The neoliberal university – largely privatised, steered by market logic, forcing academic inquiry into vocational strictures – looms large in the Australian imagination and in reality; as documented in our online magazine over the past few months, class sizes swell alongside student fees, academic workloads and vice-chancellor salaries.
I worked closely with Jack during the staging of ILBIJERRI Theatre Company’s Coranderrk: We will show the country. Jack played William Barak, the Wurundjeri leader who negotiated with the Victorian colonial government in an effort to ensure the survival of his people. It was Barak, along with other senior Aboriginal people, who agitated for the sovereign rights of the Coranderrk community in the late nineteenth century.
The English language isn’t what it used to be.
Migration, colonisation and trade encourage the borrowing and stealing of foreign words and phrases; internationalised stylistic choices seek common ground with speakers of multiple dialects. New technologies require new ways to discuss them, rendering older terms irrelevant. Moral standards change, meaning some euphemisms are no longer needed, while new ones arise.
When I first began to do public appearances like poetry readings, not wearing glasses was actually useful, because I couldn’t see the audience. Being looked at by many people terrified me; I suspect that part of me believes that visibility is profoundly perilous. I still find public appearances difficult and exhausting, as if the gaze is a vampiric thing that sucks out all my energy, but being able to see people looking at me doesn’t frighten me anymore.
Often, when asked what I do for a living, I say I am a writer as well as a translator. It is not a word that I would use in my native language: the Italian ‘scrittore’ is far too grandiose. It implies that you have published at least one book, probably more, whereas the English word ‘writer’ covers a larger semantic field, encompassing people who write habitually for a public in various media domains, such as this journal.
Almost all programs have some form of ‘workshop’, where twelve or so students sit around a table with a faculty member and talk about each other’s work. The workshop has some pedagogical conventions that are unevenly followed, but are still true at most programs – for example, that the person whose work is under discussion should keep silent for most of the discussion. Similarly, the aesthetics of the work should be analysed more than its content, political concerns, or relation to society.
The Yes campaign’s singular focus on marriage equality in the face of conservative attacks on trans people and the Safe Schools program represented a cautious, small-target approach to social change – and it stands in stark contrast to the revolutionary aspirations of Gay Liberation. Whereas the Yes campaign was anxious to assure conservatives that it would not challenge gender roles, the gay liberationists of the early 1970s openly critiqued the nuclear family and other oppressive institutions.
I began university in 1996, attending what could be considered an ‘elite’ US institution. It was not Ivy League, but it was regularly listed among the top thirty universities in the country. The fee for one year was just over $33,000, including room and board. My family had been comfortably middle class for most of my childhood, but my father had quit his job and taken another at much lower pay while I was in high school. I was only able to attend the university because I received direct scholarships, alongside a complex array of government-subsidised loans and grants.
Questions of diversity are becoming more prominent in academic circles. Initially focused on the lack of minorities within particular disciplines, the conversation has now grown to include racial, gender and class biases within curricula, teaching practices and research activities. Diversity is not just about numbers, although the figures themselves are certainly distressing: the Equality Challenge Unit’s 2017 report shows that 92 per cent of UK academics identify as white. Unsurprisingly, these figures translate to negative experiences of racism and sexism at the individual level, as revealed by the ‘I, too, am …’ campaigns at various universities.
Utopia inspired me to redouble my efforts to report on the failings of a nation that has never made peace with its First Peoples. The film was also the realisation of a childhood dream: I had grown up reading Pilger – he was one of the reasons I went into journalism.
As it transpired, I realised another dream three years later, in 2016, when I travelled to the West Bank for the first time, having spent years learning about the struggle of the Palestinian people against Israeli occupation, much of it, again, written or filmed by Pilger.
The academy is seemingly obsessed with the working class, but at the same time deeply disconnected from it. While most academics are happy to discuss the poor in theory, few are comfortable when confronted by the everyday drudgery of working-class life, and even fewer have direct experience of monotonous, often backbreaking labour. Of course, many young people and students have to depend on minimum-wage unskilled jobs at points in their lives, but for most this is just a transitory stage.
When we are given the warehouse, we know it needs renovating. Then we will be able to live and work with other community-based organisations dedicated to changing today’s normal. It is September. Not yet winter, but cool enough. Kids are still running around shirtless, dressed only in cut-off sweatpants. You would think the public pools are still open, but in fact school has already started in Hudson, a town in which over 25 per cent of people live below the poverty line and 34 per cent of them are under eighteen.
Miska and Bray arrived back from Bali but their luggage didn’t. The tetchy young man at the baggage claim counter took their details, thrust a piece of paper at them with some numbers on it and told them their luggage would be delivered by courier the next day.
They’ll text you, he said. Next.
Three days went by. This is so fucked, Bray said several times each day.
We are all Superman. It’s great! When the world needs saving we zip to a phone box and get changed into our tights and capes as quickly as we can. There aren’t so many boxes these days so we have to queue, and it’s kind of creepy that you can see right in, but we get used to it, and if we’re at home we figure that there’s no written rule and so we just get changed in the bedroom and get out there to save the world as quickly as possible. We grab the evil genius who is plotting against the world, grip his wrist and frown with determination as we deliver him to the authorities.
Jab. ‘$679. Your original price.’
Jab. ‘$649. Your reduced price.’
Jab, jab. ‘$629. Your additional discount from your $20 gift card.’
I was pretty sure he was wrong. I thought he’d rung up $20, not $629. But the bill was a little too far away for me to see it clearly and he was making such a big thing about it in front of all those people that I just apologised, another middle-aged sans papiers among the digital natives. He folded my receipt back into the bag and smiled.
Months might pass without any mention of the tape. But then it will appear again. It’s seasonal, like the weights set or the pantry moths. The pattern and duration of these seasons typically determined by Aland, with the latest being particularly lengthy. The Seven Month Winter of the Tape. He hauled the VCR out of the cupboard while the boys were away over Easter, and it still hasn’t gone back. School camps, football camps, sleepovers, grandparent-visits – whenever Josh and Avery are out of the house overnight, Johanna can sense the tape lying in wait.
anxiety is the millennial condition, says a click-bait article I
probably read somewhere; as for my own tangles, well,
there are some parties you just shouldn’t go to.
The suburban bus route
elicits in its rider
a mood of compliance
A line of eleven custom-plated BMWs followed by a
Prius. A Four Pillars gin and tonic w/ cucumber
followed by a macchiato
The lighthouse turns, blinks a steady eye, warns
of steep hills, unknown shores, channels moving
with the tide. No one knows how deep it is
the momento mori of a drowned world
is untold inside out umbrellas,
a plague of logo-spangled spider bones
A track marked
by broken branches
traverses Redhill Wood
the royal couple consult the Pantone Book of Baby Names
All five poems on this year’s Nakata Brophy Prize shortlist – Jazz Money’s ‘as we attack’, Kirli Saunders’ ‘A dance of hands’, Laniyuk Garcon’s ‘Remember’, Raelee Lancaster’s ‘haunted house’ and Susie Anderson’s ‘revolve’ – are testimony to the diverse work of emerging Indigenous poets, not only in the Nakata Brophy Prize submissions, but more broadly across the country.
when my cousin told me her house was haunted
i replied: of course it is
how can it not be
You and I
were the lychees
sucked from blistered shells,>
I first noticed it in England, or perhaps it finally found me. I had assumed all this time I was being watched and here was proof. Clear halo in deep navy, shining iris nightly, no stars.
Artwork for this edition by guest artist Seth Tobocman.