Thursday, April 24, 2014

The letters I'd love to write - letters to asylum seekers

The recent GetUp! letter-writing campaign to let asylum seekers know that we care, and that we disagree with how they are being treated, caught my eye. Not just as a regular letter-writer, but as a human being.

I eagerly read the instructions for the campaign, and was discouraged when I realised I couldn't take part.

Letter-writing for a purpose: you're doing it wrong. It starts well:

1. You're asked to write a letter to a non-specific asylum seeker: obviously fine.
2. You're asked to say who you are and make it personal, so the recipient knows that you're not acting on behalf of the government: also fine.
3. You're asked to include a self-addressed envelope so the unknown person you write to can see exactly where you live: this is not fine. If the person you are writing to is randomly assigned, wherever they are in the world and regardless of their status, this is problematic.
4. There are no details provided as to whether your name, address, details of your letter, details of who receives your letter, whether they respond to your letter, etc, are recorded by Julian Burnside, any government agency, or the companies running camps on Manus Island or Nauru. This is problematic.

As a long-time letter-writer to both private penpals and charity letter-writing programs, I'm both sad and annoyed I can't take part in something that could be much better organised with a bit more effort.

This is why, for example, child sponsorship charities have a very careful system of letter-writing - you write to a general office, and your letter goes through this 3rd party which strips the letter of your address on the way. It's not a particularly difficult system - and if, as with charity systems, it would cost me the price of an overseas stamp then I would take up my papers and write and write and write to asylum seekers who I wish could be treated better, and tell them how it fills me with disgust that they are treated in such a revolting way in our country's name.

But with this program, to say it again - you're doing it wrong.

Letter-writing charities have been doing it right for decades - if you can do it right too, I'm happy to pay double for the stamps. Sign me up.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Popularity contest

And the most liked poems from Month of Poetry were:

First days
Pit stop
Australia Day
Powerful element
Best spot near the box

So if you couldn't be bothered reading all thirty poems, there's a shortlist instead!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Month of Poetry 2014 - vote for your favourite

Thank you all for reading and contributing to this year's Month of Poetry for me!

By popular request (of at least 2 people), please vote for your favourite Month of Poetry 2014 poem. I'll publish the results in about a week, yeah? (If you need to remember which poem is which, just click on the January part of the Blog Archive in the sidebar, and in theory all the links should be there.)

Thanks for playing :)

Your favourite Month of Poetry 2014 poem?
#1: How many
#2: Twelve
#3 Hog Calling
#4: Breadline
#5: Commercial service - 3 out of 5 stars
#6: Winter
#7: Ultimate floor
#8: Too close to home
#9: Shopping centre
#10: Red
#11: A natural death
#12: An attitude of existence
#13: Captain January
#14: At the museum
#15: Words on a hot night
#16: Hidden folk
#17: May as well be sisters
#18: Best spot near the box
#19: Rolling gallstones
#20: The first time
#21: Upside down
#22: Late for work
#23: Powerful element
#24: Party poem
#25: Australia Day
#26: Pit stop
#27: Melted
#28: First days
#29: From bed to anywhere
#30: The study isn't published
Poll Maker

Friday, January 31, 2014

Month of Poetry #30: The study isn't published

We could speak of it as inspiration or discipline,
map the process of falling in love as if an awareness
of the structure working behind it deepens one's
pleasure and absorption. We could compare ourselves
to plants, seeds heaven sent and homegrown.
But I don't want to talk botanically about it.

There's always a way to be scientific about
emotions. Cow hormones have the young
people all fucked up with lust, bovine eyelashes
fluttering with whatever burger they had last night.
I do what I do not because of steroids, but I do
because somehow I like the pain, the heady fumes.

Madness to compare the frightfully delicious
deliriums of how rapture repeats itself, first time
as a kind of mania, later an unknown
compelling force where nothing rips your skin
apart like a formal airport farewell. My lovely
hand on yours, guillotine departure gates.

Academia hasn't graphed the cliche level of
saying we laughed til we died, of feeling something
changed, of first I love you. The study isn't
published yet on the slow ride to comfort
where we laugh at farts and you let me pee
with the door open so I could watch Grey's Anatomy.

We could assert commonalities, piss off new
couples with references to The Honeymoon Period.
We were all undergraduates once, but terms of
analysis shift and raise eyebrows at old essays.
Once frantic arms, relaxed with everyday
reassurance that we are here, we have all the time.

Includes suggestions from:

@josie_is: frightfully delicious
@ernmalleyscat: but I do because somehow I like the pain (TISM, Mystery of the artist explained)
@sleepingdingo: farewell my lovely
@spikelynch: inspiration or discipline (year 11 extension english assignment)
@attentive: repeats itself, first time as (attr. Marx)
@matchtrick: an unknown compelling force (official cause of death given by Soviet investigators into the Dyatlov Pass incident)
@urbabe: but I don't want to talk botanically
@JayJayCee1: and we laughed til we died
@timsterne: cow hormones have the young people all fucked up (Donald Ray Pollock, Knockemstiff)
@MissButtons_: heaven sent and homegrown
@GretaPunch: you let me pee with the door open so I could watch Grey's Anatomy
@ReadingSheilas: an awareness of the structure working behind it deepens one's pleasure and absorption (Julian Novitz on The Luminaries)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Month of poetry #29: From bed to anywhere

It often felt a long way from bed to anywhere.
Closer each day to leaving blinds shut,
letting sheets weigh everything down like
they're never gonna give. You, up and about
on a mission: killing baby cockroaches in
the bathroom, scrubbing at corner grime
until you gained thin ropes of muscles between
your thumb and forefinger. There was no item
you could not fetch. My octopus partner, blurred
hands tidying in circles around the static bed.

When I first got stuck everyone took drama for a bludge,
advised snapping out the happy, preached that
to recover one has to be mindful.
Of the structural features: I had all the work sheets,
can rattle off CBT like a third year psych class.
That Aaron Beck, apparently he's a kind of saviour
for times of intellectual distress, though he's led
to a lot of useless photocopying.

Late afternoon in a parade of what I used to do,
a palimpsest of forgotten enthusiasms,
shredded layers of posters advertising joys
that quietly erased themselves.
When it came to a choice between phone box
or shower I glazed with endless scrolling,
dampening the lack of movement.
There'll be no sudden Pixar moment,
I'm just a squirrel trying to get a nut-case
mindset in my grasp and kick it off
like a doona on a hot night.

Includes suggestions from:

@sleepingdingo: killing baby cockroaches in the bathroom
@chantarelle: closer each day (Home and Away Theme Song)
@pinknantucket: I'm just a squirrel trying to get a nut (Boyd Crowder)
@matchtrick: fetch my octopus
@spikelynch: everyone took drama for a bludge (year 11 on the first day)
@JayJayCee1: gained thin ropes of muscles (Lisa Gardner, Say Goodbye)
@ernmalleyscat: never gonna give you up
@attentive: one has to be mindful of the structural features (opinion piece, The Australian)
@ReadingSheilas: he's a kind of saviour for times of great intellectual distress (Bourdieu on Wittgenstein)
@timsterne: a palimpsest of forgotten enthusiasms (Boyd Oxlade, Death in Brunswick)
@MissButtons_: phone box or shower

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Month of Poetry #28: First days

Asphalt and tan bark, small hot hands.
Big hats and shorts at ankle length:
no way a kneecapping could work
scabs onto those invisible knees.
Neither one of us knows which track
to follow to the classroom. This line,
left blank intentionally with room for
small feet to shuffle into rows and
wait for the ball. This metal equipment
a new contraption. To capture a dandelion
in one piece is the work of lunchtime
lotus-sitters picking at the hot grass.
In a rush of blue and yellow you are tiny,
teeth bared for new brave meat.
I wave and there's no crying,
in baseball there's no crying,
in cornball there's my wet face drying
slowly in five years of sunlight.

Includes suggestions from:

@chantarelle: there's no crying in baseball
@jellyjellyfish: there's no crying in cornball
@ernmalleyscat: this line left blank intentionally
@JayJayCee1: neither one of us knows (The Marvellous Toy)
@timsterne: a new contraption to capture a dandelion in one piece (Boards of Canada, 'Dandelion')
@GretaPunch: a kneecapping could work

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Month of Poetry #27: Melted

Hot nights, dreams of streets
I can cross, fighting.
A demon: off my bucket list
and onto the immediate to-do.
It's not that hot, but the mannequins
disguised as pancake makeup
are melting into life. They shudder
across town, stumble into each other
like they're having sex.
To the kids in America they send
punches, neck snaps, and a feeling
of benevolent distance not unlike
the second baby effect.
One man, pupils swollen and jagged
he reached for his pocket, and found
there only reality of handgun.
Half-slop monsters adore the bullets
each trigger finger that cries
Fuck the Jellys! and fires hard
will find the blob rolls on.
The universe is expanding in
a tide of molten plastic, here
and there a hand, a foot, a shoulder,
a remarkable likeness of Steve McQueen.

Including suggestions from:

@JayJayCee1: the universe is expanding
@ernmalleyscat: He reached for his pocket, and found there, only reality (Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
@eglantinescake: second baby effect
@pinknantucket: I can cross fighting a demon off my bucket list (Sleepy Hollow)
@matchtrick: mannequins disguised as pancake (The Boy)
@timsterne: They're having sex to 'The Kids in America' (Luke Haines, Discomania)
@facelikethunder: it's not that hot
@jellyjellyfish: fuck the Jellys! (unintentional contribution)