Tag Archives: Alexandra Christie

Journal Catch-up 16

I’m perpetually behind in my journal reading. Let’s see if my new approach of focusing on page 75 works for journals as well as for books.


Alexandra Christie (editor), Heat Series 3 Nº 4 (Giramondo 2022)

I’m glad Heat is back, and I love the slender elegance of Series 3, but this issue didn’t thrill me. More than the three previous issues, it feels like a sampler: a selection of pieces that are short enough not to be a bother if not to your taste, but to make you want more if they are.

I’m sorry to say that most of them weren’t to my taste this time. In the show-me-more category were:

  • Nine pages of gorgeous photographs from the series ‘Trees and Fences’ by Yanni Florence 
  • Four poems by each of Ella Jeffery and Ella Skilbeck-Porter
  • Amy Leach’s celebration of the unpredictable, ‘Amen to Nonsense’, which is available online.

Page 75 falls part way into the Amy Leach piece. On this page the writer is imagining that the present moment is already in the distant past:

Presidents had succeeded presidents, screeds had succeeded screeds, people trying their damnedest had given way to other people trying their damnedest. Some things are up for grabs, like jobs and dollars and votes, and are worth trying one’s damnedest for, and some things are not, like time and the moon and the stars. The Bible was always saying to ‘lift up your eyes’, maybe because when we lifted our eyes we remembered that not everything was up for grabs. (When they named ages they usually named them after grabbable things, like iron, stone, bronze, information, etc., not ungrabbable things like the moon and the stars.)

This interplay of whimsy and metaphysics moves on to musings on reincarnation, the importance of the notes not played in music, astronomy, and more, arriving at a reformulation of Keats: ‘”Beauty is Nonsense, Nonsense beauty.”– that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’ It’s fun and thought-provoking. Sadly, it’s followed by several pages of, well, tediously quirky Glossary. It did leave me wondering about Heat‘s editorial policy: assuming that there are plenty of Australians writing essays at least as interesting as this, why give valuable space to someone with no perceivable Australian connection, whose work, according to her brief bio, is already available in Best American Essays and similar places? Having said that, I’m looking forward to the article by the German writer Jenny Erpenbeck in issue Nº 5.


Evelyn Araluen and Jonathan Dunk (editors), Overland 246 (Autumn 2022)
(Much of the content is online at overland.org.au, and I’ve included links)

The lead essay in this Overland is ‘That’s what drives us to fight’: labour, wilderness and the environment in Australia‘ by Jeff Sparrow. It’s a solid, possibly old-fashioned Marxist account of the relationship between settlers and First Nations people in Australia. It starts with the way some environmentalist rhetoric about preserving ‘wilderness’ erases First Nations history and the resulting question, ‘How can we defend the natural world, while still recognising Indigenous history?’ and proceeds to a discussion of the frontier wars that I can’t recommend strongly enough as a supplement to Rachel Perkins’s epochal television series, The Australian Wars.

There’s a lot else, including two short stories: ‘Home sweet slaughterhouse‘ a interesting take by Greg Page on the defacement of colonial statuary; and ‘New face in the fight against poverty‘ a futuristic satire of brand philanthropy by Andy McQuestin.

Page 75 is the tail end of a 13-page section given over to competition results. The section begins with ‘The labeller‘ by Saraid Taylor, a story of unprincipled opportunism in elite sports, which won the Neilma Sidney Short Story Prize. (The runners-up are on the Overland web site, here and here.) The Judith Wright Poetry Prize 2021 follows, first with the generous and lucid Judges Report by Toby Fitch, Keri Glastonbury and Grace Yee, then the winner, an excellent prose poem by Ender Baskan titled ‘are you ready poem’, and the two runners-up, one of which, on Page 75, is ‘stones‘ by Lily Rupcic, described well by the judges as ‘a condensed evocation of a mother’s illness and despair’. In the context of a journal most of whose contents have the feel of a battlefield, these sixteen lines offer a still, jewel-like reminder of basic human courage and connection.


Melissa Hardie and Kate Lilley (special issue editors), Southerly 79.3: The Way We Live Now (2022)

Described in the editors’ introduction as a ‘collection of pandemic inspired and pandemic-adjacent writing’, this is a digital issue, available free to download or read online – or, if you’re even more luddite than I am, to print off and read on paper.

It’s a rich 160+ pages, with 30 poems, three short stories, five review articles, and 10 pieces collected under the general heading ‘Essays and Memoirs’. Listed among the poetry on the Contents page is ‘Lost Matchstick Sonnets’, a series of clever and beautiful photos by Catherine Vidler featuring 14 wooden matches – the cover image on the left is part of the series.

Strikingly, all but one of the prose pieces, excluding reviews, were by women or gender non-conforming people.

As usual with me and Southerly, I skimmed some pieces: two pieces in dauntingly academic language, most of the reviews, some poems. If you want to dip in (remember, it’s free to access or download), you’re very likely to find something to delight or enlighten. To name a random few:

  • Claire Aman, ‘If There Are Zebra Finches’ (joint winner of the 2019 David Harold Tribe Award for Fiction), a clear, resonant short story set in an Australian desert
  • Sophia Small, ‘To Autumn Again’, which starts with a group of high school students laughing at extreme emotion in a movie they are being shown at school, and then claws back the ground for intense emotion
  • Eileen Chong, ‘Reason’, a starling evocation of a parent-child relationship over time, in a very few lines
  • Toby Fitch, ‘New Chronic Logics’, complex evocation of lockdown
  • Kate Lilley, ‘Commons, a kind of love poem
  • Beth Spencer, ‘chronic kitty covid city’, a lockdown poem that’s both funny and true (of many of us)
  • Alison Whittaker, ‘the poets are about to lie to you’, a terrific poem about responses to Covid lockdowns, excellent because one suspects that Whittaker is one of the lying poets as well as their denouncer.

Page 75 falls in the middle of the reviews section, on the final page of Vanessa Berry’s ‘From Catastrophe’, a review of Danielle Celermajer’s Summertime, a memoir of the bushfires of 2019–2020. .

Summertime is among those works of environmental life writing that expands the personal across time and space, where the writer is at once the perceiver of her thoughts and world, and a figure through which the reader can access collective feeling, knowledge and accountability. From the experience of the fire summer it sets out a generous and unflinching philosophy, unfolding from the most urgent question of our time: how to sustain life and future for all beings on this earth?

This has the opacity of much academic writing – I don’t know what it means, for example to expand the personal across time and space, though I’m pretty sure I would if I was well enough read in current academic writing – but the second sentence in that quote brings into sharp focus one key element of the way we live now, the challenge created by the climate emergency, and which most of us spend most of our time trying to ignore.

A tiny personal complaint: on page 144 the first name of Indigenous artist Jonathan Jones is misspelled. On behalf of all Jonathans I plead for special attention from proofreaders.

Journal Catch-up 15

Here I am once again with two journals, each of which has produced another issue after the one I’m writing about.


Alexandra Christie (editor), Heat Series 3 Nº 3 (Giramondo 2022)

I’ve just read a tweet quoting Helen Garner about Heat series three:

So slender and elegant, nothing wasted, nothing grandiose – and beautiful work.

Beautifully said!

The third issue is true to Heat‘s original goal to publish culturally diverse voices. It has a bit of a theme going:

  • ‘Australian Capital Territory’, a short story by Madeleine Watts, in which a man and a woman search in and around Canberra for somewhere to have sex, and finally succeed in a manner that is most satisfactory to them, the watching kangaroos and the reader. So, sex.
  • Small Talk’ by Kenneth Chong, a very different short fiction, presented as a kind of abstract memoir, about a young man of faith dealing with troubling issues. So, sex and religion
  • ‘Cain’s Feast’, a short story by Mexican writer Aniela Rodríguez, translated by Elizabeth Bryer, in which a young woman is seduced by a priest and a young man takes revenge. So, sex, religion and violence
  • Tongue Broken‘ by Kate Crowcroft, not so much an essay as a collection of disparate thing connected with the author’s research on the tongue (she has completed a PhD and has a book coming out on the subject). It does one of my least favourite things, presents a word’s etymology as if it offers a kind of magical access to the word’s inner meaning. But the rest is variously lively, unexpected and informative. Also: religion and violence
  • Five terrific poems by each of Jarad Bruinstroop and Iman Mersal, the latter translated from Arabic by Robyn Creswell. Discreet sex, but no violence.

Evelyn Araluen and Jonathan Dunk (editors), Overland 245 (Summer 2021)
(Much of the content is online at overland.org.au, and I’ve included links)

Overland is always so full of interesting things that I can’t possibly name every item. Here are some things that stand out for me in this issue

Of the articles, one or two of which are too academic for my blood, the two that stand out for me are:

  • Perpetrators‘ by Rachael Hambleton, about her complex relationship with her father, who spent much of his life in prison. The essay expands into profound reflections on grief, punishment, the prison system and intergenerational trauma.
  • What lies beyond the vortex‘ by Mauricio Rivera Ramirez, which focuses on the novel La vorágine (1924) by José Eustasio Rivera. Though the subject may seems unpromisingly niche to a general reader, it includes fascinating insights into the colonial rubber trade in Latin America.

I’m often intimidated by the poetry section in Overland, edited by the marvellous Toby Fitch. I mostly enjoy the poetry but have no idea how to talk about it. In this issue, I was delighted to find a poem by Eileen Chong, ‘Dream kitchen’ (sadly not on the Overland website at the time of writing), which narrates a dream of the poet’s grandmother’s kitchen with wonderful surrealist gusto and ends in an echo of classic Chinese poetry:

_______________________-____I knew it was only a dream,
because I was in my bed, alone. I was far from her, and home.

There are three excellent short stories:

  • The first to lose‘ by Hop Dac, a story of Vietnamese-Australian family life
  • Machine works‘ by Jordon Conway, a brilliant sketch of work, class, relationships and integrity in the context of forklifts, lathes and vehicle repair.
  • Fontanelle‘ by Sarah Walker, an excellent companion piece to ‘Machine works’, a semi-futuristic piece about the work conditions of long-distance truck-drivers.

Then, tucked away up the back, there are the 2020 Emerging Older Poets Mentorship (one poem) and the five poems shortlisted for the 2020 Oodgeroo Noonuccal Indigenous Poetry Prize, including Claire G Coleman’s witty ‘Blame Ireland’ and the prize winner, ‘Choice cuts‘ by Mykaela Saunders, a long, fiercely anguished meditation on the commodification of Indigenous culture:

–how to hold onto my integrity
when cold neoliberal logic drills into me
and the colonial vacuum sucks the marrow from me as fodder

Next time: Heat 3, Overland 246, an issue of Australian Poetry, and – if I can overcome my reluctance to read journals online – Southerly 79:3.

Journal Catch-up 14

Both the journals in this month’s catch-up are slim enough to be carried around for reading on pubic transport waiting in queues or even, if the talkative company allows, in the sauna.


Alexandra Christie (editor), Heat Series 3 Nº 2 (Giramondo 2022)

There’s an excellent article on Heat on the State Library of New South Wales website, entitled ‘On Fire‘. The author, Miriam Cosic, gives a quick history, from editor Ivor Indyk’s rage at the Hand That Signed the Paper affair to Alexander Christie’s appointment as editor of Series 3, and pays appropriate homage to Jenny Grigg’s elegant minimalist design of the new series. She interviews Christie, who has a deep respect for the multiculturalism, internationalism, and especially commitment to good writing that characterised the earlier series of Heat, as well as their providing opportunities for new writers:

‘It takes a long time to become a good writer, to really hone your craft,’ Christie says. ‘I want to bring [emerging writers] into the mix and elevate them next to established voices. That’s really important to me.’

The second issue opens with a black and white photo of a bark painting by Naminapu Maymuru-White, which serves as a kind of acknowledgement of country, and has a caption alerting us to an exhibition of Yirrkala bark paintings to take place in New Hampshire in September this year. The six pieces of writing follow:

  • ‘Ludic Literature’, an abstract literary essay by British novelist Helen Oyeyemi
  • ‘Unlock to Ride’, a short story by New Zealand novelist and short story writer Pip Adam
  • ‘Min-Min’, a prose poem / flash fiction by First Nations poet Samuel Wagan Watson 
  • ‘Sit Down Young Stranger’ a short story by Luke Carman, a Heat veteran
  • Three prose poems by Michael Farrell, also a Heat veteran
  • ‘Allen’, a short story by Ren Arcamone, this issue’s ’emerging writer’.

I enjoyed Luke Carman’s story about a depressed musician in Katoomba, and look forward to his next book, which is due out very soon. But, perhaps because I’ve been reading a diary I kept nearly 50 years ago when I was living in a shared house, the piece that most engaged me was ‘Allen’, in which an inner-city 20-something couple have an imaginary flatmate that they can blame when things go wrong in their flat. By good fortune, ‘Allen’ is the one piece from this Heat that has been made available online. If you’re interested, here it is.


Evelyn Araluen and Jonathan Dunk (editors), Overland 244 (Spring 2021)
(Much of the content is online at overland.org.au, and I’ve included links)

There’s so much excellent stuff in this edition of Overland that it’s hard to know where to start. The high point for me is probably the short story ‘Shane’s castration‘ by Michael James, a tale of early teenage humiliation at the skateboard rink that negotiates the intersection of sexism and the oppression of young people with profound compassion for all its characters, and maintains the tension right to the final sentence. The other three short stories are strong, but inevitably pale in comparison. Someone in the sauna asked me what I was reading just as I started Kathryn van Beek’s ‘Honey Babe‘. I read out the first sentence, in which bras are mentioned, and no one asked me to read further. It turns out to be a weird story in which a woman gives birth to a large peach: I’ll never know how it would have gone down with that audience.

The poetry section is, as always, strong. The poems that touched me most were both by Belinda Rule. ‘Pointless, in space‘ is a lament for the Croajingalong National Park devastated by 2019–20 bushfires, and an atheist’s prayer for the timber men (particularly poignant for me as I’ve just read John Blay’s Wild Nature, blog post yet to come, in which the author walks through that forest just before the fires); ‘In the only flats in a posh suburb‘ is a complaint about noisy neighbours, kind of.

It’s the cumulative richness of the articles that take up just over the first half that leaves me in awe. In particular:

  • I would prefer not to‘ by Ellena Savage discusses the toll ‘turbo-neoliberalism’ takes on the lives of millennials, compares her situation to that of her boomer (?) father, and takes both him and Herman Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener – whose catchphrase gives the article its title – as heroes
  • Reading Humphrey McQueen’s A New Britannia in decolonial times‘ by Jon Piccini does what it says on the lid, and among other things argues that Mcqueen’s later self-criticism was unreasonably dismissive of this work (‘There are books that, without you even knowing it, have shaped who you are as a thinker’)
  • Taking what’s owed‘ by Rafi Alam describes the way Community Legal Centres, founded as independent community-based initiatives, have largely been transformed under the influence of neoliberal policies into charities competing for government subsidy
  • Life-making through and beyond the pandemic by Miriam Jones focuses on ‘life-making’ workers, in particular early-childhood educators, speaking as an early-childhood educator herself and doing a brilliant job of contrasting the perspectives of policy-makers who see childcare as primarily a way of keeping women in the workforce, and the the workers themselves who ‘know that children are not only the nations’s future, but powerful, insightful and creative human beings in the here and now’.

Journal Catch-up 13

I used to call these posts Journal Blitzes, but there’s nothing very Blitzy about them. Just two journals this time: an Overland from a year ago and a Heat just one issue back.


Evelyn Araluen and Jonathan Dunk (editors), Overland 243 (Winter 2021)
(Much of the content is online at overland.org.au, and I’ve included links)

This issue of Overland opens with a suite of excellent articles:

  • Coming through ceremony, a brief insider’s history by Kim Kruger of the Melbourne-based Aboriginal theatre company Ilbijerri, which celebrated its 30th anniversary last year
  • A teleology of folding, and of dying by Dženana Vucic. Don’t be put off by the high-philosophic title. This is a lucid personal account of the complexities of being a white Muslim – a child refugee from Bosnia – who is now atheist and hipster-presenting yet still identifies viscerally with Muslims worldwide who are facing something akin to the Nazi holocaust
  • The bridge and the fire by Robbo Bennetts, published before the terrible floods of 2021–2022, and perhaps written before the terrible fires of 2020–2021, reflects on the effects of two disasters he has been close to: the Westgate Bridge collapse in 1970 and the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria in 2009
  • Torrey Peters Detransition, Baby, in which trans person Yves Rees reviews a novel that has a Sex and the City frothiness, but whose ‘window onto transfeminine interiority is nothing short of revolutionary’. Recommended reading for anyone struggling with their inner TERF.

In a welcome return to tradition, this issue includes the winner and two runners-up of a literary prize. The inaugural Kuracca Prize for Australian Literature, established by Overland in honour of the late Kerry Reed-Gilbert, is open to all Australian writers for fiction, poetry, essay, memoir, creative non-fiction, cartoon or graphic stories, and digital or audio storytelling. The winner this year is a short story, the runners up are a poem and a personal essay.

There’s a generous eight-page poetry section, and three short fictions, of which the stand-outs are ‘Tight lines’ by Allee Richards, a tale of the collateral pain when the main character’s relationship with a child is brought to an end by the ending of a relationship with the child’s father; and see you later by Zowie Douglas-Kinghorn, a vivid evocation of work on a dairy farm, which most satisfactorily brings up to date the genre of workplace short stories.


Alexandra Christie (editor), Heat Series 3 Nº 1 (Giramondo 2022)

Heat is back from hiatus. Series 2 Nº 24 was published in 2011 (my blog post here) with no promise of a return. Now here is Series 3, slimmer, with a new look and a new editor, promising to appear every two months and – in my opinion – well worth the annual subscription price of $120 (slightly more for individual copies). My sense is that the new, intimate format is better suited than the previous, book-sized issues to the limited attention spans of our image-dominated era – there’s also a deft use of images.

This issue, introducing a minimalist design by Jenny Grigg, kicks off with a one-page linocut by Ben Juers, which works mainly as a reminder that Heat has in the past included substantial sections of visual art. The main body is made up of:

  • ‘Only one refused’ by Mireille Juchau, a Heat veteran. The essay tracks down the story of a family member who survived the Nazi camps, and makes dramatic use of illustrations, including a double page spread of the ‘Hollerith card’ that recorded her relative’s physical features, and a photograph of ghostlike women recuperating in the Mauthausen infirmary soon after liberation (This article is on the Heat web site, at this link)
  • ‘Special Stuff’, a grim short story by Josephine Rowe, featuring a woman, man and baby doing a futuristic equivalent of ‘duck and cover’, seconds before a nuclear explosion
  • Five poems by Sarah Holland-Batt, all dealing with the death of parents. I’m especially glad to have read these so soon after hearing SH-B read at the Sydney Writers’ Festival (my blog post at this link). If these poems, especially ‘Pikes Peak’, are any indication, her latest book, The Jaguar (University of Queensland Press 2022), is definitely something I want to read
  • ‘Brief Lives’ by Brian Castro, a kind of Decameron for readers with short attention spans, blended with a lament about ageing, with raging bushfires as a backdrop
  • Death Takes Me’, fiction by Hispanic USer Cristina Rivera Garza, translated by Sarah Booker and Robin Myers, an esoteric variation on a police procedural that opens with a quote from Renate Saleci to the effect that castration is a prerequisite for sexual relations, and does nothing to allay the scepticism the quote provokes.

Number 2 is waiting on my shelf, and I’m looking forward to reading it.


PS: There’s a word in the Heat that I need help with. In the Brian Castro story, there’s this, speaking of an ageing writer taking refuge in a guesthouse with a number of other people:

He thinks. He thinks too much. Never sleeping. Now that Eros is held in liam in the other room, he fades into ancient tapestries.

(page 69)

What does ‘liam’ mean? Or is it Iiam (that is, does it begin with a capital ‘I’ rather than a lower case ‘l’? Given Heat 2’s propensity for typos and malapropisms, it may be an error. But if so, what is the correct word? All answers welcome, even correct ones.