davey dreamnation

seething since 2001

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Category: Recommendations

Seeing as I’ve maintained this blog (in various formats) for over ten years, I thought it might be worthwhile to make a list of posts that I’m especially proud of, and that I hope you will enjoy. So, um, enjoy!

Neenish tarts, bus shelters, Wagga Wagga and me

Never thought I’d use these four ‘terms’ in the same sentence but there you go – if life was a Venn diagram, there are several shaded areas in which me and neenish tarts would intersect.

For those who’ve been living under a rock for the past century or so, a neenish tart (see picture above) is a delightful Antipodean invention featuring a pastry base, jam and cream filling and distinctive, two-coloured, almost-yin-and-yang-style icing. It’s the kind of cake you’ll find in any halfway decent country town bakery, and one that (courtesy of my mother’s fondness for them) I’ve developed a fair hankering for over the years. Matter of fact, I could murder a neenish tart right now.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, Wagga Wagga. It must have been over a year ago that the Booranga Writers’ Centre in Wagga Wagga, Australia (publishers of the magazine FourW, in which I’ve had a few pieces published over the years) put out a call for poems to be displayed on bus shelters in the town. The call for works immeditely ‘piqued’ my interest, as we say in the industry, as I’d spent a fair bit of time in Wagga Wagga as a young grasshopper, either driving through or else strapped into a dentist’s chair.

While my memories of Wagga are not all fond, I wrote three poems and sent them off. The first one (brace-face) was about getting braces in Wagga Wagga. The second one (“Riverina”) was about playing Aussie Rules in Wagga. And the third poem, the one they accepted, was about a neenish tart. It’s called, surprisingly enough, ‘neenish tart’, and for the benefit of all non-residents of Wagga Wagga, I’ve pasted it below:

Neenish tart

There used to be this cafe around here
somewhere – maybe it’s still going, do
you know the one I mean? You could buy
a good neenish tart there, with inch-thick
pastry and an ooze of too-sweet jam. Then
there was cream they must have laced with
sugar and icing to die for. I used to live in a
town to the north of here, it doesn’t matter
which one. What matters is the neenish tart,
the one my mum used to buy me whenever
we drove through Wagga Wagga on our way
home from time trials or footy, it depended
on the season. That tart always tasted good.
I especially loved the icing, it reminded me of
yin and yang. I wonder if it’s still there. One day
I’ll come back and walk down the main street,
ask a few people if they remember the place.

                             Maybe you do?

The sentiments in this poem almost make me feel a little bit teary now – I remember the taste of that neenish tart as if it was yesterday. Recently, I got an email from Derek Motion, the director of Booranga, informing me that

” … the second groups of poems will be going up shortly in bus shelters around Wagga Wagga. We have been able to procure an extra 4 shelters to use for the project, so all 8 poems will be on display at the same time. To celebrate this event we’ve planned another event – a bus tour of all (or selected) shelters, featuring poetry readings on location, with wine / refreshments at the terminus. We will be holding this event on Saturday 14th April, with the bus departing from the Wagga Council Chambers at 2pm.”

While I unfortunately won’t be able to make it to the launch, the idea of a bus tour sounds like a great one and I really wish I could be there. As a kind of substitute, Derek sent me this photo of the bus shelter where my neenish tart poem is currently living.

It’s almost like being there, don’t you think?

What was I doing there?

As threatened in my previous post, I’ve written a reflection on the many existential crises I endured during my three years in the Netherlands. Okay, endured is putting it a bit too mildly. Oh, I mean, strongly. Um … whatever. Warning: semi-extended rant follows.
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What am I doing here?

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be some kind of existential crisis post (that one’s coming up next), rather a brief heads-up for readers (like the ever-vigilant GMT) who may be interested in what I’ll be doing here in Karlskrona, Sweden over the next twelve months.
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Unrequited Love Letter

Dear You,

I’ve been meaning to write for ages. So many times I started off, barely reaching the end of my ‘salutation’ before giving up: “Dear Yo-” and so on. I wore the delete key thin with my maniacal backspacing, back-treading; I resorted to a global ‘find-and-replace’ to get rid of the last traces of you but still no luck.

I forwarded all of my emails to a really obscure (though free) Russian account I had set up, I think it was:

ibelongtoyou@yourenotevenawareofthefact.ru

I even set myself a really difficult password prompt – what is your favourite number? I looked away while I banged the numbers in, just to be sure I’d never, ever remember it. Then I logged out, cleared my cache, underwent hypnotism and hung upside down for a few days, just to be sure no trace of a clue remained as to how to access the account, or you.

Not that you cared. If you ever even thought of me, I’m sure the only thing you would have thought was: why go to such ridiculous extremes when the contents of the emails themselves are burned on the back of your earlobes anyway, causing them to redden every time you think of me, which isn’t often – but often enough to fuck me up for good?

But all of this is probably yawn-inducing for you. Fair enough. It’s the story of my life, after all – not yours. From the moment we met I knew you would never feel about me the way I wanted you to. You would never reply to my emails, my texts and poems filled with cryptic messages for you to decipher.

I started attending spoken word events miles from my home just to have an opportunity to read those awful poems to an uncomprehending audience, and also I guess in the vain hope that you too had developed a taste for poetry performed in semi-rural venues.

That bit was wrong, at least, though I did get a good response from one of the venue’s owners, who immediately offered me a job on the late shift. I need someone like you to help me close up, he said. All you have to do is read out some of your poems at about 1am. Once the place is empty, you can help me clean up. Let’s face it, at $10 an hour, I was never going to get a better offer. Not from you, anyway.

You said you didn’t understand poetry. I’ve heard that cop-out so many times before. What’s not to understand? I love you, like I said in each and every one of those poems, and devastating as it was to see their effect on the late-night clientele of the sad-sack mountain tavern, that was nothing when compared with your brutal lack of recognition.

It was like I wasn’t even there screaming the words at you, like the poem itself was just hanging in the air, or else piped from a set of invisible speakers just above street level, that day you ran for the tram rather than stand and talk with me.

Do I have AIDS? What would you care! You and your homophobic friends, who needs you anyway! Because you know what? In my mind I do things to you that you might think were illegal, and you’d probably be right, if we were living in Saudi Arabia.

The things I do to you in my mind make those poems I screamed at you like I was throwing daggers at the back of your head sound like a fumbling teen romance. And the funny thing is that in my mind you’re begging for it. You can’t get enough of me. You’re the innocent one, shocked by my advances, devastated by my eventual rejection.

In desperation, you enrol in a CAE creative writing workshop, just to find the right words to throw back at me. But of course, in this scenario, I’ve stacked the class with bitter bush poets, and they tear your pathetic verses to pieces.

You respond by storming out of the class, hoping to catch the last train to a semi-rural tavern where you know of a small performance poetry reading, the open section of which you might just be lucky enough to catch.

I remain, of course, two thousand steps ahead of you, having contrived to cause the metropolitan transit authority’s service level to deteriorate so badly that no trains are running at all, anywhere. It’s all right, though. Just as you despair of ever getting home, I come along in my dream car and offer you a lift. You’re so happy to see me that you accept my proposition immediately.

Now that I have you where I want you, it almost seems unnecessary to write this letter after all. I mean, where once you dismissed me as a clinging and pathological no-hoper, now you’re all ears. You’re offering constructive and thoughtful feedback, and shyly showing me your delicate (though childish) haiku. It’s cute, it’s endearing.

You’re devouring the canon, immersed in erotic poetry. I’m spoon-feeding you Sappho, you’re swallowing the Aeniad whole. We come up for air once every week or so to attend a poetry reading, randomly selected from the thousands of events that seem to have been organised just so we could ignore them.

Just so we could say that we were attending and then cancel at the last minute, without telling anybody.

Does this sound familiar? In a sense it is. It’s the sound of what you could have had. It’s the sound of your right hand snapping off as a result of excessive self-stimulation. It’s the sound of a keyboard tapping away in an empty internet cafe. It’s the sound of all the poems you never wrote, the words you never emoted.

It’s the sound of an unrequited love letter being delivered to a house you left long ago, without so much as a forwarding address. Now I’m slipping through the mail slot to land on the floor of a hallway littered with newspapers and pizza delivery menus. It’s kind of peaceful. I think I might just stay here for a while.

Or maybe just forever.

Yours, etc.

We Will Disappear: the First Anniversary!

It’s a quiet kind of milestone but my book We Will Disappear was launched one year ago this weekend at the Melbourne Writers Festival. Quiet in the sense that I am about ten thousand miles from this year’s MWF, where some class acts and friends will be performing at the MWF Festival Club and elsewhere; a milestone in the sense that one year is a heck of a long time in the life of anyone and everyone, let alone a book. Anyway, just when I was beginning to think that We Will Disappear had fulfilled the prophecy of its own title and had quietly disappeared from the world of people and books, I got a message from an old friend saying:

I bought your book of poems in Brunswick Street last week. I’m really enjoying it. I like the one for the unknown waitress.

And you know, of course this made me feel a lot better. So for those who missed it, here’s “(On the Tomb of) the Unknown Waitress”. Happy birthday “We Will Disappear”!

10 Things I Have Noticed About the Netherlands

engels-bord.jpgWhat better way to bring up my one thousand and first post than to reflect upon my first two weeks in the Netherlands! Yes, as Sting so memorably sang in “Englishman In New York”, I’m an alien. In fact, I’m now an alien who’s waiting to receive notification of becoming a resident, but more on that some other time. I can’t really believe it’s only been two weeks since I left Oz. So much seems to have happened during that time but when I look back, I can’t remember much at all. Maybe that’s got something to do with being semi-immersed (is that possible?) in another language, a different climate and a faraway continent. In any case, here’s a list of things I have noticed during the short time i have been here.

1. The cheese section in the supermarket makes the average Australian bottle shop look like a vending machine. It’s that big.

2. Junk mail arrives in neat plastic packages in the mail box. Read avidly by K. and her mum.

3. Rental properties often carry a fixed extra charge for ‘utilities’ of up to 150 euros per month! So much for containing global warming – if you were paying $250 for water and electricity each month, you’d have two-hour long showers too.

4. If you buy a book during national book week, you can travel for free on the train for one day – this year, 200,000 people took up the deal.

5. Princess Laurentien looks like a man but is also an avid reader.

6. Sasha de Boer, the national newsreader, is despised by most people I mention her name to. I think she’s rather nice.

7. Did I mention the practice of calling white coffee koffie verkeerd? Translation: wrong coffee. A fairly accurate description of the quality of the brew.

8. It snows at Easter but not during winter.

9. Don’t even get me started on Sinter Klaas and his Spanish friend, Black Piet (the subject of a much longer post – stay tuned for that!).

10. The word for whipped cream is slagroom. Funny, I thought that was where my sisters slept at night.

Thanks to Anouk for the image …

My(sp)ace(face)boo(Lin)k(edin) WTF?

akubra.jpgG’day mates, Davey here again with just a few of my most recent thoughts, right off the top of my Akubra, about social networks, being cool and all that stuff. Because I know that some of you are just a little bit confused about what it all means. So, for your reading pleasure, I’m going to answer, as well as I can, that perennial question, as well as a few others. And while some of you may dismiss my musings as the demented rantings of a cocky with a few too many loose bits of gravel in the top paddock, that doesn’t mean that I’m the only one thinking these things. In fact, from what I can gather, pretty much everyone in Australia with an email account is now facing the ultimate choice: do I become a member of Facebook, and ‘re-connect’ with my long-lost pals, or do I stick with Myspace, and sign up KRudd or The Howard Government (THG) as my “friend”? Do I hear a “WTF”? You bet I do! Strewth.

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All the things I should have done the day I got dakked

I should have decided not to get up that morning. I should have stayed in bed, reading WWII-era comic books and drinking Chocolate Moove. But I didn’t, and that’s why I’m writing this story now.

I should have known what was coming. I’d been hassled mercilessly since arriving at the public school in that small country town. Worse still, I was a Catholic. And to top it off, I was more interested in reading books than smoking ciggies or punching people in the head for a laugh.

I should never have worn the red underpants. In fact, I should have gone to school that day wearing nothing at all underneath my (I now realise) quite loose sports shorts.

I should have laughed even harder than the rest of the students when the shorts were ripped from their position and left to dangle around my ankles. I should have turned around to face my attacker and pissed all over him. I should have danced in front of the girls who were laughing.

I should have decided never to speak again to the teacher who stood there laughing but who had previously pretended that she was interested in my education. I should have laughed in her face and then deliberately failed every test she set me.

I should have simply started running, if only to give myself a chance of winning the cross-country race scheduled for later that afternoon. I should have taken my shirt off too, and my shoes, and run barefoot down the dusty lanes, through the dead paddocks and across the abandoned railway line. I should have whistled “I’m On Fire” as I ran.

I should have lain in wait behind a tree and then jumped out as my attacker ran past. I should have dead-legged him. I should have crow-pecked his face. I should have stuck a toothpick in his nostril. I should have used his head as a hammer.

I should have won the cross-country race. I should have made my way totally naked onto the oval for my victory lap and laughed as the rest of the school just stood there, dumbfounded. I should have dacked the P.E. teacher as he presented me with my trophy.

I should have rammed that trophy up my attacker’s arse.

I should have burnt down the school. I should have hitch-hiked to the next town and started a new life with a new pair of shorts and a non-descript pair of underpants at a nice school where kids read books and paid attention to their teachers in class and were whipped if they punched another student in the face.

But of course none of these things happened. I was humiliated in front of the entire school, and then made to run in a cross-country race in which I came last and during which I was laughed at, punched and insulted by every other runner in the race. In fact, by the time I finished, only the P.E. teacher was there at the oval. The rest of the school had gone home.

I should have told them all to get fucked. But I didn’t, because my dad always told me not to swear. And that’s why I’m writing this story now.

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