I started writing this as a Facebook post and then I thought to myself that this deserves a blog post because last night, my Melbourne launch of Just Give Me The Pills, was just – wow. Probably in terms of my career, last night was one of the most powerful nights of my life. It was unexpected that it was so, it almost felt accidental, like all these things came together in this precise way to make it so, but I was the one who made the night happen, so I guess it was not.
I started with my best friend in the world Amy Bodossian hosting and being her beautiful, vulnerable, wacky self that I love and adore. Then Emilie Collyer launches my book with a speech that was also like a review of my book and all I kept thinking was “she gets it, she understands the book” and it got me thinking about how male reviewers and female reviewers are SO different in their interpretation of my work and it is the women who always just nail it. When she read my poem ‘backyard flood’, a reconciliation moment with my family (this is the first part of the poem…)
I have wanted the heaven to open all my life
and they did thirty-two years later
Christmas Day at Mum and Dad’s
Hail the size of lemons on the tree
Sheltered by the havoc we knew was due
We all stood on the veranda
Watched in amazement the desecration…
an image came to my mind of my family on the veranda, which happened many years ago, and I thought to myself that because I was brave enough to put my story to the page, my family and our moment, our image is going to remain timeliness, long after I too have passed, and it was in that moment that I felt the power of what I had done, the power of my book, Just Give Me The Pills, that not only will I help other women to be empowered, or people who are in marriages (or situations) where their self-worth is ten feet underground, but this image of my family will be immortal.
And then there was the women! The other performers! I wanted my book launch not to be just a celebration of my book, but I wanted to move the focus away from it being me performing my poetry but to bring poets and singers from migrant backgrounds (ones that inspired me) so together we could make a collective ‘sound’, a collective ‘call’, a collective ‘statement’, that we are women, our families migrated here, and we have a voice. I asked them all to interpret the metaphor ‘just give me the pills’ in any way they liked, and what they came up with was so powerful that by the end of the night when it was my turn to perform I struggled. I thought to myself I don’t know if I’m going to be able to perform! Many of these poets had written their pieces because I had invited them to be a part of my event and what they came up with blew my mind. And to think that I had inspired it! I had been the trigger! This is art.
Kylie Supski’s poem of dabbling outside the margins of normal, Tariro Movondo’s piece about her mother’s struggle as a single mother raising her children as a women of African diaspora, Pascal Latra (accompanied by Jacob Papadopoulos) interpreting the stories of my heritage through Greek blues music and transporting us all to Greece, Misbah Wolf (accompanied by Nick Wolf) and her song about depression called ‘the bell jar’, Angela Costi’s poem about her work as a front line worker helping women in abusive relationships and Amanda Anastasi’s poem about her memories of growing up in multicultural suburbia – all of this poetry together had me thinking beyond my book launch. There is an absence of this collective voice in the arts. Maybe my book launch has inspired me into a different kind of venture! All I could think was I need to bring these women together again, or this idea – women from migrant backgrounds.
Despite this I did perform, and my heart was so overfilled with respect, admiration, love, support, inspiration for not only these women but for the people who came to the event to make it the special and unforgettable night it was. Thank you to all who made it so. x
All images in this post Brendan Bonsack. Thank you to the Greek Community of Melbourne and Victoria for supporting the event. Thank you to my editors Les Zigomanis, Maurice Mcnamara and David Cameron. Thank you to Outside The Box Press.