It is at once an ordinary and extraordinary Sunday. I am at home in Toowoomba with my girlfriend, and most of the daylight hours are spent assembling an IKEA flat pack bed. A task not to be underestimated. There are sore muscles and coffee cravings by the afternoon. There is a much-needed trip to a café, two mocha frappucinos and a triple choc muffin. Then there are Mum’s missed calls, the text, the urgency of them that makes me afraid to pick up the phone. The feeling that something bad has happened, the feeling that I can’t find out what, not here, in this ordinary café in an ordinary town on an ordinary Sunday afternoon.
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We’re All Going On A Summer Holiday
The Lifted Brow #33
agreeing on a holiday destination with your mother takes four days and twenty-eight phone calls.
what do you mean you’re not coming to visit for Christmas? don’t you know what that means to me? I raised you. I should get to see you on Christmas Day. it’s only fair.
what do you mean you’re not going to stay at my house? your sister is giving you her bedroom. are you ashamed of my house is that it?
what do you mean you want a hotel near the beach? you know the kids don’t like swimming at the beach. just because your girlfriend likes the beach. we have to do what everyone wants not just one person.
do you want the hotel with the pool view or the hotel by the beach? I need a balcony so I can smoke. if we’re near the shops your sister will run my credit card dry. are you going to pay for that?
okay if we get the hotel by the beach they can only give me the upstairs room. will you swap rooms with me? can you let your sister sleep in your room? well if you have the downstairs room you’ll have to have the inflatable rowboats in there. I’m too old to be carrying rowboats up and down stairs.
check-in is at one. we’ll be there at one. what time will you be there? are you ashamed to check-in at the same time as your mother?
Tincture Journal #17
it’s like the sun never sets here. endless horizons scarred pink. home is a big screen TV and a three-tier cat scratcher. Mum is always on high terror alert…
The Small Violences
Overland Literary Journal
What happens when you live in an extremely conservative, right-wing town with no visible queer community? You find yourself sitting in the car with your girlfriend at a set of lights reading the bumper sticker on the car in front: ‘Marriage is God’s idea not Man’s’. This sets the tone for the rest of your day.
Read the full article online here.
Why Do We Close The Door On Domestic Violence?
in Hecate Journal #41.1 & 2
It’s a Monday evening, the sky is gracefully passing through its twilight phase and I’ve spent the last hour in the kitchen, baking melting moments. My girlfriend comes out of the study, exhausted from marking, just as I’m taking the cookies out of the oven.
‘Gilmore hour?’ she says with a question mark, but it’s more of a suggestion.
‘Definitely,’ I reply.
We settle on to the couch for our nightly pre-dinner ritual; a Gilmore Girls re-run. We are nearing the end of the last season. We don’t talk about how we will fill this hour when the series finishes.
Five, maybe ten minutes into the episode, we hear shouting coming from outside the house. We look at each other, shrug and continue watching. The shouting continues, gets louder, closer. My girlfriend pauses the episode and we can hear better now. A man is shouting, and then, a woman. My girlfriend walks to the front door and opens it.
To read the full piece you will have to buy a copy of the latest issue of Hecate.
sometime around midnight
in Going Down Swinging #37
fear of licking stamps in public. humidity that sticks to your lungs. curdled caramel. anxiety that tugs at you in your sleep. paranoia so strong you think your neighbour stole the stain remover…
To read the rest you will have to buy a copy of the latest issue of Going Down Swinging.
The Art of Breaking
in The Lifted Brow #30
Bec Jessen @randomshypoet – Dec 30
On my way to the airport. Letter from my psychologist tucked into notebook. #coping
Bec Jessen @randomshypoet – Dec 30
Landed in Sydney. Catching the train west. Letter from psychologist tells me to consult my ‘Fun Activities Catalogue’ daily to help my mood.
Bec Jessen @randomshypoet – Dec 30
My first ‘fun activity’ while visiting my family will be #179 Thinking I’m a person who can cope…
field officer no. 302
in Tincture Journal Issue 13
“the suburban dream is a kookaburra perched on your wheelie bin. streets with the house numbers painted in neat squares on the kerb. letters to the postie scrawled in black texta on metal letterboxes. it’s never too late to be who you might have been.”
To read the rest of this poem buy a copy of Tincture Journal Issue 13, or subscribe here.
in Tincture Journal Issue 12
People told us the position of our house in the street was bad luck. Bad feng shui. If you believed in that stuff. Mum believed in a lot of things back then, but feng shui wasn’t one of them. Our house sat at the bottom of an intersecting street. Speeding cars could plough right through our house and our lives, then come out the other side, unaware of the splintered contents left within.
Mum reminds me of this fact later, as if it was evidence of our inherent bad luck. She’s good like that. Always filing away seemingly useless information until its purpose becomes apparent. Usually mid-conversation, mid-drag on her cigarette.
Support a great magazine and buy Issue 12 to read the rest of this piece
Our Version Of Events
in Spike: the Meanjin blog
I’m at the airport in Brisbane, on my way to Melbourne for a writing event when Mum calls.
‘So that’s why you wouldn’t tell me the subject of your next book,’ she says right away.
Her tone tells me she’s seen the video my girlfriend shared on Facebook.
‘What do you mean?’ I say, trying to put off the inevitable.
‘You’re writing about your life growing up here. About your family.’
‘Yeah. That’s part of it.’
‘And when were you planning to tell me about this? It’s all over the internet so I’m the last to know as usual. Does your father know too?’
I can’t think of a response that doesn’t sound like I’ve been trying to hide the subject of my next book from her, so I say nothing…
Read the rest of this piece here
What I Talk About When I Talk About Helicopters
in Cordite: Issue 51.1: Umami
the moth that beats itself to death against the chandelier dies an unheroic death in the corner of the study. heroic is listening to Jeff Buckley on repeat and not getting in the car to drive. repeating your sentences because your head is all messed up and you don’t recall where you end and the madness begins…
Read the rest of this poem here.
something beneath, behind, or within
recorded as part of the Brisbane Poetry Map
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…
The Value Of Prizes
in The Victorian Writer June 2015 Issue:
‘The Writer’s Toolkit’
As an aspiring writer, the thought of publishing your first book can often seem like a faraway dream – something that you’ve spent years thinking about, but in reality, have little idea of how to actually achieve. This is where unpublished manuscript prizes come in. Winning or even being shortlisted for an unpublished manuscript prize is a sure-fire way to catapult you straight into the ‘keep an eye out for this writer’ category….
The Late September Dogs
in Issue 17 of Mascara Literary Review
low mist hanging off a high mountain. driving cars worth more than your self esteem. a twenty-nine dollar tax return that feels both like a gift and a joke.waiting two hours for five minutes. leaving with your fifth K10 questionnaire in as many years. hopelessness is always high. nervousness is mostly circumstantial…
You can read the rest of this piece here
Overcoming Second Novel Syndrome
in Writing Queensland (WQ) #248 March-May 2015
In early June last year, I met my publisher for coffee at a café in Paddington. I’d just come back from speaking at the Emerging Writers Festival in Melbourne. While I was gone, my debut verse novel Gap had come hot off the press into my publisher’s hands. It was finally handover day.
One of the best feelings you’ll ever experience as an author is when you hold your published book in your hands for the first time. I don’t think that feeling will ever get less special. Something that you spent hours, weeks, months, possibly years, working on and there it finally is, a real book with your name on it. I didn’t have long to get caught up in the romance of that feeling, however, as my publisher quickly brought me back to reality.
The Family Files
published by Verity La
We lived at the end of the magic mile, bordering a dense forest of trees; if you ended up at the Sizzler, you’d gone too far. Lansdowne Caravan Park was a refuge for all the kinds of people you’d expect to find in such a place. There were a lot of people like us, poor families with parents that always fought and kids that terrorised the streets, single dads with five o’clock shadows and unhappy dispositions. Of course, at the time, I never thought of us as being any worse off than anyone else. We’d moved from Army housing to a tiny two bedroom tin caravan. When my Mum met him, my stepdad was living in a caravan in his mother’s backyard; this wasn’t so different, except he had a family now. The caravan park was huge, with heaps of space to ride our bikes, until they got stolen, and even a swimming pool and games room. It was like being on a permanent holiday, only, it wasn’t the kind of place you’d take your kids on holiday, not if you could help it.
You can read the rest of the piece on Verity La’s website here
The Influence of Dorothy Porter in Gap
on the Readings blog
I recently wrote an article for the Readings blog about the influence of Dorothy Porter on my verse novel Gap.
My first encounter with the work of late Australian poet Dorothy Porter was in mid 2011 in a second-hand bookshop in Newtown, Sydney. I picked up a copy of The Monkey’s Mask, intrigued by the two naked female bodies splayed across the cover. There’s something special about encountering an author’s work for the first time, especially one of Porter’s calibre…
You can read the full article here
published by University of Queensland Press
Gap, UQP ($22.95)
When you’re at the end of the line with nowhere to turn – how far would you go to protect the one you love?
A man is found dead in an inner-city suburb, a police officer walks the blurry line between duty and loyalty, and a young woman from the wrong side of the tracks is on the run. Ana soon becomes a suspect in the murder investigation and as sole carer for her young sister is desperately trying to stay ahead of the law. In a surprising twist, the detective in charge of the case is no stranger and Ana is forced to face her past and the things she has left behind. Unsure of who she can trust and isolated by her crime, Ana is drawn into a passionate affair that breaks all the rules.
From the winner of the 2013 Queensland Literary Awards – Best Emerging Author category, Gap combines a gripping crime thriller with a style evocative of Dorothy Porter’s cult classic, The Monkey’s Mask.
‘This warm, spare novel is a powerful reminder of how young people can fall through the gaps, alone and unseen. Jessen’s story moves at a crackling pace. You will not want to put it down, and when you do, you’ll want to read it all over again.’ Lisa Jacobson, author of The Sunlit Zone
Gap is available for purchase from all good bookstores and online through several outlets including Readings and Avid Reader. For the digitally inclined, Gap can also be purchased as an ebook through all the main channels.
published by Scum Mag as part of the 2am Series
Two am passion
in the night
that I learn
submerged in the
To read the rest of the poem click here
in The Lifted Brow #22
I know now, there are some songs I will never listen to again. I’ve spent the afternoon at the beach, fighting waves of nausea, and the relentless urge to swim out and not return.
This morning I attempted to break up with my girlfriend of six years, but she refused to take me seriously because I’ve started on new antidepressants. I convinced her to let me go for a drive to clear my head. When I left I was calm and smiling.
“I’ll be okay,” I assured her repeatedly. “When I come back we’ll sort it out.”
I reversed the car out of the garage and even blew a kiss goodbye.
It’s Saturday. The roads are sparse and good music is playing on the radio. I drive to the beach. It is not a proper beach in the traditional sense. There are no lifeguards. There is however, a vast body of water that stretches to the horizon and beyond.
in Voiceworks #91 ‘Equals’
I sit on a patch of grass overlooking the river, waiting for my girlfriend to finish work. I watch the ferries pass over the water and run my palm over the grass, like it might be that easy for me too. My psychologist told me to try and be near water for its calming effect. My girlfriend and I are going out for burgers and then an event at her work. It should be an easy night but there’s something about that which makes it hard.
I’m trying to start reading a new book but there’s a bug flitting around my face and I feel it constantly biting my wrist. I’ve been trying to challenge the thoughts I’ve been having about people I don’t know passing judgment on me, but I can’t and I want to get up and find a spot where the bugs aren’t biting but the problem is that I’m terrified of looking unsure. Eventually my girlfriend comes along and saves me before I can make some comment about how my psychologist told me water was calming but all I felt was an uprising.
Purchase a copy and read more here
Into the Groove
in Stilts Issue Two: legs like shotgun barrels
When I was young my hair was always a mess. My mother often referred to it as a bird’s nest and occasionally, if she were really annoyed, she called it a rat’s nest. At the time I never thought about whether or not rats even had nests, I just knew she was right. I was a restless child and out of restlessness I spent a lot of my free time twirling my hair around my finger.
Every so often my mother would pull me aside, sometimes after school or just before bed.
‘Rebecca,’ she’d say, ‘if you don’t start brushing your hair I’ll take you to the hairdressers and get them to cut it all off.’
She’d grab a big knot in my hair. ‘Look at this!’
I was five when the threats started, and as a five year old, the idea of a girl with short hair made little sense.
I dreaded going to the hairdresser more than most kids feared the doctor or the dentist. I thought about buzz cuts and bowl cuts and the big silver scissors clipping up around my ears. My mother would stand next to the hairdresser and I imagined her saying, ‘Give her an undercut like her brother, that’ll teach her’.
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in Issue 3 of Rex
The women in my family have a history of slippery father figures. I’m the only one left with a father now, and the thought of it has always been so elusive I never thought to state the fact. Memory is slippery too, and if our fathers aren’t here to tell us stories, then we have to imagine them ourselves.
My father is pushing me on the swing and I want to tell him, too high Dad, tell him I’m falling or flying, or both. He visits on weekends and takes me out of the caravan park, to the swings next to the bridge. Sometimes, my brother comes too, but most of the time it’s just us. I want to tell my father, I want to get down, but he’s so far away when I’m flying. His hands slip a little with every push, and for those few seconds, I’m alone.
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won the 2012 State Library of Queensland Young Writers Award
Looking on the streets
for the hangers-on
who’s lurking round these parts
seen me leave his house
round the back
pale and sweaty
what have I done?
Walk the twenty minutes home
from his to mine
these paths I remember
all too well
happy for the busted streetlights
done with the letters
keep the lights out.
Didn’t mean to do it
now I’ve wasted
years of getting back
now I’ll spend years
getting over it
it was the only way
he made threats
on your life
my kid sister
caught up in
my mess again
not too different
to mum after all.
Read more here