Emily XYZ talks about her experience as Arts QLD Poet-in-Residence

Tomorrow night (Tuesday Sept. 21) is the launch of Emily XYZ’s legacy item and farewell party at The Edge, so whether you have RSVP’d or not, I recommend pulling on your disco boots and coming along. Full details of the event can be found here: EVP Launch

With Emily’s time in Australia sadly winding up, I asked her a few questions to get her thoughts on her time as Arts QLD Poet-in-Residence.

How has living in this beautiful city of ours influenced you and your writing over the past couple of months?

Australia generally is a more upbeat place than much of the US right now, especially SE Michigan, where I’ve been living lately. The housing crash, the Detroit auto industry implosion, and the financial crisis all hit the midwest particularly hard.  Australia is in a very different place economically than the US right now.  That alone is nice!  You don’t have the social rifts we are dealing with, either — all the terrible debris of the Bush years.  The US is so polarized right now that forward movement is impossible, and so things are at a standstill.

Being in Australia reminds me that there is hope for the world.  That may sound funny, but it is very encouraging to me the amount of consciousness, on a mundane level, for things like the environment — As a simple example, you have the half/full flush toilets everywhere, which do not exist in the US, I’m sorry to say.  There is also less poverty here, less desperation, and a LOT less gun violence.  It just seems like the place still has a soul, and still cares about doing the right thing.

So all that has a subtle but powerful effect on one’s state of mind.  You find yourself kind of “calming down” here.  I worry less.  Of course, I’m in a special situation as Poet in Residence — visiting artists are treated well — but even so, I find it a very pleasant, civilized place in so many ways.  In terms of Brisbane specifically, it’s an easy city to live in with many things that make daily life good.  Like the Riverwalk, which is maybe my favorite thing here.  It is so unique — I don’t know of any American town that has a walkway like that all along their waterfront!  And it’s so fun — to walk in the air, to see the beauty of the city and the river and the weather.  It just cheers me up every time I’m there.  Just a great thing to have.

So I guess to answer your question, I’m not sure how it’s influenced my WRITING yet — as that is a much bigger, slower-moving thing, an influence on one’s output — but I can say that being here has definitely improved my state of mind.  It’s given me hope.  I feel like maybe Australia is the next great standard-bearer of democracy.  It’s a “young” place in a way that the US is not right now.  You are not afraid to confront things and find answers, or at least take the questions seriously.

You have taken in plenty of poetry events during your residency, so how does the Brisbane scene stack up?

Very well.  There’s a very lively local poetry & writing scene, which I have really enjoyed getting better acquainted with.  There’s a lot to do and participate in if you are a writer, a poet, a spoken-word artist here.  And there’s room for more!  So people should definitely be starting new things, as well.  New readings, new workshops, new venues, new events, new approaches to presenting stuff.  You have to PUT IN to keep the thing growing.  Ask not what the poetry scene can do for you — Ask what you can do for the poetry scene.
 
You have been busy recording some of your new two-voice poems at the moment… what can we expect?

I recorded two new two-voice poems, “EVP” and “A Little Revolution” (which I wrote here) with no accompaniment, then asked two local guys, Darek Mudge (a producer & sound engineer who also plays in the band Disco Nap) and Matt O’Neill (a music journalist who also creates soundscapes; he works w/ a dance duo called Nostalgia) for remixes, which they very graciously did in a ridiculously short time.  I love the remixes, they are very different responses to the original poems but both very cool.  I think the poems are good, too.  “EVP” means “electronic voice phenomena” and is inspired by those recordings people make of background noise in haunted houses; sometimes you can hear hear strange, unexplained speech-like sounds and those are called EVPs.  Peripherally it’s also about confusion & loss. “A Little Revolution” is a fun song, I call it imaginary disco, partly inspired by the Commodores’ song “Brick House,” a funk classic.

Looking back on the residency what have been your highlights… What will you miss most?

The workshop, no question about it.  I’m pretty happy with the writing I’ve done here, but the workshop was the thing I most enjoyed.  It kept me sane and on track, and I will really miss that group of people.  The twitter poem, too — 90 DAYS IN BRISBANE  (@xyzpoem).  That’s been funny, coming up with a poem in 140 characters or less, every day since July 1, the day I got here!

I was also very happy with the performances Myers & I did, especially at QPF and at the Red Chamber during the Brisbane Writers Festival.  And the slam that night was also pretty wild — Been a long time since I was in a room that loud and lively!

Beyond that, I will miss you and Julie, and Pascalle and Ian.  And Ghostboy most of all.  You guys have all been so great. 

And the laksa at Wok Inn on Brunswick St., and the french fries at Burger Urge.  And caramel slices.  And murraya.  And Speedpoets.  And the walk from Story Bridge to the State Library.  And the Wednesday market at Queen Street.  And the roses in New Farm Park.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Emily XYZ talks about her experience as Arts QLD Poet-in-Residence

  1. Kia ora Emily/Graham – so FANTASTIC to see you guys perform, emily, and great to read your impressions of the city I called home for those fantastic three months, too. I’ve been following your Twitter Poem, love it! Thanks for being so inspirational and brilliant and for coming to our side of the world. I’ve been looking after the USA for you while you’ve been away, and by and large it’s been behaving pretty well. A few issues with Tea Parties, but hopefully that’ll sort itself out. Travel well. x x Hinemoana

  2. I love these comments about Brisbane and Australia from Emily XYZ. She’s pointed out so much we probably take for granted here and really empowering the writing scene with her encouragement. I’m stoked I saw her perform with Myers at QPF. Cheers for posting this Graham

  3. very insightful on a number of levels. thank you. and damn good to be reminded of what we do indeed take for granted here. (i’m TRYING not to!) bits of brissie i haven’t seen there, also… 🙂

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