‘No Country’, by Rebecca Harkins-Cross

The Yabba, 1971. My genesis is a panorama of nothing on some faraway blasted plain where the closest thing to life is the way vision warps in the heat. I’d be lying if I were to tell you I remembered anything before this desolation. Who is at home nowhere? This isn’t a riddle, it’s a failure of imagination.

The opening shot of Wake in Fright is - for me anyway - where Australian film begins, if we allow image to be unshackled from chronology. National cinema arises in this conception of ‘woop woop', the back of beyond, not here but out there. Nobody’s land, crowded with the ghosts killed to conceive of nothingness. The red earth hungers for more blood.

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‘On the Problem of White Men (in a “Postmodern” World)’, by Mark Dean

A young man becomes the victim of a heinous crime. While out on the town one night, he is dealt a blow to the back of the head by another man’s fist, enters a coma and, days later, dies of his injuries. The young man is a victim of something unspeakable. That an innocent person could be attacked at random and for no apparent reason speaks to some festering wound in the organ of society. The media and social commentators call for swift justice to be sought against his perpetrator, and the morally righteous demand deep institutional changes in society. No one questions the validity of this young man’s experience, nor the suffering of his family and friends. We take at face value the urgent need to address the causes of an act so deplorable, and everyone feels personally affected without insisting upon the details. Alcohol is to blame; lock-out laws are put in place, and police presence in popular nightspots is increased.

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Excerpt: ‘Consuming Homonyms for Desirable Traits’, by Nancy Lee

I could never really pin down why I cared about food, or why I felt like I needed a reason. So when I first read Anthony Bourdain’s account of eating his first oyster, an experience which completely blew his mind as a young boy, it was like having an epiphany with him. “It tasted of seawater… of brine and flesh… and somehow… of the future. Everything was different now. Everything… Food had power. It could inspire, astonish, shock, excite, delight, and impress. It had the power to please me, and others. This was valuable information.”

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Excerpt: ‘A Conversation with Leslie Jamison’, by Madelaine Lucas

Leslie Jamison is the author of a novel The Gin Closet, the essay collection The Empathy Exams, and, most recently, The Recovering, a hybrid memoir that questions and considers the stories we tell when we talk about drinking and sobriety: in recovery circles, in literature, and in the myths that conflate artistic genius with damage, and in the punitive rhetoric that has surrounded addiction in America tracing back to the Prohibition era. Here, genre is elastic. The personal is political, Jamison knows, because every individual life is shaped by larger social and cultural forces. She allows these influences to intersect in textual forms: memories exist alongside literary biography, journalistic reportage alongside critical analysis.

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‘To Renounce Awe in Something Large Is to Make the Large Thing Touchable’, by Hanif Abdurraqib and Marwa Helal

In the latest instalment of our Poets in Conversation series, Hanif Abdurraqib talks to Marwa Helal about taming obsessions before they can tame you.

Marwa:

I was thrilled you were in Egypt last month (and near my hometown!) interviewing international legendary footballer Mohamed Salah. Kept clicking on your IG stories hoping to get a glimpse of the motherland but nope, it wasn’t happening [dramatic pause] because you were posting about watching owl videos on YouTube!! :/ Brief disappointment for me, but still happy for you. Really want to hear what your impressions were of the country based on the short time you were there.

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Excerpt: ‘Foraging’, by Bridget Lutherborrow

I like to eat the low-hanging fruit. Twist plump figs from the neighbour’s tree. Soft-fleshed and strange. Just a lump of purpling skin like me. There is something in the act of admitting what you want that’s terrifying: this is at work when we eat. Eating is not just when you press your teeth into the skin of the fig and let its guts spill out. Not just that sweet mouthful of twisted pink and white tendrils. It’s the moments of planning, thinking of the tree out there on the corner, bulky in the sun. It’s putting the dog on his leash and checking for people on the street. It’s putting your hand up to that first perfect fig. The twist of your wrist, your fingers pressing lightly around the fruit. The release as it snaps from the tree.

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‘Tributary’, by Nadia Bailey

A few years back, my father inherited a block of land near Darraweit Guim, a phrase that’s said to mean “the meeting of the waters”. The land my father tends there is desolate and vast. On the road to the property, there are signs that warn of the countryside’s potential to explode into flames: low, moderate, high, severe, extreme, catastrophic. The property is accessed via a narrow, winding road, which turns to a narrower dirt road, ending in a heavy metal gate hung on wooden posts that needs to be hitched from its lock and manoeuvred open. After you inch down a steep driveway spiked with hairpin bends, you arrive at a large metal shed, surrounded by old machinery, car hulls, rusted scrap metal. The shed is the only building on the property. Around it, the land is as bare as a tabletop.

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Excerpt: ‘Geoengineering: How to Fall in Love with Your Snow Globe World’, by Michael Dulaney

Until a century ago there persisted a scientific belief, propagated by leading scientists like evolutionist Thomas Henry Huxley, that nature was inexhaustible and that no human endeavour could deplete or even reduce the north western Atlantic fishing stock. As late as 1885, the Canadian Ministry of Agriculture declared that “unless the order of nature is overthrown, for centuries to come our fisheries will continue to be fertile.”

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