A constructed found poem

“I can’t stand these people who stand at the corner and start yelling at you about what your views are on a very personal issue, just get out of my face, leave me alone, I will make the decision up myself.”
— Barnaby Joyce, comment on the campaign for marriage equality

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Photograph: James Gourley/AAP

Papa, I know you’re going to be upset
This is not a reflection of a civilised society

I was always your little girl
Boy, you caused some problems

But you should know by now
I know a little about a lot

I’m not a baby
I’m the adult here

You always taught me right from wrong
When you’re going to be shouted down is when you’ve got to speak…

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Last night, the Miles Franklin Literary Award — created to celebrate “a novel which is of the highest literary merit and presents Australian life in any of its phases” — was awarded to Melissa Lucashenko’s Too Much Lip. This is a fantastic, and well-deserved, recognition of Lucashenko’s work, and I’m eagerly anticipating a slew of new readers discovering her in “award winner” book shop window displays. But, I must admit: I was surprised by the announcement that Too Much Lip had won.

Pleasantly so, but surprised nonetheless.

Not because Lucashenko is an Indigenous woman — always a dangerous proposition in contention for an award that has historically been very male and very white (though it must be said that the Miles Franklin has made great strides on that front in recent years, with increasingly diverse shortlists and winners). …

A Constructed Found Poem

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Thank you, friends. Thank you, friends.
Canberra shivers through coldest May day in 19 years.
I have always believed in miracles.
Nation’s most influential pollster can’t explain election disaster.
How good is Australia?
Australia is undermining the freedom of its press.
And how good are Australians?
Australia’s wealthiest have become 50 times richer in my lifetime.
This is the best country in the world.

When you’re in your retirement you can enjoy it, because you’ve worked hard for it.
Aged care in regions a ‘death sentence’, as royal commission told of neglect and isolation.
These are the quiet Australians, who have won a great victory tonight.
Manus Island in ‘unprecedented crisis’ as refugee self-harm surges after Australian election.

“Well done! Sister Suffragette!”

That song has been stuck in my head for over a month. It started on 10 April, when Prime Minister Scott Morrison told the barrels of the patient news cameras (flanked, in a remarkable show of restraint, by just two Australian flags) that the Governor General had accepted his advice for a federal election to be held on 18 May.

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Recipe for an Australian federal election: mix two cups of greyscale attack ads with one cup of high-vis photo ops. Add a sprinkle of non-recyclable pamphlets, a couple of kisses on a crying baby’s head, and bake for five weeks in the firey oven of the electorate’s indifference. Garnish with a garland of questionable preference deals. It’s my favourite dish, but I only get to have it once every three years. …

All the major players as characters from Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom (1992).

Strictly Ballroom was one of the iconic films of my Australian childhood. I half-heartedly pestered my parents to pay for ballroom dancing lessons for years after I first saw it as a six-year-old. Alas, my dancing career never took off, but for better or worse I am intimately familiar with the foils and foibles of Scott’s preparations in the lead up to the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix Dancing Championship.

Now, the 2019 Australian federal election is a mess. We’ve got scandals and gaffes and lies and attack ads — so. many. attack. ads. — and press conferences and hard hats and all the rest of it, dialled up to eleven for this extra-long run up to the polls. So, I’ve taken it upon myself to provide all fellow ’90s kids and Australian cinema fans with this extremely niche break-down: the major players of the election, explained through their Strictly Ballroom characters. …

More than you’d think, so use them wisely.

My grandmother has late-stage age-related macular degeneration. She knows full well the value of her eyeballs, having almost entirely lost the use of them. What was once her field of vision is now a sucking black hole, everything she picks up in her periphery pulled down into its swirling vortex. She wears a badge, pinned to the chest of her knitted cardigan, alerting everyone she encounters to the fact she has low vision. She wears dark glasses. Whenever the subject comes up (often) she reminds me, in stern tones: take care of your eyes, Sheree.

And I say: I do, Gran. But I don’t tell her it’s probably not in the way that she’s imagining. …

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It took me an embarrassingly long time to get on Goodreads. The platform has been around since 2006, and I’ve been reading books nearly twice that long. It boasts 25 million members, all booklovers flocking to a platform designed specially for them, and yet until this year I wasn’t one of them. Now that I’m there, I really don’t have any idea what the heck I’m doing.

See, for me, there’s one Really Big Difference between reviewing books on my blog and submitting reviews on Goodreads. Of course, the platform is different and the audience is different and all of that, but it’s not those differences that worry me. What makes me nervous is assigning star ratings for books. One star, two stars, three stars… it’s effectively mandatory for Goodreads users. (Don’t believe me? …

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This morning, I read this Guardian article about Geraldine McCaughrean’s acceptance speech for the CILIP Carnegie medal (which she won for her historical adventure novel, Where The World Ends).

She used her winner’s speech to attack publishers’ fixation on accessible language, which she called “a euphemism for something desperate”… she warned publishers would “deliberately and wantonly create an underclass of citizens with a small but functional vocabulary: easy to manipulate and lacking in the means to reason their way out of subjugation, because you need words to be able to think for yourself. [emphasis mine]

Basically, she called out publishers of children’s books for dumbing down literature. She told the Guardian that a U.S. publisher had recently rejected one of her books for being “too difficult for children”, using words (specifically, “gallimaufry”) that were beyond their target market’s level of comprehension. …

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If you read, or you’re on The Internet, or both, you’ll have heard the refrain: print books are dead. eBooks now account for a quarter of all sales worldwide (or more, according to some estimates). There were over 260 million eBooks sold in 2017, across the various platforms. Nearly fifty percent of readers report either reading about as many eBooks as they do print books, or more eBooks than they do print books, every year. Libraries cater for this growing market now, offering both eBooks and the devices that support them, on loan to all members for free. So, even though book publishing rates have exploded across the world, much of this reported increase is attributable to eBook publication (the majority of these being self-published efforts, rather than those released by the major publishing houses), and physical book sales are declining. I mean, aren’t they? The average print book has a less than 1% chance of being stocked in bookstores. Print books are dead. …

Yesterday I got my period.

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Yay me, right? Not pregnant, still fertile, happy days. I walked into a chemist, I bought a two-pack of my preferred tampons, and the slightly-bashful male pharmacist wished me a good evening.

That two-pack (sixteen tampons all up) cost me $6.50*.

I include the asterisk, because in Australia the cost of that two-pack includes the Goods and Services Tax. Yep, the good ol’ GST. That tax that isn’t applicable to basic food and medical supplies. The same one that isn’t applicable to religious services, or precious metals. …


Sheree Strange

Just another millennial who quit a corporate job to chase the dream | Blogging about literature at www.keepingupwiththepenguins.com

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