New Writing in 2018

This year has gotten off to an incredible, and incredibly strange, start. I spent January and February doing my first international residency in Santa Fe, New Mexico. While there I wrote many new poems, revised old ones, and put the finishing touches on my second collection of poetry, The Lost Arabs. Four poems from this collection, including the title work, have been accepted by Prairie Schooner and will be appearing in the forthcoming spring issue. I wrote 15,000 words of a novel, and threw them away. I have started again and I’m pretty pleased with the new work, the new idea, the new structure. Sometimes you need to run for a while in the wrong direction in order to get to where you need to be. I then wrote an essay on art and diversity for The Saturday Paper, which has as its basis an experience from Santa Fe, and followed it with a profile of one of the artists I met at the residency, a brilliant man and new friend: Ato Ribeiro.

It is now March, and after a 21hr train trip, I am in Coronado, San Diego. The high dry harshness of New Mexico seems a distant dream in this warm green place. I had no idea how much I missed the sea until I got here, saw it again, and took my first deep breath in two months. I need bodies of water in my life. I felt constrained to the point of distortion in Santa Fe and it is only now I have been able to fully relax, to rest and replenish. Yesterday I had three new poems published in Ibis House, and today I have another in Underblong. It’s strange how you can go six months without a new poem in the world and suddenly have four appear in two days. I have an essay coming out in Meanjin this month, and I’m working on a short story which has been commissioned for an anthology, while waiting for word of another anthology I have a story in to come out. I have a reading in New York in two weeks, and festival appearances back home in the months to come. I’ve also been invited to a poetry festival in Lithuania later this year.

Meanwhile, I’m also co-ordinating and commissioning new work in my capacity as the poetry editor of The Lifted Brow. (On that note, look out for poems from Eileen Chong, Zeina Hashem Beck, and Sumudu¬†Samarawickrama in our forthcoming issue.) There are two things dominating my thoughts at the moment: 1) I somehow feel as if I haven’t done enough, not in these past two months nor in life and 2) I’m not sure when it happened exactly, but I am living the dream I had as a sad lonely queer boy. It’s not exact, of course, dreams change in their execution, but it’s pretty damn close. At some point soon, this dream run will come to a halt. It must. I have been able to write so much and to focus on my writing career because I am one of the lucky few to receive an Australia Council of the Arts grant in support of my novel. One success lends itself to another, and so, it becomes easier and easier to create a self-perpetuating cycle of grants, publications, residencies, etc. I have to admit that I kind of hate it.

I hate the precariousness of the network, I hate knowing how many other artists are missing out, I hate that even in the middle of one extraordinary opportunity, I am unable to savour it, instead looking to the next application, the next gig, the next whatever. I work hard to make this madness work for me, and I know that I should be able to enjoy the fruits of my labour, that I am deserving, but I also think privilege of any kind–whether self-made or granted by race, gender, class, sexuality–is insidious in justifying itself to the exclusion of others. I don’t want to be stuck in this cycle forever, even if it means I am able to put out more writing, more of the literature I think is necessary for survival, than if I existed outside it. All of which is to say I am looking forward to getting a job that isn’t writing as soon as is humanly possible. I want to make use of the infrastructure around me when I have need of it, not simply because I can. So far, that’s how I have been operating. I guess I am just writing this out as an affirmation, a reminder, because I’ve seen so many white artists simply suck up opportunities out of want and not need, without ever agonising over the ethics of their decision.

Anyway. That’s what I’ve been up to so far this year; I hope y’all like what I’m putting out into the world. I cannot wait to get home and hold my loved ones in my arms again. One thing I can tell you from within a dream-made-reality is that no amount of success can ever come close to making you as happy as the people you love, and who love you in turn.


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