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Members’ Quarter

This section offers you the opportunity to post your work for other members of the Fellowship to read. If you would like to have something published here, please email it to admin@fawwa.org.au with the words ‘Members Quarter’ in the subject line. Electronic versions only accepted. Poems may be up to 60 lines. Works of fiction, essays,  creative non-fiction or other prose may be up to 5000 words. What is displayed and for what length of time is at the discretion of the office.

 

MY LIFE AS A SARI

by Frances Macaulay Forde

Securely tuck your fears under elastic
at the centre of your waist with your left hand,
and with your right, hold the remaining
metres of spun silk – your future, facing inside.

Measure the drop of the fall
and it’s finely stitched edge
for correct positioning against heels.

Wrap yourself in the gossamer fold,
swirling the diaphanous film behind
but stay level and wedge the top border
into your petticoat.

Like a bride preparing herself,
you are now ready to pleat.

At a distance from the last fixing,
hand-measure the delicate veil,
embroidered with details
important to who you are
toward the middle of your body.

Some may need five pleats, some six.
Less is more. Another judgement held on show
– a statement of size, however graciously it moves.

Securely fix the perfumed fanning
and grasp what is left, bring it back around
to wrap warmly and return to the front.

These days, you can choose to gather all loose
ends onto your left shoulder, secured with a jewel.
But many prefer to throw the remainder
over, remembering to hold an arm half bent,
letting the end float freely – the beaded
edge skimming the inside of your wrist.

(1st publications noted on Page 2.) NOTES:

‘My Life as a Sari’ was 1st published in INDIGO Journal, Volume III, January,  2009.

An interview with the author appears on Fremantle Press website, on their Poetry Resources Page:  http://www.fremantlepress.com.au/resources/poetrycentre

UBUD DIARY

October 2nd 2012

Her hands were warm and very strong, fingers nudging my skin, digging into the tissue between bones. The air was muggy, but at least it was stirring from the fan above the massage table. I was lying face down in the middle of Ubud, enjoying a Balinese massage from someone with a lot of practice. In the next-door booth, Trisha was enjoying a reflexology session on her aching feet. Even discounting the amazingly low price ($5 for 30 minutes) it was a very pleasant experience, especially after tramping the narrow streets, dodging motorbikes, and the taxis and cars imported from Japan. Models such as the Kijang Kijang seem to be everywhere, a perfect fit for the cramped conditions with their high boxy design, small outside, big inside.

 

Emerging from my massage, I was surprised to find a bowl of fresh fruit salad and a cup of ginger tea waiting for each of us. It seemed just the right refreshment after our relaxation. A scrawny-looking kitten joined us, looking hopeful, but there was no cat type food. I found it a little surprising that the massage girls were not gentle with the poor little thing that looked starving, but they did stop short of being too rough. We booked to go back for a further session. After again negotiating the narrow and uneven footpaths, we went on to a lovely meal of chicken satay for me, and fresh grilled tuna for Trisha. I tried doing some shopping for clothes or presents but was rather a failure at this.

 

It is difficult to express the change in Ubud that has occurred since my last visit 30 years ago. At that time, there were one or two cars, a few motorbikes, and a couple of dirt floor stalls selling batik, and wooden ornaments. Another place a man demonstrated teaching his small son how to make silver jewelry. Now Ubud is an intense maze of shops, with glass windows and tiled floors, often two or three stories high. There is no feeling that what is for sale is locally made. Much of it is from China, as it is in Perth. The people are still friendly and smiling, markedly less poor. There are no longer any old men or women with bent backs, carrying loads of stones or bricks. Families of four do not ride on one motorbike any more. Now no people come up to you in the streets, stroking your arm, and crying ‘you buy, you buy.’ There are only a few mothers holding out their children asking you to buy so they can eat. No one is asking you to buy trinkets as an act of kindness, for good luck. The only hawkers are men asking if you need a taxi. The whole of Bali seems much more prosperous than it was. Some of the locals are even overweight.

 

After lunch we haggled for a taxi to go back to the retreat; after we got the price down we realized that we had been arguing about the difference between four dollars and five, and felt ashamed. One Australian dollar gave us 10,000 Indonesian rupiah. For 40,000 you can enjoy a nice restaurant dinner. The thousands involved in buying anything distorts the process of purchase; the tendency to think prices are higher than they actually are is an easy and unhealthy one to slip into. I have to keep telling myself, values are in thousands, and at a rate of ten to one.

 

Back at Pondok Saraswati, we found that Patsy and her nine-year-old grandson, Leo, had arrived and were ready to go to the resort across the road for a swim. We found no smell of chlorine in the pool but the water was clear and warm, with a fabulous view of rice terraces and a few large houses in the local architecture of bamboo and thatch. A lovely restaurant was attached to the pool, and as Trisha was going off to singing practice, Patsy, Leo and I decided to go back there for dinner. Some confusion over the order meant we had our main course first. The appetizer, which should have been three spring rolls (one each) turned out to be six each. And they didn’t serve wine. We didn’t find out until afterwards that it was a Muslim establishment. Bali, which has always been an island of Hindu culture in the middle of a Muslim sea, now has a growing Muslim population.

 

And now I am back in my little bungalow, listening to the a wedding being celebrated, the priest chanting and music playing; and ready to go to bed. My eyes are aching and I’m slightly sun burnt, but at least my new bathers were a success. Ready for start of festival tomorrow.

 

4th October

 

It began with gamelan music by an all male orchestra and traditional dance by a graceful all female Balinese group in local costume. The official opening of the Festival by its founder, Janet de Neefe, was quick and in front of a packed room at the Neka Museum. Jose Ramos Horta being interviewed by Todung Mulya Lubis immediately followed her; interesting, entertaining and enlightening but not at all challenging. This interview, as was the one following (Anna Funder interviewed by Stephen Romei) were more like friendly chats over morning coffee than a voyage deep into the meaning of writing. After lunch Trisha and I shot over to the Left Bank Restaurant for ‘The Chronicling of Trauma.’ This was a panel consisting of three journalists who covered wars and disasters. Author of King Brown Country, Australian Russell Skelton, gripped the audience reading his excerpts regarding indigenous youth suicide in the Northern Territory.

 

Also on the panel was one man who had survived the 2004 tsunami. An Austrian writer, Josef Haslinger, Professor of Literary Aesthetics in Leipzig, Germany, found that after nearly drowning and losing his family he became unable to write at all. After a year, his publisher suggested that he write about his experience; the bare honesty this required seemed to unlock his secret store of emotion and he now has a book out, Tsunami.

 

From the Left Bank we went to the Indus Restaurant where ‘The Women’ Hour, and a Bit’ featured a discussion on writing and performing from a female perspective. Again the room was packed, and again it was like a friendly chat with authors. This was followed by ‘Let’s talk about sex,’ chaired by Shamini Flint. A young Chinese woman, Sheng Keyl, discussed her story of a village girl who travels to the city and takes control of her own sexuality; it has proved immensely popular with the young demographic of both sexes in China. Kate Holden discussed her new book about her sojourn in Italy, and Faramerz Dabholwala talked about his own work on the history of sex. Whew!

 

By now it was 5.30 and we flew down to the Betelnut to watch the free film ‘Drupadi’ an excerpt from the Ramayana. An unusual length of 40 minutes fits it nowhere in accepted cinema. Visually stunning, but with my attention on the subtitles I missed some of the meaning, and facial expressions, but managed to get the gist. A short trip to the Internet café and time to go home.

 

6th October 2012

 

Another just incredibly full day, beginning with a panel on ‘It’s History to Me,’ discussing the differences between historical fiction and actual history. Colin Falconer, Faramerz Dabholwala, Jill Dawson, Hernan Lara, chair Rosemary Sayer. The general feeling was that good historical fiction should be so steeped in research and fact that the narrative gives an accurate representation of the time and place, while the feelings of the characters are the arena in which the writer can spread their wings and fly at will.

 

Following this was an interview with Pulitzer Prize Winner Jeffrey Eugenides. He was very funny, as well as engaging and intelligent (duh). Beckett’s quote, ‘Fail, fail again, fail better,’ summed up his writing philosophy. His favourite book is Anna Karenina, followed by Saul Bellow’s Herzog. Jeffrey spent some time discussing his novel Middlesex, and it’s study of those born female who turn male when they reach puberty. He revealed his difficulty in breaking the rules regarding first person narration when he decided he had to get inside some of the other characters’ heads.

 

After Jeffrey, and after lunch, Trisha and I split up and went to different events. My choice was ‘It Rolls off the Tongue,’ with a panel consisting of Kader Abdolah, Marina Endicott, Anna Funder, and Muhary Wahyu Nurba. The theme centred around finding just the right word for what you want to express. The Pakistani, now Dutch author, Kader Abdolah, stated his belief that thinking is magical and lying makes magic. Anna Funder asked, ‘Why put something ugly into the world?’ The Indonesian poet, Muhary Wahyu Nurba, read some of his sublime poetry. His method of dealing with writers block is to go crazy, throw things around and just go for it, a process called ‘hijari’ in Indonesian.

 

Then it was back to the Neka Museum to meet Trisha for the talk between Jose Ramos Horta and John Pilger. It was completely packed, I was late and we never found each other until later at the film, ‘They call me Nyai Ontosoroh’ at the Betelnut. As this was in Indonesian without subtitles and was a film of the play, it was less satisfying than we had hoped.

 

At the end of the film we went to find some food, then returned to the venue for the Poetry Slam advertised for 7pm. Unfortunately another film was showing that didn’t finish till 7.30. After waiting until 8pm and still nothing happening, we decided to leg it back to Pondok.

 

7th October

 

The first thing I attended today was called Arab Spring. I was only there to get a seat for the following session (Nick Cave) and wasn’t expecting a lot from it. I couldn’t have been more wrong; it was probably the best and most informative of them all. MJ Akbar, an Indian journalist, and Hani Shukrallah, an Egyptian editor and author, spoke eloquently and to the point. It was like a university lecture with the most knowledgeable and generous of lecturers. In that hour and a quarter I leant more and heard sharper analysis in that hour about the Arab world, as distinct from the Islamic world, than from several years of Internet, television and newspaper reporting.

 

Nick Cave arrived to much applause for his interview with Stephen Romei of The Australian newspaper. To say Nick was interesting and funny sort of downplays the immense output of music he has written and performed (250 songs), his success as scriptwriter of ‘The Proposition’ and ‘Lawless’ (out soon), and as novelist of And the Ass Saw the Angel and The Death of Bunny Monroe.  Most of his novel writing has been done on tour buses. [Nick’s description of songwriting: (wildly misquoted) first you get one line. You mess around with it. Maybe after a while you get a second line. This takes weeks. By the time you get to the second or third stanza you think maybe it is going to be sort of all right. This happens after rejecting the first 6 or 7 efforts because they are too much like the last album.] He also discussed his admiration for Johnny Cash, his love for old vinyl records and some of his immediate plans for the future including touring next year.

 

Met up with Trisha and had a lunch at a spot that suggested we have coffee with animal (milk) and gave us a free drink, free salad, and a 20 per cent discount, after we balked at the prices, which were double anywhere else. All dining in Bali adds on a 10% tax and 5% service fee.  The restaurant was out of the way of the main drag of the Festival and empty. After lunch Trisha went on to a session on writing ‘For the Love of Humanity,’ while I went to the book launch of Voice of the Archipelago, an anthology of short stories and poems by sixteen Indonesian writers, from Papua, West Timor, Java and smaller islands. The anthology is printed in both Indonesian and English.

 

We did a bit of shopping, had a drink, bought some cake to take home and jumped in a taxi. While we were not really cut off from radio, TV, newspapers etc – we kept up with emails – the world and its worries seemed to drop away behind. We did not realise until returning that we were about to cross paths with Julia Gillard, or in fact that we were there on the eve of the anniversary of what has become ‘before and after.’

Best of luck to Bali and all who sail in her.

PATRICIA JOHNSON