We love artists at The Wild Word.
Our Artist-in-Residence page provides a space for artists to showcase their work and to spread their creative wings. In their month of residency, invited artists are encouraged to collaborate with other contributors within the magazine, to experiment and develop new projects, while giving us an insight into their creative process.
Our O WINTER! issue Artist-in-Residence is writer and musician Seamus Kirkpatrick.
Electricity (I remember love)
I remember love
I remember love
The electric thrill
Kisses like silk
My memories quilted with places and names
My chest in chains my soul detained
By the smile in your eyes
I remember love
I remember love
That moment of recognition
A vague suspicion that becomes addition
Down on one knee I hand you all the
Ammunition to harm me but I’m
I remember love
I remember love
A tiny spark in a garden of
Grey black hearts that begs
For the tiniest flesh touch
Of bare bear skin that catches
Rough and hairy your body
Is a vast country earth I
Want to blunder a plain I
Want to wander for a thousand
I remember love
I remember love
I remember it all and somehow
I remember you
Look At All The Stuff I Got
Look At All The Stuff I Got
I can exert control
over a globe spoiled
rotten with polling
And dirty with oil
I got believers
who’ll turn out in millions
leaders and pleaders and preachers and billions
of mouth breathing schemers trickle down deceivers
turn coat bank note straw man punching
partners in mergers and supreme court perjurers and lithesome fulsome arse kissing burghers
Look at all the stuff I’ve got
i’m a very rich man
I can use words
all simple and brutal
it’s futile to bicker
to wicker and snipe I
delight in the fight in the snarl in the bite
and I just love to knife stab and splutter
with dough hands ungainly but mainly
ornately to carve in a stately but
measured but mannered
And stellately answered
cause I am a star
and I burn
and I burn
and I burn
it’s too late to say sorry
it’s too late to entreat
cause I burn
not too late to predate to prostrate to cremate
but too late to migrate
cause I burn
Look at all the stuff I’ve got
i’m a very rich man
but i’m not perfect
I can be a little spiteful
and there’s no one who’d call me
delightful but there’s lots who will if I ask
Look at all the stuff I’ve got
i’m a very rich man
(in response to William Blake’s ‘To Winter’)
William, I feel your horror.
She’s a creeping cruel terror
No doubt. Deep cutting chill.
Monstrous murderous fiend.
I see you admire her slow savagery,
It’s anonymous thoroughness;
Her dance is all pause and balance;
Delicate poise and containment,
Spinning where worlds draw breath and
Open faces turn to Sol and pray,
She turns antipodal to a direful
Demon; red roaring butcher of children
The hero killer, he salts their skin
Desiccates them like fruit, their dull
Eyes wilt and bake on relentless
Red rocks, blood boiled and drained.
But then! We were seduced, and the
Demon was freed, his fists flailing as
She shook and lowed, cracking
Bones and collapsing glaciers.
Now we tremble terrified in
Holey wooden houses where
Every breath is a battle and
We pray for her return.
O William! You saw with clear
Eyes what we took for granted
O William! If you could see
The devil dancing at Winter’s retreat.
4 Poems For My Girlfriend (And One More)
I experienced a European winter once when I was 16. I spent six weeks in Germany as part of a language scholarship and I still have vivid recollections of my trip and of the season.
We don’t have winter in Australia. Not like Europe does.
We particularly don’t have winter in Queensland—where I was born and where I now live.
It does get cold in Queensland, some areas it can get to below freezing. But we live in complete denial of the season.
Our traditional housing design which we call a “Queenslander” is one of the most poorly-designed houses ever. A Queenslander is high, airy, wooden and often raised on stumps to avoid summer flooding. So in winter they are leaky and exposed, and being inside feels the same as being outside. I have gone to sleep wearing four layers of clothing with a beanie on my head and slept under three layers of bedding. And I was probably still a bit cold. (I would like to add that in summer Queenslanders are still rubbish. No air flows through them unless they are built in a paddock on a hill. They become extraordinarily hot very quickly and living in them can be like living in a sauna.)
Summer (October to March) is when we feel most Australian. We can go swimming and play cricket. We can walk in the evening and our grocery stores are full of mangoes (real ones, not like you have them in Europe) and stone fruit.
We have never developed a winter culture here because winter is an imposition. “Outside” is unavoidable in Australia. When kids are loud we send them “Outside!”. We lament television and computer games because it takes us away from “Outside”. Social events are as often outdoors as indoors and we have nearly the highest rate of skin cancer in the world because an Australian childhood is spent in baking, brutal sun and an Australian adulthood is spent wishing you could be outside in the baking, brutal sun. (Though an adult Australian might desire to be less active outdoors then they were in their youth, they would prefer to fish or drink rather than run around collecting bindis in their bare feet).
But rising global temperatures are changing everything. Our winters are becoming milder and we are beginning to experience heat waves that kill old people and children. Storms are becoming wildly destructive and dangerous events. Dangerous sea creatures are migrating and coming south. Our carbon usage is amongst the highest per capita in the world—we live in huge, largely air-conditioned houses (and we like it COLD(?!))—we have an obsession with cars (Mad Max was actually a documentary) – and we live so physically far apart from each other that travelling on our wildly ineffective public transport systems is inefficient to the point of useless.
The changes in the weather aren’t going to stop.
Summer is slowly becoming something to be feared and endured (this summer was shocking). How will this affect our culture? I don’t know. However, I do know that right now I would choose an Australian summer over any season in any part of the world. Perhaps it’s parochialism but I truly love our summer. I love the feel of my skin baking, of walking through wet air, the grey cool morning and the sound of an afternoon storm on the tin roof of the Queenslander I live in. I hate the winter. It’s cold and dead and it’s opposed to almost everything that I feel it is to be alive.
This is what informed the 4 poems (and one more) below. Written by a boy trying to make his Europe-living girl homesick. I tried to combine my impressions of a European winter with my love of the Australian summer. The poems are a trifle unfair. I don’t care. Winter sucks.
(Actually I massively enjoyed my one European winter—but trust me, you’d rather be here).
You would be having a
lot of loud fun here.
Packed in the shade of the pub
while a hardy, drunken few
brave the afternoon sun
or the street.
All of us pissed,
sweaty, stinking, singing
to songs we know and
shouting during those
The table is a brawl of
empty plates and
glasses of every shape.
He’s drinking light beer.
She’s drinking gin.
And he’s drinking champagne and
she’s drinking coke and rum.
We can hear a meat-eating
competition somewhere and
there is AC/DC and a
glass smashes and someone yells “Taxi!”
as I watch your morning
walk to work on my phone.
January in England is so alien.
Your blue sky seems crystal,
shrill and sharded, where
ours makes the windows
cry with condensation –
your air rushes you
along with a piercing
pinch and ours
holds you like a
gummy glove and the
trip to the beer garden
toilet is like a
swim and you arrive
back to the table drenched.
“Haha!” cries my Colombian friend
“See the Aussie sweat!”
Your breaths are taken with a
kick to the lungs and
ours are like a sweet
soporific draft that
medicates against the
racket and the
press of rancorous bodies.
An Australian January is a glorious thing indeed.
Your breath is short and caught and
it seems to have knives in it.
I can hear your city behind you,
a far horizon hum foregrounded
by soft shuffles and quiet
creek like murmuring.
Winter sounds like a chilly,
steel desert and you seem to
slide on her skin, symbiotic mites
that never get in.
Here I am pinioned in an inescapable oven hug.
Generous to the point of smothering.
Every breath is a fist
down my throat,
fiery and choking, while
the finger down yours is
pointy and accusing.
My city is backgrounded by
the same combustion hums and
river burbles but there is a
rainbow of birdsong
outside my window
and the green grass sweats
with early morning rain and
the sun has already begun
her merciless flogging
within a few
We had a good time at the
New Year’s celebrations.
The old men moved like
fluid mountains as their
breath made walls of wave
and the children earnestly
mocked them as parents
beamed and chuckled.
The soup was fiery,
the food was an
carried out in porcelain valleys
and the clear rice wine was
fierier still and burnt down to my
belly and up through my nose
and your uncle laughed so hard
he nearly threw up, tears
dancing like a joyful river
down his face as he
waved away the old women
and the children laughed
and dodged, their squeaky voices
like a cartoon forest,
shrill and piercing.
The neon signs that
guided us there were
illustrative and brash
and the shopfront was a
technicolour yawn of
bright entreaties and
The crackers were brittle
thunder and the lions,
arse shaking and manes like
circling clouds rose up in a
sweaty wall, six feet, ten feet,
twelve feet high they danced on
pillars of steel and the audience
grimaced with fingers in their
ears, eyes squinted against the
hammering sound of drums and
gongs and fireworks.
I thought of you
in winter silence
huddled around fire,
wrapped in wool,
belly full of heated citrus
and cinnamon red wine
and I wished that
you were here but
maybe next year,
maybe next year.
Maybe next year you can
drink fire with us in the
hot and senseless January
of the great island in the
And we can show you
what a new year is all about.
I have no patience for your winter –
A great frigid blanket, dead-
eyed and pastel brown and
Black and grey and dirty scummy
I have no desire to breath the
Air that snatches life from
Lung and freezes blood and
Steals the will to waltz and
I have no want to watch you
Purple nosed and eyes streaming
As you trudge through wet
White drifts that claw at your
I am terrified by a night
That goes on forever and a sun
That makes a worthless cameo while
The whole world holds it breath and
I want to lie with you on yellow burnt grass under fiery blue skies with a sun that hurls daggers at white skin and birds that scream bloody murder and waves that snatch and fauna that’s frightening amongst rednecks and racists and frustrated artists and good decent Christians and dullards and winners and flamboyant beauticians and losers and thick angry tubs of men and hard mouthed women and beautiful dancers and hard drinkers and survivors and survivors and survivors who wander the streets in the midday terror who complain about the weather but couldn’t imagine retreat into the shade
I’m not interested in your European winter.
Not when we could swim in the Australian summer breeze.
(And One More)
The sunset here is a brilliant pink gash
in a grey torpid sky.
I know that your sunrises are icy
mirror surfaced salmon
and diamond blue but they could
never have the passionate
violence of a western Queensland
sunset, the sky torn apart
with acres of red dust, land set adrift
by desert winds from
the sleeping heart of a bleeding
glorious, ragged, bellicose and torrid beyond
what less than songs
Let this be your last January alone.
You seem to me
a tiny snowflake amongst many but
lost, a small participant
in great flurries that anonymously
pile in city streets against
doors and icily decorate windows
with chaotic cold
spider webs and soak through clothes,
frighten trees into a
death, beat fauna and flora to retreat
they have no
love for your snapping, sapping, bitter chill
and they wait for your
Come back to your country!
It’s vibrant with green!
It misses you and dances
long sticky nights and
of prancing waves and oven
hot breezes thick,
sodden with the screams of
bats, birds, the hum
of insects hidden under
plate sized leaves
and no breath is free from
the scent of barbecue
and sunscreen and beer.
This must be your last January alone.
Come back to your country
and please come back to me.
This will be the first track from an upcoming King Colossus album “Basically Unloveable”. The album will explore the welcome surprise of new love but will inevitably be impacted by the current political climate (aaahh if only it weren’t so).
When You Fuck
when you fuck your face is eternal
eyes like down that soften with every
stroke widen like a cat dog hips that lift
back that arches glow like a pulsar
warming sear like an ecstatic sun
when you fuck your eyes fly
up and back and lip shakes sweat
smeared eyes sting body slips
and sings of long wet summers
and breaths like waves
i’ve never seen anything so beautiful
These writing exercises are based on an exercise from Pat Pattison’s book Writing Better Lyrics.
I write for ten minutes, preferably first thing in morning. I pick an object or a concept or emotion and allow myself to immerse in the physical and mental sensation of the subject.
I have been running a minute or two over to complete them as I know they are going to be read. I’ve corrected spelling and formatting but otherwise what you’re reading is how it is coming out.
These will feed into lyrics as the month progresses.
My eyes hurt. My eyes really really hurt. The lids feel thick like fingers are resting across my face and the lashes are gummy with sticky mucous. My dreams were fitful. Phone sex and football.
And the sunny voices of the children next door, with high placed resonance and rising accents are a gentle finger up my spine, reminding me that waking is hard and clouds me with nostalgia for youth’s irregular eruptions.
My anxiety won’t let me enjoy anything. A day of relative calm is followed by night terrors of global warming and my news feeds are streams of caring despair and orange coiffed cunning clowns.
Where is Grock? Where is slow burn and fantastic repetition raised to filigree perfection. Where are my friends? In chemotherapy! And why does my home town fill me with old dreads and I shake in my head as old ghosts rub up against my skin like ice wet with summer running feet puddling red earth muddling with straining greens and fairie gardens.
Where are the fairies? We replaced them with bug eyed aliens and lost our faith in institutions stuffed our heads with conspiracies and fabrications and laid down our arms and surrendered to our worst laziest excesses.
Here lies the hope of summer crushed in the cracked earth of the deep dry winter and the dusty pollution thick heavy rolling roiling clouds suffocate me and I don’t think the sun will ever rise again.
I remember caring. I remember that feeling of my chest being full as I watched the game, or waited for you to arrive.
I remember that I had a spark, that in the blank face of eternity I cared about tiny moments and sculpted meaning from gestures and syllogisms and cried at trailers for Disney movies and Christmas TV commercials.
I remember being an animal. Throwing you down, you ceding your space and surrendering all sense and enveloping me in a sweaty crush of golden slick skin and tongue and cunt and legs wrapped like a bear crushed my cock between us like a spasming peripheral.
I remember waking up from anxiety dreams and you murmuring and the weight of your comforting arm. In the great maw of indifference, the cliff face of existence, the stubborn insistence that this tiny glow makes a difference
I remember that once I cared.
The dust piles up against the shabby blanket where someone has been sleeping rough.
He scrabbled for shade and cool cement just off the main street under the awning of the football club verandah.
You can see where he coughed up on the wall and the furrowed trail of his belongings is a snail shell humped through a skinning wind oven forced gale that burned and dried sinuses and eyes.
It looks like the ants rose first and he fled with flesh prickling as a thousand tiny legs drummed ten thousand spiky discomforts on legs, buttocks and back Look! there is a button up shirt and here is his underclothes abandoned where he danced barefoot in the carpark in the grey early hours.
He missed this perfect feather. White spined, black with a grey middle and white striped. Currawong? but perfect like a spaceship designed for multiplex blockbusting, I’ve never seen one so smooth and it glows in the afternoon heat like liquid as I turn it over and over.
The wind kicks up another notch and the old ladies collecting donations on the street surrender their disembowelled umbrella to the willy willys and head into the clubhouse for gin and ceiling fans.
The feather thrashes and screams Resist! in my hand and I pocket it carefully to share later.
There are some mornings when the abyss is great.
There are some morning and there is no abyss. Abyss-less.
There are some mornings where you have to press yourself against the sheer wall and lean, lean, suck in your chest and belly and keep your centre of gravity towards your spine.
Some days when you’re glad you prepared for this, some days when you know that no matter what you did you couldn’t have prepared.
And on those days you have to trust.
On those days you have to know that your feet have fallen on this trail a hundred times, no a thousand times and that this dance is yours.
You know every intimate dust shuffle, every turn and every stone, every crevice and every hidden hand hold.
That doesn’t mean that you won’t find new paths.
That doesn’t mean that today you will be at your most efficient, your most elegant, your most authentic or your most true.
But it means that you know the dance.
Trust your feet.
Trust your legs your hands and your soul and step.
One foot after the other.
Drop your weight at the knees and let your body flow.
Clear your mind and let the answers rest unbidden like birds on the street, crowding the wires with catcalls and shrieks.
Let your mind cherry pick the data and dance with yourself.
If you are game you can fly.
Put your feet together and fall forward.
Again, trust yourself.
You’ve flown a few times, you know the ecstasy, you know about the roar of connections in your creative mind you know the thrill of being in touch with the vibrations of life with the breath of the creation.
It’s only on special days that you have flown before but the beauty of the dance is that today might be one of those days, and even more so if you fall with arms out and feet together, with eyes closed and open your nose to the possibilities, to flow, to dance, to fumble, to joy, to horror, to heartbreak, to flight.
Sitting on this chair
Is a poor substitute
For wandering country lanes
Holding your hand
Stopping in at country pubs
For grudging nods
From disinterested bar
Keeps and sideways glances
From old men huddled
Over pints as if they were
Fires keeping them warm
Sitting on this chair is
A poor substitute for
Lying breathless under
Damp sheets floor laden
Til groaning with three
Layers of adult clothing
Hurled aside with teen like
Joy let the search for bras
Sitting on this chair
In this boiling city
Is a poor substitute
But I get to sit on a
Chair in the grey small
Hours and know an
Intimacy that I never
Imagined to feel again
Sitting on this chair is a
Poor substitute but a
Joyful one and I love
Just thinking of you
No one call tell that I’m an alien.
That underneath this pink warm goo I am cool and blue and smooth to touch.
No one can tell how confused I am by human interactions and relationships.
If I had a heart it would seize at the daily horrors I witness in my own locality. The callous indifference to the poor, the pointless casual racism and sexism.
My gods if they knew what I really was, would they hesitate in beating me to a bloodied, dinted pulp or would they raise me like a deity and worship my seeming cold indifference – which is actually a numbed muted horror.
I have been observing quietly for 4, maybe 5 decades now, 40 something tiny solar revolutions and still I witness the same stupidities as I did on the day that my consciousness first arrived. Man kicks dog. Dog bites man. And the circle of stupidities continues unabashed and unabated.
For a period there it looked as there might be progress. The bubbling stupidity and discontent had subsided, there was public shame to acquired from lazy thoughts and febrile attempts at decency. But a few years of hardship (and what hardship! No wars, no famine, no disease) ok I must reconsider the accuracy of that sentence. After a few years of perceived hardship all the unabashed ignorance has boiled to the top of pot again.
In contact with my siblings over the last decades I had felt my corner of this world immune and I saw active resistance but when offered a lazy alternative they were devastatingly quick to grab at it, like unseemly grubby, sticky, whinging children.
My god I am so embarrassed and ashamed for them all.
The notes are like spiky clouds
I can hear every finger fall
Your labyrinthine number methods
Produce a harmonic complexity
Unrivalled in the bardic mysteries
Where boys who never own
Manhood wail and stomp you
Glide with a majestic unruffled
Calm throwing up wakes of tone
Poetry and sex and adult shimmy and
Shake and poke and probe and
Peel away peel away peel away
Bound for heart bound laser
Precision convex focus that
Burns burns burns strong
Woman frayed and frazzled
Alone delirious such danger
In the borderlines where you
Dance from piping squeak to
Baritone lush croon your
Voice is a guide to one
Woman’s journey one
Woman’s dreamland this
Woman’s work? that woman’s
Tome at the base of the
Mountain that is Joni
We all sit with addled
Awe anyone with sensitivity
Touched dumb and senseless
Familiar furrows offer
The only opportunity to
Come to grips to deal
With the ranges and the
What is the right age to teach our children about violence?
It’s a broken heart that asks this question.
It’s a stomach full of dread for my daughter.
It’s an enquiry asked of a world that visits indiscriminate violence daily, hourly, momentarily and casually.
It’s asked for a world full of car accidents, cancer and refugees.
A world that nurtures with one hand and casts aside with the other (with a third, fourth and fifth circling ready to smack you in the face).
When do I teach my daughter about violence? And how?
Do I explain that when she sees someone hit in the face on television that that really really hurts and she must never ever do it to anyone except when that boy at school hits her and the teachers keep ignoring her that what she’s going to have to do is hit him. Hit him again and again and again until he learns that there are no victims only kids who will hit him at school as hard as he gets hit at home?
Do I show her pictures of tiny doll bodies washed up on western beaches and concrete dust covered porcelain faces frozen in shock motionless in the back of ambulances, swollen with ghosts?
Do I hit her? So she knows a thousandth of the trauma that we (my people, you and me) inflict on children every day in the name of empire and dominion?
Do I teach her to hit and let her practice on me to flog away my complicity and despair?
Do I hold her, just hold her, hold her and hope that somehow violence swerves away from her on the road, overlooks her in the bar, grudgingly acknowledges her friendship in the playground and lets her be?
If she never experiences violence will she be half a human, condemned as much as those who never know love?
If I could throw an invisible umbrella around her with sides that dropped and all that she saw was joy and love and light and gossamer diamond but no.
What is the right age to teach our children about violence?
It’s so hard to do this knowing that there might be people watching. Every keystroke is accompanied by knowing laughs and amused leg to foot shifting as a fence full of giggling black birds watch with open faces snigger every time I fail. Every time I fail to dive in properly, every time I type not immersed, not wholly present but instead just imagining what it’s going to look like when it’s done and it’s crippling. I can feel them know, their eyes press like tiny fingers into my back and my spine and with every poke I’m getting more and more tired of my turn pf phrase, of my choice of words, of the rhythm of my writing, always rolling always the same my own me has become a cliche over the course of just a week and it’s not because there isn’t a long way to go or because I have reached some final artistic destination it’s just that I’m creating for an audience, even if it’s an audience of cackling blackbirds even if it’s an audience of no one at all, doesn’t matter they’re in my head and I have to make them go away if i’m going to do what’s right here. Ugh. Fuuuuuuck this. Ugh
I think this is going to be a question of willpower and strength and input and muscle and I can do it.
We’ll see tomorrow
That feeling, in the Queensland summer, of lowering my foot into a cold bath. The water rising like a second skin, like a jelly aura around my foot and my ankle – finally resting around my shin. Gentle eddies and currents swaying as I shimmy and sloosh, small circles, large circles, back and forth, making boat like waves that crash into the walls, crash into the river bank walls sending water insects flying and causing sunning lizards to scornfully dance then come back to rest on the grey dry rock just out of the reach of the discoloured and wet black. A young girl waits on the shore “Papa!” she cries and her eyes dance like the water and her smile is a second sun. Dazzling and warming like whiskey and soup and blankets and soul music. My shirt is dark blue with sweat but still she leaps into my arms before recoiling in pretend anxiety “ew Dad you’re SOAKING”. Released, she goes to harass the lizards now warily inching towards the cracks in the rocks and I sit on a bench under the gracefully sagging willows and sort through the notifications on my phone – urgent, non-urgent, incredibly urgent, stunningly mind-trembling bowel shatteringly urgent and the ones that I am going to answer today. Because today is our day, mine and the girl with the blinding smile’s and we will spend it wandering in the summer haze, pointing out the birds as they float on the city’s thermals, discussing the issues of the day (who is now friends with who and the cruelty of little brothers) and gifting her those memories and the respite of childhood that might carry her through the horrors to come.
It was hard to see him from the back of the crowd. A tiny carrot coloured voice that electrified with promises of simple times like my parents talked about. They were scared. They were scared people. They didn’t understand. They didn’t want to understand. In the town where I came from people didn’t like to take the extra minutes and I don’t understand why not, it’s not like they didn’t have a lifetime to understand in but they didn’t want to. They thought ahead a day at a time, maybe a season at a time, which gave their lives a monastic simplicity. What’s for dinner? What’s on TV tonight? Did you see that funny video on the computer? Can you believe what they are saying about toilets? About toilets? we’re all going to have to use the same toilets from now on. What? Who said that? It was on the news. Well this is a democracy, they can’t force us to do that. Don’t you worry. Well I hope not. I’ve been in the mens. It was disgusting. You boys. Hahahahaha. When was that. That was at that festival in… in about ‘93. Ohhhhh. Yeah that was wild wasn’t it? Wild times hey. Hahahahaha. Well. What was on TV tonight again? And so it goes. And the man with the braggart voice. He electrified them. And we took the bus. They let Dad have the day off work to represent us they said and we took the bus and we came here. And it’s hard to see him from the back of the crowd. There’s a small child on the man next to me. On his shoulders. And the child has her face painted with a flag. And her feet keep clipping my head but I’m afraid to say anything. The man looks fierce. What’s a few shoes in the head? There’s a lady crying behind me and her husband is holding her tightly around the shoulders and doesn’t even grimace as the odd blast of winter wind hits us and in front of us a different lady is praying to herself. She’s doing it quietly but we can hear the odd word. She sounds frightened.
Notes from a Taoist temple
The ancestral hall is very quiet
More numbers than faces
Peer down from the walls as
We step carefully from room
To room unsure of the
Proper way to show respect to
The dead of a different world
And challenged by a
Veneration that is alien
Incense sticks burn and
Make the air thick and
Sweet and whole families
Line up like ghosts their
Tiles have a strange unfocussed
Quality and a patina that
Seems unrelated to their
Year of death see here
1923-1976 and 1989-1990
Have the same hue
Some tiles hover over
Rich offerings like still
Life oil paintings except
Instead of fruit there is
Snickers and Picnic bars
And Tim Tams and gum.
Some tiles seem lonely,
One joss stick and a no
Brand pack of jubes
Our steps still slow squeak
On the clean vinyl floor and
Needing to breathe I step out
Side leaving you in silence.
My eyes are met by a harried
Middle aged woman, sweets
In one hand dragging with the
Other an uninterested girl,
Smart phone focused
She regards me with fair
Suspicion, jerks hard on
The arm of the quietly
Protesting girl and
Disappears inside to
Impress upon a young mind
Respect and fealty
Tradition and propriety
Family and mortality
And so we marched
Engorged with empire
Swollen like wet tampons
Or bloated carcasses
Drowned in slippery
The world was a
White noise shriek
Of voices and opinion
That we couldn’t
The ground underneath
Us buckled and shook
And nothing killed the
Despair, no TV, no drink
No drugs, no sex
So we puffed ourselves
Up like peacock
Size rats and
Strutted and waddled
And cried out God!
Out White Rights! and
Men’s Rights! and
My Rights! and we
thrashed and we wailed
But not enough too
Empire was gone
The world had
Changed and the
White noise scream
Of choice and
We bloated and swelled
And mourned the
Empire of privilege
And influence and
Dug in ready for
So it turns out that you were a decent man.
Perhaps a bit rash, perhaps you saw the world as a two tone party, evil and good with no greys and only distinctions that were clear as a star on a Texan winter night.
There were bad men around you for sure.
Men who exploited and profiteered, who were happy to manipulate you to their benefit (and they did, forgive us all, they did).
Your country lost so much wealth and so much honour while the evil men around you accrued so much money and so much power over life and death and used your armies to persecute a dirty dirty lie.
A lie of exceptionalism.
A lie of moral superiority.
A lie of unambiguity.
But amidst all of this you were the moral centre.
A good man.
A man who believed in his personal responsibility.
A man who didn’t take privilege for granted, a man who had persecuted his own demons in the pursuit of service and a man who truly believed, no matter how self deceived that he was doing the right thing.
Taking the higher road.
Helping to enact the will of a benevolent, loving God.
Helping to make the world great again.
So it turns out that you were a decent man.
So it turns out that I need whales
I need large silent sliding tectonic
Shifts. It not something that I realised
Until today because I simply couldn’t
Perceive that they even existed
And that for the tiny filigree of
Rhythm and articulation to
Dance there needs to be sub-
terranean rolling, graceful and
Steady. If I can hold the whales in
My head I’m sure that I can
Espy dance te well ya
need tae loon tae fargo
round titty tell to
bev tae scream tae
periwinkled black and
black and blue and
gregious harmers well
amongst us fleeing
fliers doot aur rahge
and perple pooar hast
abandoned sunny vis
ages terrble n strange
keppie swum in dark
till nightmahres of ben
kers terror and benker
broth n when ta coot
were dun with sellin
g te filthy fucker jus
t ran off. Off to fealt
y off te swell to puck
ered lip te gorgy sw
ell n when she gets
back tis just as well
she won’t know that
you failed her
So what’s it like? To walk and leave deep, indelible footprints in sand. Where the sand shifts and scorching winds blow but it takes 200 years for the edges of the footprint to start blurring and smudging? What’s it like to be that pinion eyed moral crusader running around frantic, making little fences decorated with tiny flags that designate which footprint attracts shame and which footprint is to be celebrated joyfully and which footprint was never there at all. Do you ever feel foolish? Scurrying about making pointless noise that does nothing but divide when there is a desperate aching yaw which you can watch cleaving – you don’t even need to squint to see the tears. Stupid busy men and yarp ladies. And yarp men and scurry ladies. God I hate you all. Do you ever stop to feel. Feel heavy dead skin shoes, crushers and beaters and blood making kickers. No civilisation ever progressed without violent conquest I have read. But why do we have to be proud? The west’s conquest is at least bloodless now. Maintain the front lines with CGI robots and spandex ambiguity. Still violent. Still an empire. But bloodless at least. Maybe we could have a Hollywood day and maybe eventually an English day – when all the other tongues are silenced and it feels safe to go overseas again and you can scurry, scurry, scurry around your tiny fucking footprints.
You would be having a lot of loud fun here. Packed in the shade of the pub while a hardy, drunken few brave the afternoon sun or the street. All of us pissed, sweaty, stinking, singing to songs we know and shouting during those we don’t. The table is a brawl of empty plates and glasses of every shape. He’s drinking light beer and he’s drinking gin. She’s drinking champagne and she’s drinking rum. We can hear a meat eating competition somewhere and there is AC/DC and a glass smashes and someone yells “Taxi!” and I see your morning walk to work on my phone. January in England is so alien. Your blue sky seems crystal shrill and sharded where ours makes the windows cry with condensation – your air rushes you along with a piercing pinch and ours holds you like a gummy glove and the trip to the beer garden toilet is like a swim and you arrive back to the table drenched. “Haha!” cries my Colombian friend “See the Aussie sweat!”. Your breath is taken with a kick to the lungs and ours is like a sweet soporific draft that medicates against the racket and the press of rancorous bodies. An Australian January is a glorious thing indeed.
By Seamus Kirkpatrick
It was in my mid-30s that I began to write again. Both music and words.
I was desperately seeking approval at the time so I wrote what I imagined would appeal – mostly guitar-based pop and rock music.
There were plenty of good tunes but I lacked the courage to pursue them live and the obsessive, anxiety-riddled pursuit of writing them was a large contributing factor to the breakdown of my relationship of 6 years.
The breakup itself was devastating. It caused me to question reality and every relationship of significance in my life. It was physically painful in a way that I had never experienced and I didn’t write for 6 months as it fell apart.
Towards the end of the breakup I discovered that if I wrote words and let them simply be I could communicate what I was feeling in a very unfiltered way. I could create empathic connections with others.
So it was then that I started writing words regularly.
Not long after the breakup, with the help of an excellent psychologist (thank you Alan), I started to find my own artistic voice.
Here’s an exercise for you:
Take three examples of an art that you love, be it painting, writing, music, dance or whatever.
What is it in each of the examples that resonates with you? Is it energy, physicality, the subject matter, the colours, the rhythm of the language? What is it?
Combine these resonances and you will find your voice.
Once you have your own voice you can begin to speak!
I discovered (much to my surprise) that what resonated for me wasn’t pop and cleverness and guitar riffs but instead cinematic music—music that conjured pictures in my head—and words that were about loss and being human and lyrics that generated empathy.
Meryl Streep castigated us at the Golden Globes. And though she railed from a position of relative power and privilege it does not weaken her words. Empathy. Empathy is the great social binder. Empathy unites disparate individuals into a society that progresses and survives. The individual is ultimately king or queen of their perceived universe – but alone the individual achieves nothing.
The great individuals of our history were nothing without the society that bore them, educated them, and celebrated their great achievements. And society doesn’t exist without empathy. Without societal empathy there is no effective individuality. Without society there is no individual. Without us there is no you.
So I began to write.
I recall a day after the breakup where I walked around the apartment in my pyjamas for six hours, unable to write. Utterly paralysed. Finally I showered and resolved that I would write in the two hours before work. Sitting at my computer I had to fight a wave of nausea and fight back tears. I can’t think of another time when I have experienced anything quite as irrational and physical—but I began to write and after 20 minutes it was ok, and it’s been mostly ok ever since.
So much of what I wrote was about the breakup. Trying to process the intense emotional and physical impact of it. If I didn’t write about the breakup I wrote empathetically about other people in extreme emotional situations. Wanting to find a way to help people to connect through human experience.
I used to perform under separate identities—King Colossus (pop), Seamus Kirkpatrick, (singer songwriter), extinction of animals (spoken word) and St Colombas Invites You (traditional ballads and noise). Over time these became reconciled under the one name King Colossus, because it was the best name and also the strongest. It began as the biggest name I could think of—King Kong Colossus but that sounded daft so it became King Colossus. It was also (I discovered later) the name of an obscure Japanese-only Sega game from the early 90s. I hate the 90s having lived it and I hate computer games so the re-appropriation of the name makes it even more meaningful to me.
How I do what I do has come about because of dissatisfaction and frustrations with my own shortcomings.
An early performance as King Colossus at a friend’s art gallery was encouraging but disappointing. People enjoyed it (and even danced) but they weren’t overwhelmed and transported, which is what I wanted.
I decided to put visuals to my music. Thanks to music program Ableton, Robert Jarvis at zeal.co (the programmer of Vizzable) and my friend Peter Nelson who found the programs and helped make it work – I can treat video as audio clips in Ableton and have them respond as sections of song relative to what I am doing musically.
I have no doubt in my mind that my recombining of others’ videos is an acceptable form of expression.
I would not use your piece of video if you ask me not to or if I have I will stop when asked.
I will not sell a video containing other people’s work.
I would not post online a video containing other people’s work (unless in a live and obscured context).
I want to expand and explore new meaning through recontextualisation.
If you want to see my videos you have to see me live.
If an artist was to use my original music in a similar context live (complementary and recontextualised) I would have no problems with that (if you do please show me though I would love to see what you do).
At some point there will be lots of people who care about what I make and this will all need revising.
I started performing and standing to one side in the dark, outside the reach of the projector. My friend Ben said “You’re trying to hide”. So I stepped into the light and started projecting the video onto myself, making myself part of the video and integrating the performance and the vision.
Seeing Future Islands perform on David Letterman in 2015 was revelatory.
Total shameless commitment.
In venues where a screen is impossible or impractical I simply project onto myself and the wall behind me—it still looks weird and pretty.
The videos that I make are rough and gestural and reflect the emotions, unconscious and conscious, that my music raises within me, both as a writer and a listener. They will often have an internal logic or meaning but I don’t expect what I feel in them to be the same as what you feel.
I resolved to put music under my spoken word after I saw Singaporean poet Deborah Emmanuel in performance. My words (in my mind) simply weren’t good enough and they didn’t provide the immersion I was looking for. Adding visuals to the spoken word was a natural progression, though the visuals are less choreographed, more sustained and abstract, which suits the performance.
My work with Luke Jaaniste’s HHAARRPP project helped me to zero in on the concept of immersion.
Immersion – baptism in which the whole body of the person is submerged…
So combine the words with music and vision and intensity—pummel—overwhelm—flood. That’s what I want to do. I want the audience to feel like they are emerging from an atmosphere or an experience—totally taken away from their lives and to a place of experience and humanity
Performers give a gift to society.
By being the centre of attention and focussing a room full of strangers onto themselves they give a gift of shared social experience. The ability to control energy in a room and to be able to manipulate experience for a group of people requires experience and sacrifice, both in the moment and over a lifetime. The master performer sacrifices their ego and often the right to a normal life so they can gift empathy, intensity, unity and a heightened emotional experience.
Recently I was given the opportunity to perform as an Artist-in-Residence at The Woodford Folk Festival, one of Australia’s largest music and arts festivals. Given permission to do everything that I wanted do (I believe that permission is important) I was able to perform across four nights, combining visuals, spoken word, pop, electronica, ballads and noise. Everything was accompanied by projections and it was immersive as fuck.
I have confidence in the work now—now it needs to be framed in a way that invites the audience in and dissolves them—regardless of their tastes or experience with music, poetry or art.
That’s the goal.
A generous chunk of this residency will be works-in-progress and technical exercises, as well as a video collaboration that will be temporarily viewable.
I will post daily writing exercises (they will be distinct as they will be dated) where my goal is to experience my own personal immersion and relate the experience back to the reader.
There will also be either completed musical works or works-in-progress and perhaps some older works where context is appropriate.
Thanks so much for this opportunity to share.
Seamus Kirkpatrick is a Brisbane-based writer, singer and multi instrumentalist. He mixes songs and poems of loss and grief with moody pop, cinematic textures and noisy, soul guitar.
It’s an immersive, abrasive, ambient and affective combination of electronics, voice and visuals. He is a previous member of beloved Brisbane funk/punk band Taxi, as well as folk groups Cole, Kirkpatrick and Van Dijk and One Straw, jazz trio The Charlie Moreland Trio and The Shenzo Electric Stunt Orchestra. He currently performs with Luke Jaaniste in his HHAARRPP.collective, Nick Watson And The Bawdy Dicks, Fronz Arp and is a regular collaborator with writer, artist and film maker Jake Connor Moss.
For more on King Colossus see https://kingcolossus.bandcamp.com/