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Becoming South Australian

It’s been a busy week here in Adelaide, where my partner and I have moved for six months – a dose of transitional urbanisation before we head to Beijing (for her work) at the end of July. All of the festivals descend on the city at once in February/March, and it’s wonderful to see the bewilderment as racing car enthusiasts, Fringe performers, Writers Week audiences, and the Skywhale cross paths. Most of my week has been swallowed by the wonderful Adelaide Writers’ Week. It’s been a great festival so far, meticulously planned and with lots of interesting discussions. Plus a comics stream for the first time! I managed to meet one of my heroes, Alison Bechdel, who spoke very generously about her process and has made me want to pursue comics seriously again, which is something I’ve been thinking about for a while (but have been coy about admitting).

In fact I have a drawing or two in this book Fluid Prejudice which Sam Wallman has put together, a great range of voices writing on the very contested spaces of Australian history. I’m thrilled to bits to be in it, as it’s my first ‘proper’ comics publication, and contains many excellent artists.

The Festival Awards were presented on Saturday, and I was very pleased to be the recipient of the 2014 Barbara Hanrahan Fellowship for South Australian writers. I am officially South Australian! (Does this mean it’s time to become a Beijinger?) It’s been nice to be in company with Barbara, as we share a publisher, and almost a neighbourhood, though many years apart. Her presence is still felt here in Adelaide. There is also an additional affinity, in that I’ve recently taken up woodcut printmaking:

pomegranate print

/pomegranate print/

Mostly I’ve been doing it in my own style, using this DIY press I made from my bottle capper:

bottletop press

/bottletop press/

… and a lot of trial and error. But I’ve found the excellent folks at Tooth and Nail, and I’ll be going to a wood engraving workshop with visiting artist David Frazer on Saturday. In this strange lull between finishing a book and getting it out into the world it feels very good to be cheating on literature by fooling around with the visual arts. Lower stakes, happier process. I’ll try and remember that for the books.

Postscript, 6 March 2014:
I forgot to mention that my essay On Quitting Poetry, published in Meanjin, is now online. It’s been generating some interesting responses!