Sunday, October 16, 2016

I Go Shopping: a Monologue

By Catherine Ryan

I go shopping.

Some things you have to do without and some things are just necessary. I make an art of knowing how to tell between the two. Knowing the difference between the luxury and the essential. Knowing what’s really must see, must do, must have. When the cash is gone, when your card gets spat back out at you. When your child is suffering.

That’s when you cross the line. When you wash your hair, dress well for a day at the Mall, put on lipstick and go shopping.

I walk. To save the bus fare. I have a list, but don’t need to write it down, it’s scratched into my memory from her repeated cries. I remember how cruel teenage girls could be, how they were in my day, only twenty years ago. When I desired what everyone else wanted, but few could have. Gold medal. Sash. Representation. Symbols that said I could do it. That I was fierce. That I could do what they all couldn’t.

But now what my daughter craves is what everyone else has. What my daughter needs is not to be beaten up, not to come home from school bruised and grazed because her jeans don’t have the right cut, her shoes the wrong brand, her top the wrong label. And all way way too old.

Do the lap. Walk purposefully up and down each side of the Mall. Stop and work through the racks, looking for the right cut, right brand, right label. Looking for who’s not looking. Which shops’ll be the safest bets. Done my preparation. Made my plans. Sit down outside and have an apple and a jam sandwich from home. Rest a bit. Watch.  Buy just one coffee, takeaway. Saves thirty cents. And. Let’s go shopping.

Friendly, open relaxed, just like before a comp routine. Just like those days, the aim is to hide the effort. Don’t let the pain and the work show. Make it look like you’re flying through life with ease and grace, and that that is all that the judges see.

My target’s a rack towards the front of the shop, good for a quick escape, and some distance from the counter. And I wait outside, until a mother and daughter enter, clearly on a mission that will involve a lot of work for the shopgirl. Her focus on the change-room mirror and trying to get a sale while averting an argument, I make my move. Slip the jeans off the hanger and into my bag and slip out of the shop. Easy. Too easy. The alarm goes off, but I’m already gone and no-one really bothers about it anyway. I’m happy. Next. But do pity the shopgirl. Does she get docked for that? I care for a moment, and wonder about her life. But stop. I have the jeans. The right cut. They’ll fit her perfectly. I can just tell.

I’ve invested another dollar in a locker at the library, where I go and deposit my shopping bag from this first trip. Put the jeans in the locker, and take out another green bag for my next round. And the next one, and then next one, and by the time I return from the final one, I’ve filled the locker with all the right stuff.

Walking home. Not too far. About six kays. It’s cold, but I’m not. Fired up with the adrenalin of a win. Reckon I’ve pulled over six hundred bucks worth, but it’s not the money that counts. It’s what she tells me it’ll mean.

They wouldn’t beat me up if I had … if I had … if I had …

God, I just want her to come home from school one afternoon without the weeping. Without having to drag the reasons from her. Without her having to protect me from my guilt. Without either of us having to face how hard the world judges a loser. I just want to stop her cringing from the text messages she gets well into the night. The ones that collapse her face before she quickly regathers it for me. I just want her to laugh and smile.


I’ve laid out all the clothes on her bed. Jeans. Runners. Two tops. A skirt, jacket, and three fantastic hats. Some make-up too, and the cutest little handbag. Nike. Roxy. Mossimo. I’m sitting in the kitchen with my cuppa, waiting for her. She slips in home quietly, as usual, through the backdoor. Drops her backpack. Picks up the cat and scratches under her chin. Looks at me with sad heavy eyes and a nothing’s changed shrug. I offer her a cup of tea and a piece of Black and Gold Fruit Cake.

“No thanks,” she says.

And before I can ask how her day was …
“I’ll be in my room, “she says.

I nod, silent, and listen to her footsteps disappearing down the hallway.

Door closes. I wait for screams of joy. Nothing. I drain my cup and pour another. Crumble a piece of yellow cake. I’m struggling to hear any signs. I fight the urge to go to her. I want to give her the time to savour it all. While seeing her smiling face, kissing it … Don’t want to make a big song and dance about it all though. The cat returns, rubbing its back against my leg. Her door is ajar, but still no sound. Cat moves away, disinterested. Patience. Patience. Wait for the results.

And before I’ve heard her, she’s standing in the doorway, dressed in the new jeans, top, jacket, hat and runners, wearing mascara and eyeliner. She’s just standing there. Looking at me. Looking gorgeous. My gorgeous daughter. I’m getting teary. Can’t believe it. Hands to my face in quick surprise.

“You left the security tags on,” she says.
And she’s still looking at me, and I can’t …
Oh, I forgot. I’ll get the pliers, or the wirecutters or …
But before I can finish and share …
“That’s pretty fucked Mum.”
I wanted to …
“I know. And I know we can’t afford it.”
I wanted to …
“So you stole it?”
You were getting beaten up Sophie. Every day.
“And I don’t know that? You stole it all Mum!”
I couldn’t bear to see …
“You fucking shoplifted Mum. It’s what ten-year-olds do on a dare.”
You were getting beaten up, I said.
And she glares again, shaking her head.
“You’re pathetic. Weak and pathetic.”
Screaming at me, staring at me, her eyes still weighted with sadness.
Shooting barbs, tongue brandished.
“You fucking skank hypocrite. We’re better than that.”
But, I try, I try to say, I did it for you…
“Hypocrite. You’re worse than those bitches. I believed ... You’re a loser Mum.”
And her eyes sad and proud and disgusted and hopeful and loved and shamed.
I could always read a judge.
And I try not to waiver.
“I’m going out,” she says, “I’ll be back for tea.”
And she turned, walked out, a fraction, I swear it, a fraction taller than before.
But without a kiss goodbye.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Women of the Bush: Equanimity under Threat -- Barrie Smillie on the short stories of Julia Osborne

Australian writer Julia Osborne spent many years in outback parts of rural Australia. These three stories, "Maitland's Cow", "Hard Grain" and "Always, Never" have cried out to me to be analyzed side by side, because they have something in common: a female central character facing and overcoming challenges to her equanimity. To the remoteness and the harshness of the setting are added problems of human relationships—with a brother and a friend (in the case of "Hard Grain") and with an unsympathetic male partner (in "Maitland's Cow" and "Always, Never").

Like Henry Lawson's "The Drover's Wife", these stories by Julia Osborne concern outback women coping with the threat to their equanimity, but her narrative is more drame intérieur than a mere linear sequencing of events. There is a strong feminist message. Julia Osborne, once an artist in pen and water colour, reveals in these stories her discerning eye and with great economy she carries forward each story to a fine dramatic climax.

In all three cases, too, dramatic irony arises from discrepancies between what the reader sees and how the central character sees the world—for at least some of the time. The woman with the baby is unaware that she has set her loving man at arm's length, the farmer girl unwittingly invests her female visitor with the evil garb of a spider, and in "Always, Never" the woman lives in the nostalgia of their romantic past, while her partner abuses her psychologically and physically before she finally succeeds in escaping this torment.

André Gide's work is redolent with the aveuglement of such self-deceiving personalities—Alyssa and Jérôme in "La Porte étroite", and the pastor in the well-known "Symphonie Pastorale" being just two of them. The depictions by Osborne, while perhaps exhibiting less permanent afflictions, are arguably keeping with that great Gidean tradition.

In "Maitland's Cow", a sex-starved partner finds solace in drink. The mother's first loyalty is to her baby. Unaware of terrible events, she is pleased to be freed from her man’s importuning behavior. The visual, auditory and tactile images are rich. A cold morning in the country: "mist and the bark of a fox as the stars vanish. The early sun touches dew on the grass [....] a horse snorts, blowing misty clouds." The man's feet feel cold on the veranda while inside "a dark, warm cave" mother and baby are snug, the mother not unsympathetic to her man's needs: "he has already gone. Peace [...] He needs me too much." Maitland, her man, reflects, "Why is she like this? It isn't me. It's her. Selfish bitch."

In "Hard Grain" Jenny narrates. She and her brother form a superb work team. Girlfriend Noma from the city stays with them, annoying Jenny by flouting certain canons of rural life. Jenny is also suspicious of Noma's flirting. "Did she slide closer beside him as they drove squishing across the field? [....] I wonder if he reached to hold her as she folded her pale arms around his neck, waiting for his kiss.” To Jenny, Noma takes on spider-like attributes: with "a domed look" she likes to walk in the garden at night. Her dress "hangs from such thin straps" and in the rain, Noma "steps onto the lawn, points one foot in front, her arms over her head.” More luscious word pictures abound: a "vast field, shimmering in summer haze." Moths "sketch their erratic geometry around each globe." As a storm develops, "indigo clouds are piling, lit within by sporadic stabs of lightning." Dinner is a veritable feast of visual, auditory and olfactory images: "the room smells comfortingly of roast meat and the wine glimmers in our glasses, casting circles of colour on the tablecloth." In the water tanks, "frogs boom.” Unaware of her effect on Jenny's equanimity, Noma heads home. The sibling relationship is intact. Sound rural practice prevails. But spider-like Noma makes our flesh creep.

The narrator of "Always, Never" flings at us her anger and desperation: "If I don't get out of this house I think I'll smash something." Her wretchedness results from physical isolation and a male partner's mental and physical violence against her. The opening paragraphs amply demonstrate Julia Osborne's expository skill. In a series of time slides, she devotes three paragraphs to the present moment, then three paragraphs that recall Matt's story, their early relationship and her girlfriends' adulation for this man. Back in present time, Matt embraces her. Significantly, her fellow prisoner drags its chain outside. Alone all day, she is "spinning time into unnatural skeins” and reflects, "Did I imagine once I'd be a teacher?" She is now "Matt's extension, stunned by circumstances into a sort of accepting limbo [...] The women covertly watch my silhouette for signs of pregnancy, [...] try to be friendly [...] but we are flying on different thermals. I am higher, higher, unreachable. They wave their fingers at me, their recipes, their childcare books."

Loneliness places her very persona under threat. Her partner ridicules her reading. She'd happily help in the yard but he won't have that. Marriage has taken her to a magical place. The rising sun fills her with girlish wonder: "the giant fiery sphere like I'd never seen before. Never awake so early. Never lived out so far. It carried with it all power and poetry, fixing my feet to the boards. "Look at the sun!" I called. Matt's view is prosaic: "he came, hauling on trousers. "It's going to be bloody hot!" he said, dismissing it."

Her life with Matt has failed. She still loves him. He has been everything to her—childhood sweetheart, lover, tutor on bush lore, but is often away. Agonizingly, she exclaims, "Matt, oh Matt, where is the man who showed me the colours of new crops, the emu's egg, the fires of sandalwood in a room lit with candles?” We sense heat, dryness, remoteness. "Mid-morning sun is already sucking up moisture [...] eyes glitter beneath wide brimmed hats; [...] women will stand in darkened rooms cracking ice in their mouths.” Our woman says to herself, "You don't have to put up with this shit, kid!" Her initial bid to escape provides the pretext to try again. The conclusion carries the explosive drama of a Hedda Gabler final curtain.

These stories are engrossing reading and are highly recommended. Julia Osborne's women of the bush are resilient, they are tough—like Henry Lawson's drover's wife. And in subtlety and the emotional strength of their loyalties, these three leave their male counterparts behind.

These stories can all be read on Julia Osborne's website

Maitland's Cow - Regime Magazine, Vol 1/01, 2012
Hard Grain - Meanjin 1/1992; Families: Modern Australian Short Stories, Five Mile Press, 2008 - broadcast by ABC RN 2005, 2006, 2009
Always, Never - Antipodes 17 (USA) 1991; Panurge (UK) 1992- broadcast by ABC RN 2006, 2007

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

New fiction editor of Antipodes

We are pleased to announce that Niki Tulk is becoming the fiction editor of Antipodes, replacing Jack Bennett. Jack has decided to step down after ten years of valorous service. He brought many new authors to our pages and selected and edited with discernment, inclusiveness and good cheer. I am confident that Niki, like Jack originally a native of Australia, will continue on in this tradition while giving the journal the advantage of her wide experience as novelist (Shadows and Wings), theatre-maker (here is a clip from her adaptation of Gertrude Stein's "Tender Buttons" which I was privileged to see in NYC a few years back), teacher, and editor. Niki is currently in a PhD program at the University of Colorado in theatre. She is available for correspondence at, although we would prefer you would use our submission site at Digital Commons to formally submit fiction. As always, only Australians or New Zealanders by birth or residence (including expats) can submit fiction to the journal. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Between Two Dreamings

The Simplest Words: A Storyteller’s Journey, by Alex Miller
Allen & Unwin, November 2015

According to the Acknowledgments at the close of this newest publication by Alex Miller, the collection is curated by Alex Miller’s wife Stephanie, and as such this is a compelling reflection on what parts of Miller’s writing have particularly resonated with others over the many years he has been publishing his work. I wonder, however, what alternative inclusions or exclusions may have occurred had the task been taken on, for example, by Col McLennan or Dr Anita Heiss—or others whose own lives and stories have fueled and inspired Miller’s writing. Indeed, questions of representation are foundational in Miller’s books, and he wrestles with the moral and artistic concerns at the heart of whose stories are told, and who is privileged to tell them. It is Miller’s humility in the face of this tension, and his willingness to acknowledge and investigate it, that makes his writing both generous and provocative—and always compelling. The Simplest Words: A Storyteller’s Journey is a good introduction for those new to Miller’s writing, and also a reminder of both the breadth of his work and its recurring motifs of the friction—and connections—between art-making and colonization.

Perhaps as well known for his novels as for his ruminations regarding the act of novel writing itself, Alex Miller is an author who seems in constant praxis with the making, the reflection, and his placing of these reflections and writings in a broader historical-sociological context. He does this last, not so much to position his work in some sort of theoretical setting, but more to question its relevance to the world in which he lives; and to parse out the ways that a novelist, the zeitgeist and the landscape in which he/she is located speak with and to one another. Miller explores the possibilities and the limits given to a white, European-born writer attempting to traverse a place in which there exists a powerful, deeply embedded dichotomous culture—a country pushing its way awkwardly towards some sort of reconciliation, through the mire of (post)colonialism. In Miller’s own words:

“…no simple line can be drawn between Indigenous and non-Indigenous interests in this conflict, [which] is emblematic of where Australian culture has shifted in its struggle to move beyond a colonial mindset of exploitation and ownership. In this conflict it is not a question simply of reconciliation, important as that is, but is the far more difficult question of the acknowledgment of difference: difference between cultures, between two dreamings, the European dreaming discarding the past and struggling to possess the future, the Indigenous dreaming the struggle of remaining morally true to the ongoing ancestral project that is inseparable from the sacred moral duty to care for the land.”  (289-290)

Sometimes Miller’s discussion is a sort of didactic, meta-meditation, as above, while at other times this path he carves out “between two dreamings” is nested inside his discussion of writing itself, and here the political (if you like) merges with the deeply personal; his writing has led him into the beating heart of real story, which is not the oxymoron that it sounds, but a holding together of two realities that each express their own kind of truth. His exploration of the wanderings of white Australians trying to map their sense of this ancient place on both real and psychic levels bleeds into Miller’s own wanderings through his writerly craft and imagination, as in the following excerpt: 

“The human species is also a migrant species. We have always travelled. In our wanderings we are forever coming across our old tracks and speculating on the perplexing nature of the creature who must have made them. In the strange place we are stilled by the presentiment of familiarity and we know that we have been there before. Home, indeed, may be for many of us no more than this fleeing intuition. A singular truth … is that there is no place left that has not been visited by us and that there is nothing to be done that has not already been done by us. Round and round the mulberry bush, that’s where the novelist is going. Chasing his tail … as ever.” (166)

Miller’s conclusions—if conclusions they may be called, perhaps they could be better termed evocative signposts—lead him repeatedly to the questions raised by the First Nations people of Australia, whose ancient, dynamic and ongoing relationship with land and storytelling Miller foregrounds again and again in his work, allowing it to challenge both himself as a writer and his readership:

“And I began to understand that the European had never truly dispossessed this Jangga of his land, and that culturally, historically and spiritually he was still richly in possession of it. A thousand years, after all, is a long time in the wandering steps of European history, but is little more than a flicker in the vast hinterland of the Australian Indigenous reality.” (273)

In some ways Miller connects his vocation as a writer implicitly with Indigenous time, when he writes that “It is here that art deals with us. With us, here now. Art doesn’t predict. Art isn’t going anywhere. There is nowhere for it to go … Now is timeless.” (168) Miller seems compelled by this timelessness, and appears to view it not a place of absence or lack of time, but a rich space not bound by linear structures that erase the past, look to the future, and use the present as merely a place to pass through. His work challenges us to step outside white European time, with its paradigm of set outlines and defining-in-order-to-control, and to allow ourselves to step into a space and place where we are not in control, and where we allow the story to guide and influence us.

Throughout this collection that spans fiction, memoir, commentary and lectures, Miller asks: how does a novel help us ask the questions of ourselves that might enable curiosity, an end to fearing or attempting to master the “other”, and perhaps engender the possibilities of healing? And how are all our stories deeply, inexplicably connected? But for all his searching, he expresses the need to pull back from allowing the drive to know (which he equates with European colonial/imperialist expansion): “I believe there are profound moral and spiritual consequences for us in pursuing knowledge at all costs. One enormous impoverishment that European culture has suffered because of the unbridled passion to know is a loss of the idea of the sacred.” (288-289) In doing this, a motif in Miller’s writing in this collection is the acknowledgement that even the act of questioning holds its own risk: “The poets tell us we are a language species, but in the dignity of his silence Arner defies that perception. English has not colonised him.” (276) Miller suggests that the act of writing a story is potentially an act of colonization, a need to confine the unnameable into a set of signs and possibly reductive linguistic symbols. Writing, he warns, should remain at the service of the story, and in doing this be held back from driving forward the need to know, to control:  

“In writing my novels I have learned that the writer is not the master of the story but that the story is the master of the writer. I have learned that it is the writer who serves the story, not the other way around … Story obeys mysterious laws embedded in the human unconscious and is made available to us only through the prompts of our imagination.” (195)

The Simplest Words: A Storyteller’s Journey is perhaps a frame for each of these parts of Alex Miller— the artist and thinker—to meet and wander beside one another in contemplative conversation. And it is a conversation, in the view of this reader, that is well worth taking the time to savor. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Gabriel Don: on women, voice, and finding a room of one's own

As an Australian writer and theater-maker, I am fascinated by the work other Australian female artists particularly are making: their process and praxis. To that end I wanted to interview someone who makes trans-disciplinary art, and someone who is making work from the context of straddling some sort of cultural bridge. In short, I sought out an artist whose work and interests might be part of the conversation into which my own research and practice is steering me. This lead me to Gabriel Don, a writer/performance artist working out of New York City. 

Gabriel Don and I share several similarities, which was fascinating to me: she is also an expat Australian, also completed her M.F.A. in creative writing at The New School, and creates work across fiction, poetry, non-fiction, photography and performance—most often working in several media simultaneously. She is also a committed facilitator of others’ art, by starting several reading-soiree series, and also working as the Reading Series and Chapbook Competition Coordinator during her time at The New School. She now teaches Writing at CUNY, where she continues to all her students to discover and celebrate their own agency.

Her writing has appeared in publications such as The Brooklyn RailThe Sydney Morning HeraldThe Understanding Between Foxes and LightA MinorWesterlyMascara Literary ReviewThe Legendary, Transtierros (translated into Spanish), Gargoyle 62LiveMag! 12 and Three Rooms Press MAINTENANT 9. Don also interviews people at Gainsayer. She has appeared in visual poems such as Woman Without Umbrella and Unbound, worked as an editor on publications such as LIT and has received press for her writing work including Quiet Lunch, Let Them Talk, Art Loves Her, Yes Poetry! and Great Weather for Media.   

When I reached out to Don, she was enthusiastic about sharing her work and thoughts on being a performing woman with a unique and innovative, lyrical voice.  I began the interview by asking Don how she might you describe her work in terms of being female, negotiating or manifesting female space or identity.

GD:  I feel fiercely about negotiating space for myself and as a woman I notice it can make people very uncomfortable, even if a woman is not being outrageous in her demands to be heard, seen, understood and left alone in solitude. I am currently working on a book about women, writing and space for which I interviewed female authors from various genres and backgrounds including Gayatri Spivak, Tara Moss, Maxine Swann, Hettie Jones, Honor Moore, Kate Fagan, Eileen Chong, Lynne Tillman, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Tiphanie Yanique, Sharon Dolin, Judith Beveridge, Deanne Stillman, Coral Carter, Maya Pindyck, Terese Svoboda, Ana Marie Hong, Joi Sanchez, Julie Powell, Christine Chia, Maitha Al Khayat, Sahar Naja, Zeina Hashem Beck, Fadwa Al Qasem, Monica De La Torre, Penny Arcade, Reem AlGurg, Noura Khoori and Diala Arslan Talhouk. 

The impulse to gather wisdom from these women began when I saw Lynne Tillman on a panel for women writers and she highlighted the Catch 22 nature of such a panel: that it was inherently sexist and making women the ‘other.’ Why be classified as a ‘female writer’ not just simply a writer? However because of the gender imbalance in the writing industry i.e. men to women ratio on panels, men’s books getting reviewed more and so forth (lots of statistics available on VIDA) there is a need for such panels. There is a need to create spaces that reset the equilibrium. 

For my book I asked all the women if they had a room of their own, inspired of course by Ms Woolf, and I photographed them in the space in which they write. These are issues that concern me, yet on the other hand I do not believe in gender binaries. I don’t believe men or women innately think differently, though often we are socialised to believe so. In my fiction I have written in the male voice first person, for instance in Cesspools and Treasure Chests published in Gargoyle 62. A fiction writer should be able to give voice to a whole range of experiences. While I value being a female, I also value men. I also love mermaids, witches, unicorns, Kali, Saraswati and fairies.

NT: Does being Australian inform or affect your work, or process?

GD: Being Australian informs and affects my work. Although I live in New York City, I still use Australian spelling. I could never spell mum with an o! I need my u’s in neighbours. I believe ‘whilst’ is not archaic. I have written stories completely in the Australian vernacular for example The Chicken Coop in Australian literary journal Mascara Literary Review. Somewhere Else in Perth based Literary magazine Westerly tells the story of an expatriate Australian family living in Singapore. My identity and my writing is very tied to my connection to the land and to food and to my family so being Australian is a formative part of my work. 

In terms of process, my final years at high school in Sydney (Gleneaon Rudolf Steiner School) only involved subjects that were humanities and creative and all required the completion of an individual project. The Higher School Certificate in New South Wales when I undertook it was very geared towards postmodern considerations and individual thinking and I am sure that influences my process in all my artistic endeavours. 

NT: How do you discover that “I” existing between two countries and cultures?

GD: I was born in Australia, then moved to Singapore and then Dubai before moving back to Singapore and then Australia, though my parents remained in Dubai since our initial move there in 1991 so I am straddling more than two countries and cultures. I am a multiplicity of countries and cultures. I have lived in New York City for six years now and before that I spent a little while in Amsterdam cleaning toilets and making beds at a hostel called The Flying Pig. My father is a pilot so I am blessed with free and cheap travel and have been to over 40 countries, though I have let my roots grow into the Lower East Side of Manhattan for the time being. Maybe this longing for my family in Australia can drive my work as I let myself dwell in images of the past.  Food and land tend to ground my stories in place and experience but I have never had one home. Wherever I am, I am always missing something or someone whether that is a culture or a family member and friend. This multiplicity, though at sometimes feels fractured, also means I have a have a deep well of memories that my mind flickers between, which is useful in an artist’s tool box.

NT: How does the idea of voice play out in your work and process? What are important issues that arise for you in the making?

GD: I often wonder where some of my characters come from, especially when writing in the voice of someone so far removed from myself. I am Your Mother is in the voice of an elderly Southern woman and that voice arose from trying to tell a story with only one person talking, similar to a monologue the plot moves along with no second voice. It makes me think, writers encourage hearing voices. I had to edit ‘pokies’ to ‘slot machines’ to remove the Australian anachronism. So consistency is important when creating voices. I studied acting so it is interesting to me how writing acts for itself on the page in terms of punctuation for example. Also the voice could influence the sentence length, movement of time and so forth. Even when using third person, voice is very significant. I enjoy playing with language. I am very drawn to whimsy and a lyrical voice. When writing, voice and tone are the equivalent of colour for a painter. The same image can be drastically different in the meaning it conveys when painted in grey versus yellow.

 NT: Do you think there is such a thing as women's voice? Can you explain? 

GD: I think this is a very interesting question and one of the questions I am asking of all the women writers I interview but I have no answer, only grey areas and a multitude of different arguments. Recently I read Ethel Florence Lindsey Richardson who wrote under the male pseudonym Henry Handel Richardson motivated by “the ease with which women’s work could be distinguished from a man’s and I wanted to try out the truth of the assertion.”

NT: What is a piece of work you have made that you feel came the most directly from you, was perhaps the most vulnerable or frightening to do? What was the work? How did you navigate that territory in terms of artistic choices that you made? 

GD: I find it easier to find truth and things that are more directly from me, vulnerable and frightening, in my poetry and fiction, things that in my nonfiction can sometimes elude me unconsciously. I have been trying to do a poem a day since March 2015 and an example of navigating that territory was writing about the day I went to my friend’s service. The artistic choice I made was inspired by a lecture I went to at Tin House this summer in Portland called When The Action is Hot: Write Cool by Debra Gwartney which discussed ways to allow the reader to feel for themselves, when the subject is so traumatic write as coldly and distantly as you can and allow the emotion to rise out of your reader, not directed by you and your emotional investment. 

Gabriel Don uses multiple voices in her work — from broad Australian vernacular to a lyrical, poetic syntax. She uses her own body as her voice in her work too, whether that is in film such as her work in Rachel Eliza Griffiths’ Unbound or her own performance art. Hearing her talk as both woman and performer/poet reminds me of how grateful I am to be in a place and time where women can share words and images in ways that speak to and from our experiences and, possibly, widen the aperture we imagine when considering women’s voice.