It is a mini season of anniversary and memory. A major historical event, a personal re-connection, a television show. Remembrance daring consideration of what we were and what we are now. The 1969 moon landing still resonates. It seemed to draw a hopeful line under two years of trauma—Vietnam, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy. For this scrawler, they were also the years when the boy was emerging from childhood. The memories are more complete, more rounded, although stunningly inadequate. As someone whose memories are structured around the triangulation or coincidence of residence, education, employment, relationships and current events, there is […]
Chronicling Donald Trump’s many flaws—as a man, as a husband/father/politician/businessman/actor/pizza hawker—has kept many of us (un)happily distracted for the past eight hundred or so days. As bountiful as that flaws list is, credit where credit is due: the man is an exceptional media manipulator. I draw no pleasure in complimenting him, but watching Trump lie and misdirect and conjure evermore distractions to whiplash media attention from one calamity to the next is something he’s disproportionately gifted at. Americans were pitched a showman, they voted in a showman, and surprise surprise, a showman now binges on cable news in the Oval […]
What it’s like to read something you’re not engaged with if you have ADHD? Read one line. Don’t absorb it. Read again. Skip down to where a word you like jumps out at you. The word is dancing, skittering on the page. Read me, it says. You like me. NO! EYES UP! Go back up to the first line and read it again. It sinks in. Read the next line, and the next. Finally, you’re paying attention! You can do this. Now you’ve reached the word you like. Read it over and over. Think about how it doesn’t seem like […]
Franz Kafka’s A Report to the Academy is a short story, in the form of a first-person account voiced by a human-like ape who was shot and captured in West Africa then transported to Europe by ship in a cage. ‘Red Peter’ is driven to escape his cage, so he embraces the process and performance of becoming human, which includes learning to speak and behave like one of his captors. ‘Freedom was not what I wanted,’ he reports, retrospectively. ‘Only a way out; right or left, or in any direction; I made no other demand; even should the way out […]
I am acutely aware while visiting other places that I am in the home of the ancestors whose stories since ancient times are preserved in the land, seas, skies and atmosphere. These stories of country live inside us and are ‘the extraordinary literacy of place’, of ancient land titles, and are similar to understanding the old stories of places that the British landscape writer Robert Macfarlane might describe as being the ‘intricate stories to map the landscape’.
Tell me more about New York, her mother says, shifting on the overstuffed couch to make room for Clara. The green leather creaks. You really are in the big smoke now. But then it’s not all that wet, is it? It’s wet enough, Clara answers. Wetter than it is here in Melbourne. Her mother sighs. I don’t know. Last year Osaka had 1624 millimetres. And New York was what, 58 millimetres in February?
As my 20-year working life at the University of Melbourne was coming to its natural end by teaching for the last time an introductory subject on modern poetry during the first half of 2018, Andrea and I were planning to spend the following four months travelling in the far north of Australia, first crossing the Great Sandy Desert on the Tanami Track up from Alice Springs to revisit a community in that desert where we had lived for most of the past two years, and then crossing and recrossing the area of Western Australia known as the Kimberley, a craggy region of spinifex, boab trees and laterite still sparsely populated and still unforgiving to the unprepared.
What is the peculiar
consolation of a sky
like a violet lamp
above a crunched-foil sea?
Meanwhile, your mother
does not love you.