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Rebecca Jessen

DWF and Chill

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The Digital Writers Festival is a fine example of the Internet using its powers for good and not evil. The festival wrapped up last Friday night, and I had the pleasure of reading some poems in the closing night event: Manifest. The session was a fitting end to the festival, laced with equal amounts of hope–and, I think–despair at our current situation. As Izzy Roberts-Orr (Artistic Director) pointed out, it takes a balance of these two states of consciousness to be able to envision a future that feels tangible and achievable. It was a brilliant session, and each writer brought an original and personal take to the theme. You can watch the session in its entirety here.

The fact that the festival is predominantly held online means it’s accessible to a much larger audience than if it were only in person. For me it meant that my family who live interstate were able to tune in and watch me read some poems (and also send me bad screenshots of myself during the session). Being online, it also means that people (with Internet access) who otherwise might not be able to afford to attend a festival don’t miss out, it also means that people with physical/mental health issues can still participate in the festival. As someone who regularly struggles to leave the house (especially to attend social gatherings), this concept appeals to me majorly!

There were so many brilliant sessions at this year’s DWF I couldn’t possibly talk about them all but below are a few highlights from the sessions I’ve watched so far. I know there will be a lot more DWF and chill in my near future though.

Get YA Words Out: This was a brilliant and important session talking all things queer Aus YA. One of the panelists, Jordi Kerr brilliantly summed up everything I have ever felt about how necessary it is for queer writers to have a platform to write and publish queer stories: ‘If you can’t see yourself, you can’t see a future for yourself’. This rings true for my entire adolescence, both on and off the page. These conversations are crucial to the continued development of queer literature in Aus. I’m going to be directing people to this session for as long as it exists on the internet. Also check out the Get YA Words Out website for a great list of resources on QueerAusYA.

Online Lit collectives – Subbed In & Sponge: A great mashup of readings from two lit collectives publishing brilliantly diverse writing (more please). My personal faves were poetry from Emily Crocker ‘while a woman watches us not touch her Mazda 4’ and Allison Gallagher ‘I am tired of feeling broken by language. Having a body is exhausting’ and ‘I keep seeing women who are stoic and unavailable and being like please ruin my life already.’ So much yes, to all of this! Allison’s book is already in the mail and I’m going to have to go back on the website and buy Emily’s and Aisyah’s now too! Do the same, and get yourself a neat bin chicken accessory while you’re at it!

No Chill: This was one of my favourite sessions, a conversation between Madison Griffiths and Lucinda Price about what it’s like to be an artist, a woman, and someone with mental illness while creating on the internet. There’s so much to love in this session, but my favourite thing was the very honest and open conversation they had about mental illness; especially the breaking down of the myth that being mentally ill makes you super productive and creative. This is a pervasive and damaging myth and I’m glad to see artists talking about it more and more. It’s alarming to me, the number of artists I meet who live with mental health issues, and I know for myself these have never positively contributed to my creative output, but have only ever been a barrier to Getting Shit Done. Madison and Lucinda have the best dynamic, can someone give them their own show please?!

QUT Lit Salon – DWF Edition: This was a live event held at QUT in Brisbane (home to my soul). This year I’ve had the pleasure of attending many QUT Lit Salons and they are always quality. The special DWF and 5 year Lit Salon anniversary edition had a dream lineup featuring QUT all stars Mindy Gill, Alex Philip, Emily O’Grady, Rebecca Cheers, Leo Porter, and Annabelle de Paola. Annabelle’s reading of trolley erotica was a peronsal fave, and something I never knew I needed in my life. Watch it, and then seek out the writing of these Brisbabes!

Missives From The Future: This is technically finished now, but you can still access the archive of fabulously strange stories written during the festival and I highly recommend you do! This is exactly the kind of daily mail I like to receive in my inbox.

Digital Zine Fair: This is such a brilliant concept, the team behind DWF have the best ideas! I love how accessible so much of the festival is, and again, the digital zine fair makes it possible for people to access interesting, exciting and informative resources from the comfort of their wi-fi connection. I haven’t had time to have a proper look at all of the zines, but a shout out to my very talented friend Anna Jacobson for her zine ‘The Adventures of the Outer Chain’. This zine is incredibly relatable and funny and sad. Read it, and the send it to your friends.

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Catch me at the Digital Writers Festival!

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Look Mum, I’m going live on the Internet! I’m so excited to announce that I’ll be participating in this year’s Digital Writers Festival which will run from October 24-November 3.  You can check out the full program here I can tell you now, it is stellar.

The Digital Writers Festival is a product of the Emerging Writers Festival (also stellar) and it brings together writers from all over Australia and the world to beam brilliant content straight to your screens.

I will be performing at the closing night event ‘Manifest’ on Friday 3rd November along with Winnie Dunn, Jesse Oliver, Piriye Altraide, Ben Walter, and Zhi Yi Cham. The theme couldn’t be more perfectly aligned with my current writing and research interests and I’m excited to see where the other writers go with it.

Tune in on the night and watch/listen to me read some poems about lesbian utopias from the comfort of your own bed! Full event details below:

Manifest
Friday November 3:
 7pm (AEDT) @ Live-streaming to the world!!

What’s next? It’s a new day rising, and the future is in your hands – what are you going to do with it? Six writers explore alternative futures where the possible has become actual. Ending the festival on a hopeful note, come dream with us as we envision the future – embracing the fact that we cannot know it yet, and we therefore have the power to change it.

 

(after)HER: dating app adventures now online at Cordite Poetry Review

I’m really pleased to have my Val Vallis shortlisted poem ‘(after)HER: dating app adventures’ published online at Cordite Poetry Review. Read it now and share it with all your friends! And make sure you read the other winning and shortlisted poems, because they are all brilliant. Thanks again to the judges Stuart Barnes and Michelle Cahill, Cordite, QPF and Arts QLD ❤

Reading at the QWC Lit Salon this Saturday

This Saturday night I will be reading some new poems at the QWC Lit Salon. The lineup is absolutely stellar, and includes Miles Franklin shortlisted author Emily Maguire, Thomas Shapcott shortlisted poet Mindy Gill, Chloe Callistemon, Tessa Rose, Ben Hobson, and me! It’s also Brisbane Pride day so expect me to read some very queer poems to celebrate! (I was going to anyway).

You can buy your ticket here.

 

Full venue/time details are below!

QWC Lit Salon – Saturday 23rd September

Red Box, SLQ @ 7.00-8.30pm

 

Post-QPF 2017 Highlights

The Queensland Poetry Festival is done for another year and I have resumed programming as a shy introvert and have spent the last week catching up on sleep after four memorable (and intense) days of reading, listening, and absorbing everything poetry.

What I love most about QPF is the atmosphere of camaraderie and community it creates. The festival is a place where (most) people can leave their ego at the door and contribute in a positive way to our poetry community.

Below are some of my highlights from this year’s festival:

  • Ali Cobby Eckermann’s opening night speech
  • The queer representation across the awards winners and shortlists
  • Reading some new poems at the QUT Lit Salon with my fellow QUT poets: you’re all amazing! Also, the fabulous Sarah Holland-Batt telling us at our post-reading photo op that we looked like a boyband (new future aspiration)
  • The mental health and chronic illness panels/readings at the Brisbane Square Library which were full of honesty, courage, mutual respect and a sense of community
  • The Literary Cabaret: just all of it. And afterwards when I excitedly told Hera Lindsay Bird about the Friends reference in my poem and she wrote ‘how you doin’ in my copy of her book
  • The launch for Shastra Deo’s debut collection The Agonist–a truly special moment seeing a friend and brilliant poet break into the world in such an assured way
  • The Queer Lit Salon: just all of it, so much love and talent in one room! Special mention for the new poetry from Betsy Turcot–especially loved the poem that started with a line about Jenny Schecter (I won’t misquote it because my memory is rubbish)
  • The ‘Deep North’ session with Zenobia Frost, Tamryn Bennett, and Bronwyn Lea: my favourite ‘reading’ session without a doubt, especially loved Brownyn Lea’s poem ‘Australia’ and the line about avo on toast (I won’t misquote it here)
  • ‘Losing the plot: Poetry and mental health’ panel: each poet was admirably open and vulnerable about their lived experiences of mental illness and (Co-Director) David did a beautiful job in gently guiding each poet through this. This session really highlighted how important and necessary it is to not only talk about these experiences, but also to have spaces where one can feel safe enough to do so
  • ‘Viral Verse’: what a lineup! This was the last session I went to and I spent it equal parts laughing, crying laughing, and sobbing which is probably a good indicator of my mental state before, during and after the festival.
  • Spending time with friends, old, new and virtual. And having many meaningful and open conversations with fellow poets/humans about mental health, and feeling safe enough to do so.

Until next time!

Val Vallis Award Shortlisting + Reading at the QUT Literary Salon at QPF

Yesterday I found out that my poem (after) HER: dating app adventures was shortlisted for the Arts Queensland Val Vallis Award for an Unpublished Poem. I’m completely humbled and thrilled, it was such a surprise I even shed a few happy tears at my desk! This shortlisting means so much, and has come at exactly the right time. Many thanks to the judges, Arts Queensland and QPF, and congratulations to my fellow shortlistees, especially my QUT post-grad poetry group buddies Ella Jeffery (Val Vallis) and Mindy Gill (shortlisted for the Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize). Winners of all awards are announced on Thursday night, opening night for QPF, come along!

The full shortlist is below, and you can check out the shortlists for the other Arts Queensland awards here, so many brilliant poets!

VAL VALLIS AWARD FOR AN UNPUBLISHED POEM

Buying satin dresses at Yu Garden – Ella Jeffery
Quietly, on the way to Mars – Bronwyn Lovell
His Master’s Voice – Jeff Guess
The Future of Music – Laurie Keim
(after) HER dating app adventures – Rebecca Jessen

Friday 25th August – QUT Literary Salon Reading at QPF
10-11am @ IMA Screen Room – Judith Wright Centre, Fortitude Valley
free

The lovely folk at the QUT Literary Salon are having a special QPF event this year and you’re invited! I’ll be reading my shortlisted poem, and a couple of other new ones. Even better, I’ll be reading alongside fellow poets Ella Jeffery, Zenobia Frost, Emily O’Grady, Laura Kenny, Leo Porter and Sean West. And the event will be emceed by the lovely Mindy Gill and filmed by the QUT Lit Salon folks! Come along, it’s free!

QLD Poetry Festival 2017: Distant Voices

My favourite time of the year is almost upon us again! August and September in Brisbane are particularly fabulous, the weather is gorgeous and the festivals are aplenty! The Queensland Poetry Festival officially begins next Thursday 24th August and I’m beyond excited.

This year’s theme is Distant Voices and I think it couldn’t be more relevant, considering the current states of affairs, Australia and elsewhere. There is no other festival like QPF who so strongly and passionately champion the voices of the people in society who we most need to hear the voices of.

I had planned to write a post about this year’s highlights and I’ve been looking over the program and thinking about how impossible it is to mention only a few of the events at the festival. I know I say this every year, but this year’s QPF program really is the best I have seen, it is so good in fact that I am struggling to decide which sessions to go to, and seriously considering cloning myself so I can go to everything.

Annie and David (and now Carody too!) do a tremendous job of pulling it all together, and they do it with such genuine heart and passion for poetry. As a writer and reader of poetry it’s such a privilege to spend time in the company of so many likeminded people, and an opportunity to meet and catch up with poetry friends across borders. Everyone who I’ve spoken to who has been to QPF talks about the beautiful, welcoming vibe it has, it’s unlike any other writer’s festival. And, over 75% of the program is free!

I’m going to name a few personal highlights which are also must-sees, especially if, unlike me, you have a life (outside of poetry) and won’t be able to spend 4 whole days at QPF.

Thursday 24th August:
10am-5pm @ Brisbane Square Library
– A day of panels and readings by some brilliant poets sharing their experiences with mental health and chronic illness. I’m particularly looking forward to these sessions, especially those on mental health; it’s so rarely talked about in an open, honest way and yet nearly every artist I know deals with mental health issues on some level.

6-7.30pm @ Judith Wright Centre – The official opening night, including a keynote address by the QPF Indigenous Poet in Residence Ali Cobby Eckermann, the Arts Queensland Poetry Awards, the Phillip Bacon Ekphrasis Award and the Oodgeroo Indigenous Poetry Prize, as well as a feature reading by Arts Queensland Poet in Residence Courtney Sina Meredith (NZ).

Friday 25th August: @ Judith Wright Centre

11.30am-12.30pm What Even Is Contemporary OZPO? A Panel
Free event co-presented by Australian Poetry
What is the state of affairs in contemporary Australian poetry? What is a state? An affair? What is contemporary? What even is poetry? Join leading poets and editors Sarah Holland-Batt, David Musgrave and Michelle Cahill as they discuss the state of play with chair Toby Fitch.

4-5.30pm Avant Gaga Reading
Free event co-presented by Australian Poetry
Experience some of the latest experiments in poetry and performance by leading, emerging and unexpected practitioners: Lionel Fogarty, Pascalle Burton, Nathan ShepherdsonShastra Deo, Chloë Callistemon, Stuart Barnes and Vernon Ah Kee. Followed by a half-hour headline performance by Christian Bök showcasing his newest volume of poetry, The Xenotext (Book 1). Hosted by Toby Fitch.

8-10pm QPF2017 Literary Cabaret
Ticketed event $25/$15 BOOK HERE
Join an all-star cast of multi-award-winning voices from across the globe, featuring QPF2017 Indigenous Poet in Residence Ali Cobby Eckermann; acclaimed author, poet and rapper Omar Musa; National Book Award for Poetry winner and New York Times–bestselling memoirist Mark Doty (USA); one of Australia’s most innovative poets and Stella Prize–short-listed author Maxine Beneba Clarke; leading Queensland poet and recipient of the 2016 Prime Minister’s Award for Poetry Sarah Holland-Batt; viral poet and 2017 Sarah Broom Prize winner Hera Lindsay Bird (NZ); and world-renowned Tibetan musician Tenzin Choegyal.

Saturday 26th August: @ Judith Wright Centre
1-2pm Thomas Shapcott Book Launch: Shastra Deo
Free event
UQP launch Shastra Deo’s stunning debut collection, The Agonist, which won the 2016 Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize. Pretty damn excited about this one! Shasta is a friend in life and poetry and she was the runner-up of the SLQ Young Writers Award the year I won so I feel like a proud awards mum watching her go on to even greater successes. And I can tell you, you WANT to read this collection, AND come to the launch. I hear there are cupcakes too, as if you needed any convincing.

4-5pm Dog Years: Mark Doty
Ticketed event $15 BOOK HERE
‘Being human is most likely a much lonelier endeavor than being a dog.’
Mark Doty’s bestselling Dog Years is an intimate poetic memoir interwoven with profound reflections on our feelings for animals and the lessons they teach us about living, love, grief and loss. Join Mark in conversation with Felicity Plunkett as part of his QPF–exclusive first Australian visit.

10 pm-late QPF Queer Literary Salon @ Bloodhound Bar
Ticketed event $15 BOOK HERE
There are no words to express just how excited I am about this event!
Stay up late for QPF’s Queer Literary Salon, a sublime celebration of diverse and daring voices ready to take you deep into the heart of Saturday night’s fever. Join MC Ruth Gardner and a glittering line-up of poetry, prose, music and more, featuring Quinn EadesOmar SakrAdele Pickvance, Ellen van NeervenEleanor Jackson, Courtney Sina Meredith, Jackie Ryan, Betsy TurcotOfa Fanaika, Jarad Bruinstroop and Torrey Atkin.

Sunday 27th August: @ Judith Wright Centre
10-11am QPF New Voices
Free event
I love having the opportunity to listen to and watch some of the best upcoming poetry talent. Come and hear six of Queensland’s most exciting new voices: Vivienne Mohan, Grace Lucas-Pennington, Nic Addenbrooke, Rae White, Nick van Buuren and 2016 SlammED! winner Lucy Cottier.

2.30-3.30pm Losing the Plot: Poetry and Mental Health
Free event
This panel explores how mental health informs writing, the fine line between poetry and psychosis, and the power of reclaiming language from institutions. Songwriter, author (and closet poet) Justin Heazlewood aka The Bedroom Philosopher, memoirist Paula Keogh and local poet Anna Jacobson join QPF Co-Director David Stavanger to discuss the page and the pill. 

4.30-5.30pm Viral Verse
Ticketed event $15 BOOK HERE
Fusing writing, technology and pop culture, a new generation is taking poetry beyond the bookstore. Join three leading lights of the online and social media poetry revolution as they read for you live beyond the screen: Button Poetry’s Co-Founder Sierra De Mulder (USA), award-winning and bestselling NZ poet Hera Lindsay Bird, and acclaimed USA author Patricia Lockwood, dubbed ‘the poet Laureate of Twitter’.


Okay, so that’s a wrap of my very limited highlights/must-see suggestions for this year’s QPF. It’s almost painful to only mention a few sessions, but make sure you click through to the full program and see for yourself the amazing quality and variety of sessions on offer. See you at the festival!

‘Hello Dolly’ now online at Verity La

The lovely people at Verity La have published my memoir ‘Hello Dolly’ which is about dealing with grief and the eccentricities of family. You can read it in full here. Like Tincture Journal, Verity La publish challenging, courageous, and thoughtful writing by a diverse range of emerging and established writers. So while you’re there have a look around and read some of the other brilliant work on the website.

 

‘Some Days’ now online in Tincture Journal

The lovely people at Tincture Journal have made my poem ‘Some Days’ (published in issue #17) available for free online for your reading pleasure. Read it in full here and while you’re there, read some of the other free content available. And then subscribe, not that you will need any convincing.

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