Tag Archives: Venus Walked In

QPF Spotlight #9 – Zenobia Frost’s Desert(ed) Island Poems

QPF 2009 features many local talents, including hat fetishist, Zenobia Frost. This Spotlight takes us to the Desert(ed) Island of her mind and (some of) the poems that inhabit it. So raise your sails and let these poems carry you away…




Enivrez-Vous – Charles Baudelaire

Don’t be martyred slaves of Time,
Get drunk!
Stay drunk!
On wine, virtue, poetry, whatever!

With its simple language and imperative tone, I always thought this poem would sound best shouted by a drunk or a preacher or a drunk preacher from a soapbox in a busy town square.

This poem has had more influence on me than any other. In my teen years I found its call to arms so rousing that I painted the poem, in its entirety, onto my bedroom wall. I’ve endeavoured to follow its instructions and make the very best of whatever situation I find myself in—something I might need to be reminded of now and then in the desert. Furthermore, thanks to this poem, I refuse to wear a watch on principle; I think a feeling of detachment from Time might just come in handy while stranded on an island. No use counting down the days, after all.

Read it here: http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/581.html


You Are Old, Father William – Lewis Carroll

When I have gone quite, quite mad from thirst and boredom, I can make up an infinite number of tunes to set this to, and sing it over and over. Maybe I could even catch an eel and learn to balance it on my nose, as the hero of the poem claims to be able to do.

One has to entertain oneself somehow.

Read it here: http://thinks.com/words/nonsense/william.htm


Lines Inscribed Upon a Cup Formed from a Skull – George Gordon, Lord Byron

Frankly, if I’m faced with the prospect of years alone on a desert island, I would hope that I’m taking a lot of booze with me. Just as there are drinking songs, this is a drinking poem, and is made to be performed.

Where once my wit, perchance, hath shone,
In aid of others’ let me shine;
And when, alas! our brains are gone,
What nobler substitute than wine?

Not only does it make me smirk, it also has a beautiful rhythm. Its language is truly inebriated—both fearless and playful, but with undertones of growing melancholy. This is precisely the kind of poem that Monsieur Baudelaire intended for us to get drunk on. The poet has resigned himself to his mortality and hopes to pour himself into the grave inoculated against rot, or at least the knowledge of it.

Read it here: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/lines-inscribed-upon-a-cup-formed-from-a-skull-2/


Sexing the Cherry – Jeanette Winterson

Apparently this is marketed as a novel, but from the first reading I knew it was a novel-length long prose poem. Its dreamlike metanarrative stitches itself into your skin. It spins strange new myths into you. It elicits sighs of pleasure that you thought (foolishly!) only your lover could draw out of you. If I could, I would memorise large chunks of Sexing the Cherry and take it everywhere with me. What better place to learn it by heart than on a desert island?

When Jordan was a boy he made paper boats and floated them on the river. From this he learned how the wind affects the heart. His patience was exceeded only by his hope. I used to watch him standing in the mud or lying face down, his nose almost in the current, his hands steadying the boat and then letting it go straight into the wind. Letting go hours of himself. When the time came, he did the same with his heart. He didn’t believe in shipwreck.


‘i like my body when it is with your’ and ‘somewhere i have never travelled’ – e.e. cummings

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

I’m going to be naughty and smuggle both of these poems in, one on each side of a piece of paper. somewhere i have never travelled is such a delicate love poem, and i like my body when it is with your is its perfect match, with its tender, erotic zing. These poems speak of lovers who are so adoring of one another; it speaks to my head full of romance and, on my island, will remind me of what I am missing. cummings’ style perfectly embodies the wonder-chaos of new love as it feels to the lovers, not to onlookers; cummings is thrilling, without being sappy.



Tides – Hugo Williams

For that is happiness: to wander alone
Surrounded by the same moon, whose tides remind us of ourselves,
Our distances, and what we leave behind.

I read this poem for the first time a few weeks ago, and it felt like déjà vu, for it achieves, in theme, what I tried to do in my chapbook. It is eloquent and concise; in so few words, it speaks volumes about its characters, and about human kind, and our ties to place.

I shan’t go on; it’s best to let it speak for itself. This is a poem that needs to settle within you, and needn’t be overanalysed. Let it make its promises to you: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/tides/


The Summer – Josh Pyke

What a wonderful song, and what a delightful lyricist Mr Pyke is. The Summer is about nostalgia’s potential for both loveliness and devastation—after all, living in the past has its consequences.

There’s something characteristically Australian about the way Josh writes. He’s a great storyteller, and his words are warm and casual and genuine. After spending an album with him you feel quite sure you’d get on really well over a cup of tea on the verandah. In short, his poetry is trustworthy, and it reminds you to revisit the things in life you value.

On my desert island, I think I’d name a coconut Josh Pyke and tell it all my secrets. And it would sing this song.

Listen to it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1ABbLlKTlw

Read it here: http://www.lyricsmania.com/lyrics/josh_pyke_lyrics_27462/other_lyrics_57987/the_summer_lyrics_857025.html


The Cloudland Funicular Cha-Cha – Rob Morris

Black shellac solid vinyl
scratches sounds from a time
when the whole world wore hats.

This paean to Brisbane’s iconic Cloudland dancehall was the first Queensland poem I remember hearing performed, and it was the beginning of my love affair with the fifties. Its images—‘a gal in a Lindy satin skirt and mohair top’ and ‘heavens dripping from my powder-blue suit’—strobe past in the ‘musical hysteria’. This poem takes you skidding right back to those heady days, and I think a time ‘when the whole world wore hats’ is surely the best time to skid back to.

You can find The Cloudland Furnicular Cha-Cha in the book of the same name, published by Post Pressed in 2005.


Skin – Shane Koyczan

This suite of poems is, frankly, delicious. I remember seeing Shane, a Canadian poet, perform these at the Queensland Poetry Festival a couple of years ago, and every single person in the audience had warm fuzzies. Shane’s poems are the vocabulary of lovers. They are comfort foods and long baths. They are the literary equivalent of spooning.

looking at you it occurred to me
I could sit around all day
wearing nothing but your kiss

you make mirrors
want to grind themselves
back down into sand
because they can’t do your reflection justice

There, don’t you feel so much better now?

Shane’s poems work best when performed, so the ideal would be to take Shane (and his band, The Short Story Long) on an mp3 player to my desert island. I could charge it by plugging it into palm trees or something.

Listen to Skin here: http://www.myspace.com/shanekoyczanandtheshortstorylong or pick up his debut collection, Visiting Hours (2005).


Lost (or ‘Deportment for Young Gentlemen’ or ‘A Young Woman Trying on a Victorian Hat’) – David Wagoner

Apparently Oprah likes this poem. I guess that means she must have good taste after all. Lost is a poem brimming with quiet wisdom. It is a poem to be read aloud in a silent room, or to chant to yourself when lost. It is the ultimate desert island poem, in that sense, because its message is that being lost—or stranded—is only an attitude. You can be found anywhere; you can be content anywhere.

If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

If I could, I would sneak Mr Wagoner’s 1996 collection, Walt Whitman Bathing, with me too. The poems Deportment for Young Gentlemen and A Young Woman Trying on a Victorian Hat were close contenders for this spot on the the Desert(ed) Island list, but Lost won out because it would keep me sane.

Read it here: http://www.seishindo.org/david_wagoner.html



About Zenobia:

Zenobia Frost is a poetic adventurer, hat fetishist and protector of apostrophes who (when she remembers to) coordinates the seriously frivolous Ruby Fizz Society, which promotes local performance art and encourages cross-discipline creativity. Her poems have appeared in Going Down Swinging, Small Packages, Stylus, Mascara and Voiceworks, and her first collection, The Voyage, was published by SweetWater Press in May of this year. She hopes to one day make the perfect cup of tea.


Catch Zenobia at QPF 2009:


Saturday August 22 – 8:00pm

A Million Bright Things: featuring a short set from every bright thing on the 2009 program plus a feature set from the awesome Neil Murray


Sunday August 23 – 12:15pm – 1:15pm

Venus Walked In: feat. Jane Williams, Zenobia Frost & Noëlle Janaczewska


Sunday August 23 – 7:00pm – 9:00pm

Just Kissed Goodbye: feat. Paul Magee, Janet Jackson, Angela Costi, Jane Williams, Neil Murray, Elizabeth Bachinsky, Geoff Goodfellow, AF Harrold, Hinemoana Baker and the QPF Committee (of which Zenobia is a part of)


All sessions are held at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Brunswick St. Fortitude Valley.

For full program details head to www.queenslandpoetryfestival.com


Filed under Desert(ed) Island Poems

QPF Spotlight #7 – Noelle Janaczewska

Today the spotlight is shining on Noëlle Janaczewska. Noëlle is an accomplished writer in a number of styles including poetry, plays, performance texts and radio scripts. I had the pleasure of talking to her about her influences, the role of spontaneity the importance of performance and the writing process. Here’s what she had to say: 




What is the role of spontaneity in your creative process?

It’s there, but to what degree, I’m not sure. What I can say is that all my work comes from some combination of interior activity and exterior influences, but the balance varies from one work to another, and from one day to another.


Eliot said, “Poets learn to write by being other writers for a while, and then moving onto another one.” Who are the people who have influenced you and who are you reading now?

I spent my early teens wanting to be Joseph Conrad, and my bookcase still has a ‘Conrad’ shelf—or 2. There’s also my battered Penguin copies of Children of Albion, Donne’s The Complete English Poems and Cautionary Tales by Hilaire Belloc—horrible politics, funny verse. I’ve always relished inconsistency and contradiction. More recent influences are Czesław Miłosz, Caryl Churchill, Ira Gershwin, Laurie Anderson and Izumi Shikibu. Right now I’m reading Isaac Newton’s 1659 Notebook (research for a new work) and listening to Lester Young (probably my favourite tenor saxophonist) and Don Byron.

Why perform/read your poetry?

More and more of my writing is on the borderlines of performance and poetry. I have a theatre background with a strong interest in music and musical forms, so things like rhythm and refrain, timbre and tone have always been important. And spoken words pieces are obviously composed with voice in mind.

I am always interested in the thought processes and practices of writers. Would it be possible for you to share with us your process, in other words, what does Noëlle Janaczewska do in preparation for writing?

A lot of thinking. A lot of walking—not only along the harbour foreshore, but also up and down supermarket aisles. A lot of what may seem like aimless wandering, both mental and physical, but it all helps create what I like to call a dreaming space for the work. I recently read Doris Lessing’s 2007 Nobel lecture, and posted this excerpt on my blog (http://outlier-nj.blogspot.com): ‘Writers are often asked, How do you write? With a wordprocessor? an electric typewriter? a quill? longhand? But the essential question is, “Have you found a space, that empty space, which should surround you when you write?” Into that space, which is like a form of listening, of attention, will come the words, the words your characters will speak, ideas—inspiration.’

Finally, where are you looking when you write?

Literally: a computer screen. Figuratively: the world in all its shambolic glory.


About Noëlle :

Noëlle Janaczewska’s performance texts, plays, libretti, lyrics, spoken word, poetry, essays, gallery and on-line explorations, and radio scripts across drama and non-fiction, have been performed, published and broadcast throughout Australia and overseas. 

Recurring themes in her work are the history and philosophy of science, colonialism and its legacies, narratives of migration, and the exploration of language. The recipient of 4 AWGIE Awards, her stage plays have won the 2002 Griffin Playwriting Award, the 2001 Playbox-Asialink Playwriting Competition (Songket), and the 2006 Queensland Premier’s Literary Award (Mrs Petrov’s Shoe). Recent productions include: Eyewitness Blues for the BBC, The Hannah First Collection, 1919-1949 for the Zendai Museum of Modern Art in Shanghai and There’s Something About Eels … for ABC Radio National. 

Alongside performance, Noëlle has published in anthologies, arts journals and on-line magazines. The poems she wrote for Kathryn Millard’s film Travelling Light feature on the soundtrack CD, and in 2006 The Wayzgoose Press published her long poem Dorothy Lamour’s Life as a Phrasebook. Find out more about Noëlle’s work at www.outlier-nj.blogspot.com and www.noellejanaczewska.com






Don’t be rushed to buy something when you see a sale,
Here there is always being a sale of some sort.
When you are standing in line keep your good distance
Or the person in front of you will be offended.
It’s quite normal to say ‘see you later’, even if you won’t.

Pink colour is here associated with girls, blue colour with boys,
Green, yellow, orange and grey colours are unisex.
Many people here are keeping animals inside their household;
You will cause upset if you don’t treat them like members of the family.

For your dishwasher use detergent specially designated for that,
Ordinary dish-cleaning soap makes too much foaming.
Pizzas are very popular for people of all ages and lifestyles;
You can get cheese pizza, vegetarian pizza or pizza with meats.
Additional servings are called ‘seconds’ and are offered once.

Keep in mind you can’t walk anywhere you like to,
If you walk at inappropriate place the police may give you a ticket.
In front of Australians you should avoid talk in your native language,
They don’t like it and are thinking you might be hiding something. 


Catch Noëlle at QPF 2009:


Saturday August 22 – 1:30pm – 2:30pm

Spine of Lost Voices: feat. Noëlle Janaczewska, Elizabeth Bachinsky & Jessika Tong 


Saturday August 22 – 8:00pm

A Million Bright Things: featuring a short set from every bright thing on the 2009 program plus a feature set from the awesome Neil Murray


Sunday August 23 – 12:15pm – 1:15pm

Venus Walked In: feat. Jane Williams, Zenobia Frost & Noëlle Janaczewska


All sessions are held at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Brunswick St. Fortitude Valley.

For full program details head to www.queenslandpoetryfestival.com


Filed under interviews/artist profiles

QPF Spotlight #3 – Jane Williams

This time around I shine the QPF Spotlight on Jane Williams and ask her where the words come from.


Jane Williams



Leonard Cohen and Sylvia Plath were strong influences through my teens and into my twenties. Also Emily Dickinson and e.e cummings. Bruce Dawe has been an Australian poet I have returned to again and again over the years. At the moment the American poet Stephen Dunn keeps me company. I tend to fall in love with a particular poet’s work and carry it about with me like a secular bible or a how to manual until I’m sated. Then I turn to someone else …


The writing process

I’ve always been a note taker so carry pen and paper about most of the time, jot things down as they move me. An image, part of a conversation etc Initially stream of conscience stuff. The notes are filed away for development which happens sooner or later or not at all. My writing is largely mood driven so I’m not a very disciplined poet in that sense but fortunately I tend to be moved to write more often than not. I think my being moved to write is different from my being inspired to write, though both are equally valuable. I associate inspiration with reading the work of other poets – Look what they‘ve done! I wonder if I can do that! Being moved to write is a more direct, instinctual response to life. As for poems that ‘write themselves’ they’re the exception not the rule. These days most poems go through weeks and sometimes months of revisiting. As a result I have many many more notes then I do completed poems or even poems in progress. This may also have something to do with a challenged attention span.


Where the voice(s) comes from

Writing is among other things a compulsion for me so maybe the voice is also the impetus. I think it comes out of a longing, which is deeper some days than others.


Recurring themes

I remember the first poem I wrote in my early teens about a homeless man dying in a city street. It would have been highly derivative and cliché ridden, in short a bad poem … but in terms of a theme, many of my poems still have a broad social commentary hallmark to them so I guess it’s fair to say I have a bent in that direction. My catholic upbringing and an interest in the human experiences of our spiritual leaders and those people we see as heroes have influenced a number of poems in my first two books. A high hope that we equal more than the sum of our physical parts seems to be an underlying theme. I love the language of poetry, its musicality, wordplay and all the specifics of crafting …but meaning making and intent are also important to me.


How have my feelings about poetry, the reading and writing of, changed since I first started writing?

One of the biggest changes has been learning that this writing business is a life’s work, so not to be too impatient or hard on myself. The difference between creativity and productivity. Also discovering the drafting process is a natural progression, and not the hand of suppression I think I feared it was when I was much younger. I like to think I’m more of an eclectic reader these days but I imagine I’ll always rotate my favourites.




The unwritten law of living


everything worth anything
must break
it is the unwritten law
of living


any favored piece
of crockery or glassware
how long did you think
it would last

one quarter
of our body’s bones
are in our feet
mind your step the signs read
but feet soldier on oblivious

of all the rules worth breaking
do not fraternize …

no x-ray will show the number
of breaks a heart can outlive
such knowledge it is rumored
could kill us



About Jane:

Jane Williams is the author of three collections of poems and one of short stories. Awards for her poetry include the Anne Elder Award and the D.J. O’Hearn Memorial Fellowship. She lives in Hobart. www.janewilliams.wordpress.com


Catch Jane at QPF 2009:

Saturday August 22 – 1:30pm – 2:30pm

Phosphorescence at the Edge: feat. Jane Williams, Paul Magee and Rob Morris


Saturday August 22 – 8:00pm

A Million Bright Things: featuring a short set from every bright thing on the 2009 program plus a feature set from the awesome Neil Murray


Sunday August 23 – 12:15pm – 1:15pm

Venus Walked In: feat. Jane Williams, Zenobia Frost & Noella Janaczewska


Sunday August 23 – 7:00pm – 9:00pm

Just Kissed Goodbye: feat. Janet Jackson, Angela Costi, Jane Williams, Neil Murray, Elizabeth Bachinsky, Geoff Goodfellow, Paul Magee, AF Harrold, Hinemoana Baker and the QPF Committee


All sessions are held at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Brunswick St. Fortitude Valley.

For full program details head to www.queenslandpoetryfestival.com


Filed under interviews/artist profiles, Where do the Words Come From?