The Porous Language of Rock
Winter is here, and today it felt as if it would be snowing somewhere in the mountains. After midnight is a quiet time for thought; there is a possum climbing the overgrown branches of the magnolia tree and the moon is rather beautiful.
Last week I met up with fellow poets at the Asialink event: Michael Farrell, Simon West, Dan Disney, Sam Byfield, Jennifer Mckenzie, the author of Borobudur, and the ever-buoyant Matt Hetherington. It was lovely to meet Nic Low, Lian Low from Peril, Lian’s girlfriend, MC Raina from LOCA (Ladies Of Colour Agency), Margaret Mayhew and Maxine Clarke, whose work I really admire. Mascara vs Peril was awesome fun, Asia being the new spice; though my boots were definitely made for fashion rather than comfort. I braved the cold in a strappy, soft leather dress I found at Seduce, in Newtown, a month or two ago. I’ve been under the spell of a sweet melancholy of late; and shopping is therapy.
It was very nice to meet Nathanael O’Reilly an Australian poet who teaches in Texas. His first collection Symptoms of Homesickness is published by Picaro. These wonderfully crafted narrative poems capture the diasporic identity, somewhere between home and elsewhere, a metaphor for the unknown. I particularly enjoy their realism, the way in which they evoke the yearning for a reckless, peripatetic youth spent in rural towns, for teenage friendships, mateships, encounters with, or dreams of post-pubescent love. I like the arrangement of the poems too; it’s a fine, understated debut.
Another enjoyable read is Ali Alizadeh’s Iran, My Grandfather, which blends the genres of memoir, fiction and historical account as it reconstructs the story of Alizadeh’s grandfather, Salman Fuladvand, a police chief, provincial governer and emancipist under one of the late Shahs. Through Salman’s perspective the complexities of Iran’s history of revolution, fundamentalism, modernity, war and tyranny are realised. The book is striking also for it’s intrepid description of the writer being cast adrift in the cultural wasteland of homogenised white Australia. I can very much relate to Ali, when he writes of not-belonging. He eschews the direct anger of Ouyang Yu, expressing a more pessimistic sense of isolation, which, I suspect, many migrant writers would understand.
I describe myself as a “migrant Goan-Anglo-Indian” in my bio and the author Tom Cho, once asked me why I’d made this choice. For me it is a political gesture; a way of reminding white Australia that migrant writers do exist; that their stories, poems and words are worth listening to; and may one day no longer be threatening.
Although we are globalised we carry colonial baggage. Several taxis I caught in Melbourne were driven by Indians. All were men; most from Chandigarh in the northern state of Punjab. They had immigrated without their families, and seemed desperately lonely, missing their culture and faith. I don’t know what the word for loneliness is in Hindi. We spoke in broken English.