Rebecca Jessen


September 2015

Queensland Literary Awards Shortlist

Last Friday the shortlists for the 2015 Queensland Literary Awards were announced and there are some exciting names among the mix. I’m thrilled to have been included on the shortlist for the Queensland Premier’s Young Publishers and Writers Award. Upon seeing the shortlist for the first time I felt a mix of honour and terror. Queensland has some amazing emerging (and established) writers and it’s an absolute honour to be included among some of them. The other shortlistees for the award are: Andrew McMillen, Megan McGrath, Michelle Law, and Sam George-Allen. You can find out more about each of these amazing writers here

I want to give a special shoutout to my writing friend Kathy George (also known as KW George) for her shortlisting for the Emerging Queensland Writer – Manuscript Award for her novel Sargasso. I’ve been lucky enough to have read Sargasso twice now. Both times I was completely haunted by and immersed in the world Kathy had created. The first time I read the manuscript I listened to this song a lot and whenever I hear it now I can’t help but think of Sargasso. This is Kathy’s website where she blogs about all things writing and reading, and it’s definitely worth a look.

Back in 2013 I won the Emerging Queensland Author Award for my verse-novel Gap so I know how exciting and consuming the experience of being shortlisted can be. I wish I had found some strategies to deal with that strange mix of excitement and anxiety – but I knew that things were going up from that point on and I tried to remind myself of that when I was becoming particularly obsessed with it all. The Emerging and Unaipon are both special awards and so important to continuing to discover and celebrate new Queensland writers and voices.

You can find all of the shortlists for this year’s Queensland Literary Awards here. The winners will be announced at a ceremony on October 9.


Brisbane Poetry Map

Recently I had the pleasure of being involved in the Brisbane Poetry Map which is a project curated by the good folk at the Queensland Poetry Festival.

This is taken from the website: ‘Brisbane Poetry Map (BPM) was borne of a long-standing desire of Queensland Poetry Festival (QPF) to poetically map this city for all to hear it with new ears.  Inspired in part by the Melbourne Poetry Map project, funding was then successfully sought from Copyright Agency and Brisbane City Council, enabling the creation of Brisbane’s first digital poetry map.

BPM showcases five specially curated poetic trails, each containing site-specific recordings of some of Brisbane’s finest established and emerging voices. In selecting both the trails and the writers, we felt it was important to spotlight the diversity of lives that underpin this city as well as allowing the poets to create their own impressions of place. The result is a map that illuminates both beauty and change in Brisbane, a survey of what lies within its streets and river beyond the edges of a map.’

The five curated poetic trails are: South Bank; Fortitude Valley; Brisbane City; Kangaroo Point and Kurilpa (West End). You can read more about each of these specific trails here. The project boasts a wide array of established and emerging Brisbane poets including Pascalle Burton, Sam Wagan Watson, Bronwyn Lea, Eleanor Jackson and many many more. The map and the poetic trails can be accessed here.

The site I was assigned was Raymond Park West (Air Raid Shelter). This seemed a serendipitous assignment as I used to live just across the road from the park, and so, many memories good and bad are tied up with it. The process of visiting the site and recording my notes and thoughts was both pleasurable and revealing. There is something to be said about immersing yourself in a place and responding creatively to it. What resulted is my poem: somewhere beneath, behind, or within. I’ve posted the poem below for those who wish to read it, of course I would encourage you to get out of the house and take one or all of the walks, mobile device and headphones in hand. This is a wonderful project and the result is an embarrassment of poetic riches awaiting your ears.

somewhere beneath, behind, or within

it happens like this. you have stepped back five years. to a place that looks the same but feels different. or is it you that is different. some things never change. the whispering echo of life rushing by. passenger planes grazing the sub/urban skyline in the distance. the murmuring of water. of life. mid-winter Brisbane is an illusion. cold air brings up the damp. sherbet bomb horizons remind you of time not misspent. the Pineapple Hotel lit up and searching. punters get punch drunk and comment on the scenery. if you look forward you will see what it is you have missed. don’t look back. there’s nothing there for you.

it happens like this. happy hour is a view of your kids from the balcony. it is finally finding a place where you can both play footy and watch it on TV. bare branches that yearn for the clouds. a woman who walks up and down the footpath. never stopping. only turning. the same woman. later. searching the road beneath her feet. looking at the spaces between cars. fretting at the skin between her fingers. waiting for something to happen that never does.

it happens like this. the colours change. the cold air that refreshed you now chills. the damp rising from the earth penetrates your senses. uninvited. far before your time this place was something resembling shelter. a world that you’ve only read about. but never imagined. now the paint is faded. the concrete slab is worn away by wind and rain. and time. there’s always time. the weightless footprints. imagine how many have come before you. imagine if this had been your only hope.

it happens like this. you can be both in a place and completely removed from it. you can find yourself standing in the very same spot. five years later. remarkably different. you will find yourself here again. after sunset. before dark. you will think you have missed the most beautiful part of the day. because you haven’t seen it coming.

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