Every creative act, then, must aid in mobilizing the people. You can’t just write about the sea, or science fiction. Separating culture from reality is regressive, and treasonous. This modern poetry of yours, and especially the so called ‘prose-poem,’ is pure nonsense. How can you ignore fifteen hundred years of literary tradition and run after silly foreign fads? I say it’s unethical. After everything that the party has done for this generation, to be so ungrateful...You, for example, you are a student. But, unlike in most countries, you pay no tuition. Even your books are provided by the Party. Everything is given to you. And how do you express your gratitude? With arrogance, with disdain for all we hold sacred.” (pg. 30) I’jaam, I think, joins other literature about life under totalitarianism, my partial list including not only Orwell’s 1984 and Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, but also Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis series, and TaharDjaout’sThe Last Summer of Reason.
Peter Charles Melman, Landsman: A Novel Berkeley Counterpoint, 2007 Landsman is a work of historical fiction set in the American Civil War. On the surface it is a story about young man, Jewish by birth, a product of the darker streets of New Orleans, who finds himself embroiled in the horrors of the cruel and gruesome civil war battlefield, in need of redemption from his past. In reality, it is a very personal and profound telling of this man’s journey of soul from dire spiritual poverty and emptiness to true freedom and authentic nobility. Landsman is a deeply provocative book that could be titled Everyman. Although the Civil War, fought to end slavery, is Melman’s setting, the real story is about the war we fight within ourselves. Melman’s main character, Elias Abrams, after being involved in particularly heinous crime, flees his past as part of a notorious gang of hoodlums that terrorizes the denizens of the underside of New Orleans. Abrams soon finds himself on the Confederate front lines confronted with the grotesqueness of war. It’s here that the stirrings of the need for redemption begin as do the battles to end perhaps the greatest slavery of all, oppression of self. In Melman’s description of the battlefield, its harshness, ugliness and gory brutality we see what could well be, at some point in own lives, the condition of our soul. Elias’ ascent from the depths begins with the recognition of power of love in his life; the eternal love of his deceased mother, a comrade who becomes his new friend, father, brother and mentor and an unlikely romantic beginning with a young New Orleans lady. This growing love in young Abram’s life provides the strength and courage for him to slay his personal demons, metaphorically and otherwise, that ironically include Silas Wolfe who was a “once –true friend, a hero, a mastermind, a brother and a father , a tragedy, a crime, a love, (now) his very worst enemy.” A bullet through Wolfe’s heart finally frees Elias to achieve, through an ending that will surprise you, a genuine redemption that brings the peace and true nobility of soul that he longs for. This is a good read that caused a great deal of personal reflection for this reviewer. I was however disappointed that although Melman touches on his main character’s Jewish ethnicity, he never really brings its relevance to fruition.
“Performing live usually gets me into a complete state of hysteria and a spiral of self-loathing, haha. I do it because I feel like I have to, or I’ll die.”
What do you write your songs about? Um. Everything. Nothing. I don’t know! My songs are pretty honest; I’m a rather emotionally retarded person so song-writing is often a way for me to deal with that. The lyrics I write are often pretty crass and scathing, so I tend to get myself into trouble a lot – foot-in-mouth kind of trouble - because of my ‘subject matter’… because people tend to think they know what my songs are about if the lyrics seem particularly obvious. I guess I can’t really blame that on ‘people’ though, because there’s this one song that I regularly introduce at live shows with: “THIS IS ABOUT THE BOY WHO BROKE MY HEART”. See? Honest.
“I LOVE to play covers – mainly because I think everyone else’s songs are better than mine. I really don’t have that much time for musicians who don’t write their own songs! Unless they’re jazz musicians. Or Hilary Duff. (But just for the record, she DOES kinda write her own stuff.)” Who are you influenced by musically? Influences… Hilary Duff. I am not even joking. I won’t bore you with my essay on how she is the perfect contemporary role model for young women, not to mention a super-babe, but yeah. She doesn’t influence me musically though! Just viscerally. I am a massive country music fan. I can never get enough of Jerry Jeff Walker, Woody Guthrie, Gillian Welch. My parents were a big musical influence - I have all their old records now: people like Paul Simon, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Bruce Springsteen. Also I guess I’ve always been heavily influenced by politically slanted bands – not that any of the music I write has much to do with conventional notions of ‘politics’ – but bands like Sleater-Kinney, Fugazi, Billy Bragg, … I really love that they give a shit about shit. They’re most of the reason I give a shit about shit. In fact, I’m currently writing a thesis on ‘giving a shit about shit’. Can you remember the first piece of music you wrote? My first piece of music was probably something I made up when I was 6 sitting at the piano. No doubt it was about food, because that’s all I think about. My first written and recorded piece of music was probably something dumb I had to do for school. The first song I ever wrote – it is weird, I can actually remember this happening – I was fifteen. It’s called ‘Mouse Through a Hole’ and I still play it live. It was a country song with lyrics that I couldn’t possibly have understood properly at that age, but to this day it’s the only one of my songs that I’m not completely self-deprecating about! In two words, describe the music you play. Fucking frenetic. I saw The Greasers play the other night (a sort of side-project band of Little Red) and the most appealing thing to me about them is that they cover every single genre possible in one set. I used to really like Ben Kweller for the same reason, he was country, he was rock, he was punk, he was pop, he was acid jazz, he was whatever. So it’s kind of like that. All genres. With this massive 90’s feel. I love everything about the 90’s. What kind of image would your music project? Wow, that’s deep. Um. Maybe it would look like the pictures that Clare from Six Feet Under would take. Or just an Ewok village. I would really love people to hear my music and then picture something from Star Wars. It’ll never happen. How do your rehearsals go? Haha. I HATE practising. I avoid it like the plague. But when you’re playing with a band I guess you have to from time to time... dilemma. They’re pretty chilled out. At the moment we practise at my house which is good because my bandmate lives there too. We used to practise
at my mum’s house and she’d always cook us dinner and make sure there were snacks and there was usually about 10mins of practising to every half hour of Foxtel-watching and tea-drinking. Pre/post show rituals? Pre-show, 2 dry scotches. That has to happen before I can even get on stage. I have only ever played one sober show in my life. And it was extremely difficult. Post-show I just need everyone to leave me the fuck alone. It’s all very Cat Power/Prima Donna.
“Records were always playing in my house. One of my most vivid memories is of my brother and I as little tykes dancing on my dad’s home-made veranda to ‘Smurfin’ USA’ – the Smurfs covering a whole host of Beach Boys songs.” Favourite song lyrics? I had to think about this one - my favourite song lyrics are never necessarily GOOD lyrics. Like Bob Dylan or Woody Guthrie or something. I like angry lyrics that you can shake your fist to, like “they make all the right reasons to fuck it up – you gotta fuck it up”. Or pathetic lyrics that make you cry, like “you make me feel like a wet dog”. “My baby plays guitar, I pick a banjo now” always made me want to date a banjo player. What other local artists are you listening to at the moment? I love this guy called Wil Wagner who you will all find out about soon. I love this other band called Wolfman Jack, who kinda sound like This Bike is a Pipe Bomb but more clever and with a much better drummer. The Bites, who are now Hand Hell. I loved Quebec. The Stabs. I am always and without fail listening to Screamfeeder, who I think are one of the most underappreciated bands in the world. Those guys are geniuses and should be millionaires. Biggest challenge so far? Scenes. Scenes are my challenge always. I regularly take these massive breaks from playing music or playing live simply because a lot of ‘scene politics’ really get me down. Like bands hating other bands, fighting, peoples’ egos getting in the way… you know, all the emo annoying stuff that comes with being ‘artists’. What are your immediate music career goals? To not vomit and want to die immediately after I finish playing a set. After I master that, I’ll want to finish up these recordings that I did with my band a good 6 or 7 months ago. They’ve been lying idle for so long, so once they’re mixed and mastered I’ll probably (hopefully) have my first solo release! But I’m on a couple of split EPs or compilations and stuff around the place, so I’m not completely hopeless. I’m too lazy to think about the future! Where have you performed live, and where are your next gigs? Brisbane. Melbourne. Newcastle. Byron Bay. I can’t remember if I actually played in Toowoomba or if I just passed through really really stoned. Bellingham and L.A in the States. My favourite venue was this underground (literally) DIY artspace in Brisbane called 610.
by Smriti Mehra In collaboration with the Creative Writing Group
Sound Unsound is an investigation into experiences of schizophrenia and capitalism through the work and voices of The Creative Writing Group at the Connections Clubhouse in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The term schizophrenia draws a boundary of differentiation within the capitalist framework. The definition assumes, and not wrongly so, the inability of affected persons to perform in society as the majority of people that conform to a ‘normal’ way of functioning. Sound Unsound questions this conformity. The video project involved participation in the group on a weekly basis over a period of sixteen months. The group’s writings, in the form of prose, poetry, song lyrics, scripts and journal entries provided powerful and direct testimony of their experiences. To that end, Sound Unsound speaks of larger stories. This project began as an investigation into Schizophrenia and Capitalism, which proceeded in the following manner: Schizophrenia as an area of investigation. Schizophrenia as an area of investigation. in art. Schizophrenia as an area of investigation. in art and capitalism. The term schizophrenia is used colloquially, schizo, schizoid, schizophrenic. Its symptoms and diagnosis are still ambiguous and it is often wrongly diagnosed. There is so much of it that it seems abnormal. Doesn’t the word abnormal inherently suggest a small fraction? Yet every other person I talked to about my project mentioned someone in his or her immediate family or close associates who suffers from it. For over a year I have been attending a creative writing group that is constituted of people that have or have had a mental illness. Some of them are heavily medicated and therefore are more in control of themselves. I do not have a mental disorder. Schizophrenia is defined as a medical condition.
Any of a group of psychotic disorders characterised by withdrawal from reality, illogical patterns of thinking, delusions, hallucinations. Accompanied in varying degrees by other emotional, behavioural, or intellectual disturbances, distortions of reality, disturbances of thought and language, withdrawal from social contact.1 Also, attached to the word is ‘stigma.’ On my first meeting with Jon, the facilitator of the writing group, I remember him telling me that at some institutions some members of the staff refuse to sit and eat at the same tables as the patients. The term schizophrenia draws a boundary of differentiation. What the definition doesn’t describe is that others (‘normal’ people) also withdraw social contact from it. The established order, the capitalist system, has another way of dealing with it. In Canada, it means disability pension. What this definition also assumes, and not wrongly so, is the inability of affected persons to perform in society as the majority of people that conform to a certain way of functioning that is considered ‘normal’. My world is considered ‘normal’, as am I. ‘Normal’ is to follow a clockwork regime. Jobs are rarely restricted anymore to what used to be the nine-to-five norm and ‘normal’ people spend more time working. The separation of professional life from personal life sets the foundation for fractured identities. The question ‘who am I?’ becomes very difficult to answer. I am more than the work I do, more than my job description, more than the institution I work in or for, more than my bank balance, more than my accomplishments, more than what I own, more than my various identity cards. Yet without them I am nobody. It would be naïve to think that I could function in this everyday life, as I know it, without these attestations. I am defined by these factors and am, to a large degree, compelled to define myself by them. And so I chase after these definitions and forget who I am. I am also the role I play in my family and with the people I choose to befriend. But this means little, in comparison, and the divide between the two worlds deepens.
The term schizophrenia is another label. It brands people as mentally challenged. While not refuting a medical condition, my project seeks to question the value judgements made by society to the illness and questions the term ‘normal’. But the term ‘normal’ could be problematic here as it serves to establish a standard (largely by majority). Is it a naïve assumption then that normalcy is a fallacy? It is interesting to note the etymology of the word ‘unsound.’ Meaning, “morally corrupt” is recorded from c.1300; that of “not mentally healthy” is from 1547.2 One could read this as what Freud describes, a process of condensation and displacement. A frequent question posed to me is, why this subject? I see my work as an excuse to explore terrains that are not accessible to me. If it weren’t for work, where is my point of entry? And every time I work in this way I am forced to encounter myself. I come from a conditioned space, and every work is an unlearning of what I was taught. Schizophrenia has been a buzzword lurking around for a while. There is hardly any tactic to elude the romanticised status that schizophrenia bears: the crazy artist of saturnine temperament, the coveted license it allows. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari look at schizophrenia in a positive way. ‘For them, the clinical schizophrenic’s debilitating detachment from the world is an attempt to engage it in unimagined ways. Schizophrenia as a positive process is inventive connection, expansion rather than withdrawal.’3 It is a possibility that lends itself to lines of flight. Capitalism, according to Deleuze and Guattari, is a form of social control that involves an initial process of deterritorialisation – ‘detaching labour-power from means of production so that it becomes indeterminate ‘labour-power in general’ – and is accompanied by a process of (forced) reterritorialisation, which attaches former peasants to new means of production:
the looms and of the nascent textile industry.’4 Schizophrenia, capitalism they say, arises from the decoding process characteristic schizophrenia of capitalism. Schizophrenia, however, does not follow the process of forced reterritorialisation, thereby retaining the positive aspect of deterritorialisation and is hence empowered with the possibilities of lines of flight. It is a state that does not give in to conformity. ‘Normal’ can now be assessed differently. Normal is this state of forced reterritorialisation that conforms to the ideal of capitalism. The fallacy lies not in its perception of the usual but in the deception that it is usual. It is this word ‘normal’, then, that appears to draw a line of judgment. I will take the time here to note that I limit the referencing of Deleuze and Guattari’s writing to the argument it leads me into making in the investigation of the term ‘normal.’ The utopian idea of schizophrenia is left as a utopian idea. The boundaries between schizophrenia and capitalism may appear to have become more blurred with the progression of the discussion but the distinctions are disturbingly clear and even as I make a case for the blurring of the two, I do not refute a medical condition. Every Tuesday the group meets at The Connections Clubhouse on Barrington Street at six o’clock. If there are four people the meeting lasts about twenty minutes. Sometimes there are seven. Sometimes three. In which case it disperses in ten minutes. Jon is always there. The organizational structure of The Connections Clubhouse is very similar to La Borde, an experimental psychiatric clinic founded by Lacanian analyst Jean Oury. ‘The aim at La Borde was to abolish the doctor-patient hierarchy in favour of an interactive group dynamic that would bring the experiences of all to full expression in such a way as to produce a collective critique of the power relations of society as a whole.’5 Jon introduces me as the unofficial member there. I am an outsider. I have never known what it’s like to suffer from a mental illness. At the weekly readings I am a participant observer. The group knows that I am working on an art project. I have shared with them some of my previous work. My position in the group had been discussed at length when, at one meeting, I show them fifteen minutes of roughly edited footage. Surprisingly, Robert, who has been there for a couple of months thinks that I am a ‘member’ at the clubhouse. He differentiates member from volunteer. Nadien is of a different opinion. She is returning to the group after a few years’ absence. She says that there is no way I could be a member there. On more questioning from Robert, she finally says that the reason she thinks so is that I am “way too educated” to be a member. The conversation then moves towards knowledge, and how its certification is capitalist in principle. There is no denying that the Connections Clubhouse exists as a space of disenfranchisement, the extent of which has no comparison. The reality, as I see it, is that mental illness is regarded in a manner that is inherently devaluing. My view is that putting State funds towards institutions like the Connections
Clubhouse and institutions like it, does not, in any way, absolve our moral responsibility for the disenfranchisement suffered within such places by those who partake of such services. As Irving Gottesman duly notes in his book Schizophrenia Genesis, ‘…insanity has historically been seen as a problem of the spirit or soul (religious) and as a problem of the brain (medical). Whichever casual view prevailed, at different times and in different cultures, greatly influenced the treatment of the insane and whether they were permitted to remain within their social group or were isolated and abandoned, held in awe as chosen by the gods, or punished or killed as chosen by Satan’.6 The ideology of the capitalist regime is efficiency, and, therefore mental illness is treated as an obstacle to that end, a problem to which one possible solution is an idea that it may be dealt with in financial terms. The capitalist system and its working with mental health issues is complex. Tied into it are issues of medication, which brings into question the pharmaceutical industry and its function in the economy. Unlike in Canada, in India (where I come from) mental illness is under-diagnosed. Culturally, since the family unit is not as nuclear (more extended), the mentally ill are the responsibility of the family. Jon and I have often spoken about medication. One evening he mentioned an article he read somewhere about a new drug being developed that would work at removing the condition of schizophrenia. Jon said that he wouldn’t take it. Being schizophrenic, he says, is part of who he is today. If he were twenty, perhaps. He is now forty-two. Jon is the facilitator of the Connections Clubhouse Creative Writing Group, and everyone who uses the Clubhouse is encouraged to participate. The group aspires to having a circular format. Writing is not the only criterion for participation. Often people attend only to listen. The group views the writing as also a therapeutic activity. A lot is brought to the table in the form of prose, poetry, journal entries, scripts and song lyrics. The issues that unfold through the writing range from religion to politics to emotions. There is space for humour here. People have different beliefs and backgrounds. Jon says that his motivation for keeping the group going (he’s been doing this for nearly seven years) is to provide a space for people to bring forth everything that is not brought up in psychotherapy. He says that there is so much that is not said because people don’t feel it’s what should be said, what they think the therapist wants to hear (remember the good deed for the day book? We are so well behaved). That, and I suppose, the apprehension that certain issues might not be considered relevant. Jon encourages everyone to bring in everything that is ‘swept under the rug’. The camera did not accompany me to the readings for the first three months. When it finally did, I was forced to confront my own discomfort. How should I look? (It’s worth mentioning here that people in the group were only ever welcoming to me.) So I did not concentrate on looking too much. I listened. In the first few months of collecting video footage, my control
over what the camera framed was minimal, as I grappled with my lack of courage to shoot faces. As I got more comfortable with the group, and they with me, I began not only shooting faces: I even brought along a second camera. Towards the end of the project I had fifteen hours of footage of just hands, faces and the long shots. To end my indecision of how to structure and use this material, I put forth some of the footage to the group. Many agreed that they would prefer to have just the hands shown. Bill agreed but also stated that he would not mind if I did show him. I brought up the question of the consequence of showing just hands: It provided anonymity, yes, but allusion to victimisation was not something I wanted to have happen in the work. Robert asked me a very relevant question: If this group was a class I was dealing with that did not have a background of mental illness, what might my decision be? I would show hands. Seeing the faces of people as they read was distracting as the focus was no longer on the words but on the image. I chose to show only the hands for most part. The last long shots were used to quell any notion of shame or victimisation as well as to break the possibility of fictional work. _______ At the beginning of Sound Unsound, I place Gregory, who poses a very pertinent question: Who is this audience that he will be singing to? He is skeptical. There is an understanding of the use of language in his song that he has just negotiated with the Writing Group, and he is unsure that it will extend to an unknown audience. What gets established right in the beginning is this one-way relationship that is inherently a limitation of the medium. The setting is not educational per se. The writing is not done to be delivered to a destination. Attendance at the writing group is essentially by choice. The focus, therefore, is not so much on the form that the writing takes but on the content. What is being said is essentially more important than how it is being said. The notion of ‘Fearless Speech’ that Foucault brings forth in his book by the same name comes either from a privileged position, or when one has nothing to lose. (He distinguishes free speech from fearless speech.) Perhaps this throws some light on my position and of those in the group. Here, speech is not so much from a position of power as it is about having the courage and will to say it like it is. Foucault’s parrhesiastes is the one who tells the truth. But there is no one truth and the notion of truth is making its way to the mythical. Stephen Horne articulated his thoughts on this to me once. ‘Sometimes we call what is permanent “truth.” Sometimes we call fiction that which is in motion.’ Doesn’t the idea of a mystic truth overcome the distinction between truth and fiction? In Sound Unsound, Sass says, “I know what’s true.” And someone from the group contributes to that thought, “But it’s not the end of the truth.” Empowerment comes not so much from the writing itself but from the negotiations that take place within the Writing Group. In one sequence, the use of the word ‘fuck’ is discussed
at length. One member raises an objection. The issue is discussed. What is considered appropriate is negotiated. It is agreed upon that anger and frustration need expression. My very first instinct when working with the narrative structure of Sound Unsound was to follow the anatomy of the plot: situation, complication, rising action, crisis and denouement. As a result, all the ‘hopeful’ poems became a cluster at the end of the piece. But in this gesture there was no intention to pacify the audience. My research began with the framework of schizophrenia and capitalism. That structure collapsed as I found myself unable to limit the project to it. In the end, what that framework provided was merely a point of departure. Bill reads out his writing about his religious beliefs and talks about his faith in God, followed by Andy who is much younger and talks about how he feels he like the stub of a cigarette. Sass reads from her plethora of writings, “Come to me now and tell me how you feel.” And just as the viewer begins to ‘relate,’ another member distorts that certainty: “There you go. There she goes. It’s me isn’t it? I read that didn’t I… These are my hands, not your hands.” The boundary between the viewer and the viewed is reiterated and the complexity of their relationship is put forth. Language, experiences, spirituality, beliefs, boundaries, hopes and death are all spoken about in what seems like one breath. And just like that I know nothing more. This project changes nothing. I begin again at the same point I was at when I started. All I have done and can do is facilitate the movement of voices, and, in doing that, find my own. -Smriti Meha-
‘Our ability to live in peace with each other, depends first and foremost on our ability to accept all that is different between us’ We wish to create new possibilities for artistic relationships and cultural exchange, supporting artists at all levels in the development of their craft. Frame Lines offers a unique access to a dynamic world of print and new media, like yourselves to the belief that art, writing and creative expression matter. It doesn’t matter how the literal (by conventional definitions) quality of a piece of work is gauged, as long as we are convinced that you ripped a chunk of your soul and bared it to the world (with your eyes closed tight and heart as open as the sky), then you’ve earned your moment of marvel; your glitter of fairy dust; your glow of twilight in our world of darkness and lightness. And by whatever’s sacred, we’ll help you celebrate it