Marisa was born in 1977 in New South Wales, Australia and moved with her family to Eumundi, Queensland in the early 1980's. She majored in creative writing at Griffith University Gold Coast in 2004. Marisa received a gold star in grade seven for writing a poem about "Time". She hasn't stopped writing since. Her work has been published in Going Down Swinging, Cottonmouth, Wise Enough zine and Queensland Poetry Festival Anthology. She has made appeareances for poetry and music at 7 Queensland Poetry festivals and has 2 poetry chapbooks published as well as making artist books. She is not widely read. Marisa supports the efforts and endevours of the UN's cultural body UNESCO and is currently a member of the Queensland branch of Australian United Nations.
Marisa writes from the heart. She has met with and dealt with numerous challenges to her mental and physical health from the biopsychosocial realms. She enjoys the practical discipline of Iyengar yoga and Advaita Vedanta since the late 1990's. Saying her work destroys minds is like saying heavy metal music is responsible for people taking their own life. Reading is a life long skill only for the brave arousing passions, ideas and wonders within the imagination of the reader. To correctly interpret the meaning of a piece of writing one needs critical thinking skills. You cannot blame the author for your own state of mind. Basic psychology 101, you can't blame someone else for the way you feel. Your feelings are yours. What you do about those feelings is your responsibility and the consequences that come with it.
So remember, don't shoot the messenger, the messenger is often the message that everyone needs to hear.
You cannot evolve faster than you decay.
Such is the life and death of poetry and literature.
photographs + text
high quality print images
6 x 6 inch
signed by the author
AU $35 + postage $8 (australia) $15 (international)
Authors Notes: The notes for this book are one of the most difficult things I’ve ever written. So please indulge this loose rambling if you may.
When I was very young I remember hearing the New Seekers song ‘I’d like to teach the world to sing’ that I would play with on a windup toy . It captivated and fascinated me and I would say that it was a song that shaped my outlook and temperament. It was a song of meek sweetness.
Yet, either through fate or destiny, the world I inhabited went on to be anything but meek and sweet and resembled more the world of The Little Match Girl.
It seems I’ve spent the last 20 years or so of my life getting over the first twenty years of my life. If evil, as described by Nisagardatta Maharaj, can be paraphrased as to be said to be ‘that which is misunderstood’ and understanding comes through communicating, then both understanding and communication have been lacking. The events that have transpired, been experienced and witnessed have been anathema to communication and understanding.
In my own childworld of Hans Christian Anderson fairytales, Snugglpots and Cuddlepies and sweet hopeful songs I was ill prepared for the violence that crossed my path from the world around me. Social violence. The fire and brimstone of fundamentalist christian pastors screaming from the lectern, peers testing out their narcissistic powers of muscle and hormones and sex and brawn and young feminine wiles on each other and only the most adept survive the schoolyard and later, the arena of the world, intact.
Then as adult having every boundary violated. My no was never enough and I was the recipient of the consequences of predators and authoritarians. Where I should have been assertive I was stunned into silence, where I was under attack I should have not reacted, where I was overpowered I should have been polite. Suffice to say I don’t go around rattling cages, but to be honest that was the only counter force at my disposal.
I took it upon myself to ‘defeat the bully and expose the narrow minded for who they are’ seize life with both hands to grab the bristly boars by the balls and squeeze them till their bodily juices ran in rivuletes across my tight white knuckles and flowed down my arms and legs to the ground. I write this with that gift of hindsight - with pain, sorrow, bitterness, sadness and tears of blood that anyone who has been victim blamed has felt. Of anyone who has had to talk tougher than they actually are.
There is absolutley no real justice in this world (as if the mere mortal judiciary could compensate for all that has been lost) and there is not point pursuing it. People will not take responsibility for their actions and no one wants to own their own shadow. Life is utterly unfair and impersonally arbitrary. I disagree with a system that has been unwittingly passed along from generations that alienates me from myself and others and the planet. The deep loneliness and grief that this brings is hard to bear. The wo/man made world we have constructed is going too fast and fuelled by aggression, competitiveness and commodity and it is intolerable.
The obsessions, preoccupations and methods of self liberation of the patriarchy are not mine.
Women have their own battles and they usually call it growth.
Nobody tells you about the sheer exhaustion that healing up from injury, psychological or physical can bring. That one needs rest like they need oxygen. That when your very survival is threatened there is no room for anything but the will to live. Or not. That you have no energy for a smile, nothing of yourself to give others and that you are working overtime internally trying to process some gut wrenching and nauseating realisations that lodge in your throat and churn up your belly and want digesting, but if not chewed and swallowed slowly are so overwhelming as to send you mad. This brings its own problems and it seems the very company you need is denied because, well, it’s just too difficult to keep up. Keep up appearances and keep up with the energy required to give off a ‘glowing’ ‘light.’
I ponder for many months what it is like for animals in the wild when they are injured. Animal behaviouralist’s know that should an animal show pain or weakness in the wild they are more prone to predation and becoming prey, vulnerable to attacks. So they do not show pain. A survival instinct arises. If they are pack or herd animals they become the lowest in the pecking order. If they are an animal that live solo or in pairs then I can only imagine them trying to feed themselves, survive out in the elements as they lay low and wait for their injury to heal or die from it.
Lay low and hide out until you gather some strength.
The tai chi teachers talk of this gathering of chi, and such chi depletion’s cause havoc to the human biology.
Post traumatic stress often attributed to war veterans is defined by something as being a threat to life, as in a persons is traumatised by a life threatening event or witnessing a life threatening event. It also can occur as threat to Self. Or witnessing the threat to another.
I contend with this. It’s the nightmares, the shadowy fears that seem to have no daylight cause, the nervous system that collapses under any stimulation, the uncontrollable shaking, the inability to hold an object steady. The whispered voice coming from a place so far away, from somewhere dislodged from the body. The voice quality, an indication of the vagus nerve tone, the largest nerve in the body and you take cold showers as a way to bring some life back to your system in frozen shock. Hoping one day you might be able to hold that pencil firmly or that instrument or carry the notes of the song but you know that’s a long way off. When your grip on the neck of the instrument is as tight as your jaw and the neck is either too tense or too flaccid to hold it up and its clenched so tight you think it will break both you and your violin neck. The anxiety of being triggered, the flashes of anger outbursts that seem to come from nowhere. The fear of being attacked and the threat that hovers over every waking moment, knowing that since the earliest days of being socialised you've only ever known what it's like to be scapegoated and gaslighted and why should it ever be any different now? The dread that hangs around like a dark cloud and the memories, the bloody memories. Drinking alot of strong sweet black tea because you remember reading somewhere in the Secret Seven or the Famous Five that they all drank hot strong black tea after the ordeal.
In the study of epigenetics, trauma is hereditary. Often passed down to the third or fourth generation. In intergenerational trauma a grandfather is sent to WWII twice, came home a basket case and passed that down to his descendants. That was my grandfather.
Like a parrellel timeline, a loose thread running alongside my existence, those traumatic experiences of 1998 repeated themselves again in 2014. In the same nightmarish way as my grandfather going to fight in WWII then coming home, then being sent back to war again happened. I mean, I don't think he needed to go there twice and actually, neither did I. Bluntly, I'd already been through it.
I recall a liberating interlude of my life where I was involved with noise. Much like Grimm's the Handless Maiden, the protagonist finds kindly people who she spends time with and her hands eventually grow back. Either through their own indifference or their own depths they allowed this to happen for me. And yet that horrible phrase ‘you are judged by the company you keep’ kept emerging in my face. A sad anathema to my beloved, all encompassing’ I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony’
So I take photographs, as if the eye of the camera is my eye staring into space and by putting a frame of that 1000 yard stare around something it might stop me from wanting to go blind. I take photographs when all have is the energy to get to a location, point my camera and press the button. When I’m trying to avoid the feeling that I’ve been permanently winded and the stuffing knocked out of me. When forming words is too much effort, when my body is ragdoll weak and I am without spark and my soul and spirit have been crushed to pieces. When all I want is to capture some of the beauty that is lost in my heart. I take photos. I take photos of my internal landscape through how see my external world. In light and shade, in colour and monochrome, in texture and angles. I take photos of my flashbacks. Waking and sleeping images that course across my memory. I take photos of a make believe world. Of a world where I can teach the world to sing in perfect harmony of a world where my hands have grown back. Of a world where I am united with the warmth of a family member.
I take photographs and I call the book Flashback and I put photos in it that reflect my internal world that I inhabit in the town I live in.
There remains a part of me that is untouched by the sum total of my experiences. A place beyond forms that is ever present and from where I draw all sustenance. Forever holding me in it’s sweet meek embrace through the tumbles and turns of existence in a world of forms. A place where my love of peace remains undisturbed. Starting with the picture of the white dove in the cigarette ad I cut out of Vogue magazine in the 80’s, the clothing I wore in my 20’s with labels peace angel, the greenpeace sticker on the bottom of my schoolbag before I even knew what it really meant to stick something like that on a personal item.
It's become evident to me that I cannot co operate and comply with a system that is desgned to make me destroy myself and that also wants to pay me for the prvilige of doing so. In public, preferably gloriified. So I second guess myself now and I never did that before. However, I got this rigged, biased, cruel, dehumanizing, unfair system out of my system by dealing with the system.
If habitation is more than just an environment that is conducive to life the planet will be fine long after the human animal has wreaked it’s havoc on it’s natural resources and biology. Though as it stands, the world (that is, the way we organize ourselves) as constructed by humans is no longer habitable for me, it no longer supports my existence and is hostile to my values and being. It would seem I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony is just a childhood dream that has long faded from possibility. I does not appear to me that the human species is evolving to be more civilised or gentle, in fact there is evidence that we are becoming a species that is more cutthroat and cunning. Adapted and adaptable yet enforced by controlled regulation and regimentation, draconian laws and policies.
It is admirable, as Paulo Coehlo writes in The Alchemist, ‘to fight the good fight.’ Still, it is always wise to be careful.
I know who you are, I know what you did, I know where you live.
words, I cannot say
drawings + text
high quality print images
6 x 6 inch
signed by the author
AU $35 + postage $8 (australia) $15 (international)
Authors notes: There goes a story found in music history that the great 20th century American blues singer and guitarist, Robert Johnson, went down to the crossroads and when he got there sold his soul to the devil, as to explain his prodigious talent as a musician. It is a story that has become legend surrounding the road to glory as an artist.
The collection of images and the two poems in this book came about from a similar dilemma in my own life. From the crises of numerous double binds that I found myself in over a time frame of about five years. These images done at my own leisure, unplanned and executed quickly during that time frame depict this freefall.
The title, ‘words, I cannot say’ is both a statement and an explanation. A verbal, psycholinguistic situation I often found myself in during this time. Some would call this mutism, there have many labels given to me - complex post truamtic stress and others with more stigma. Language became basic, functional, transactional and a way to placate others yes, no, can I? How lovely. It is no fluke that my own name immediately follows the title.
I am influenced by the artists Marc Chagall and John Lurie and I make images to communicate many things, a lot of which remains unsaid and unsayable in ordinary conversation, not least for none have the time in this busy 21st century yet also because the isolation I both courted by backing myself into a corner, and fought, by refusing to accept the circumstances I found myself in did not allow me the luxury of good conversation with trusted friends to test my ideas on others and so see if they hold any water at all in the non conceptual realm.
The buddhists talk about leaning into a sense of groundlessness, that essentially all is groundless and these images came out of the groundlessness I experienced, where I lost sight of the shore and was at sea.
In this state of groundless, freefall I lost the power of the word.
I have not written anything of note in 5 years. I have a pile of journals and notebooks full of incoherent, deliberately illegible scrawl. To salvage two poems from this for this publication is a miracle. For someone to whom writing to live is a way of survival it has been quite a reveal to find oneself so full of crap. As the meditation master Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche would call it, ‘setting sun art’.
I am left with, not so much writers block, but a kind of void where what I have experienced and what I want to say are not congruent with the times, the culture I live in and the volatile social mores of acceptability. That is to say I fear to tell the truth (my truth? Absolute truth? The whole truth and nothing but the truth?). But that is too grandiose, it is simply I fear to speak. Faced with this dilemma my own small place in the status quo is not so much one of powerlessness but automatically defined by others, others who hold the keys to power. And what is that power? To choose for another – to decide who can be free to live as one pleases or who is to be locked up literally and metaphorically.
Any kind of writer, poet, songwriter or creative artist who experiences this paradox cannot but sway towards contemplating things such as censorship, free speech, human rights and the like. At a time when all decide that they must have a voice that it is their right to be heard the question remains, if everyone has a voice who is there to listen? Or, If you have been gifted the chance to use a microphone, use it wisely, say something worthwhile. This is largely an unpopular opinion but It is my own. I feel oppressed in a world of the vox populi.
This has forced me into a kind if hopeless despair at times and at other times an unsolvable contradiction that merely goes round and round paradoxically in my head. If I feel creative and clever I could reframe it as one of those koans the Zen master gives. It certainly does halt my thinking. And is thinking not the primary skill of the writer? Even now I find I often spend my days in a gentle wordless silence with only my own contemplations for company.
It dawned on me a few weeks before collating this book for publication. My own, now very faint, but firm inner voice, with barely any remnants of the tone that has infused the last 30 years of school essays, university essays, creative writing, poetry books, novella, songs and journalling, floated out of me and said
“Now you know, now you really know what it means to be a writer.”
Fire in the Head (selected works 1996-2006)
CONTENT WARNING: COARSE LANGUAGE
The author unequivocally disagrees with and disputes the editors description of this book on the back cover. This book is not about any of those things. The author reserves the right to defend the integrity of her work.
Authors notes: This first collection of 30 or so poems was selected out of around 300-500 poems that I had written from 1996 through to 2006. The images were seleted from stacks of lean pencil drawings, mere scribbles, warm up sketches, mindless pencil wanderings in my notebook. The editor was faced with a daunting task to choose what poems to publsh. I wanted all of them in, but he said no. In the end I was shown a wall with the poems in this book pinned sequentaily together. I read them all and with the bare words laid out on the A4 pinned to the wall a heavy sadness washed over me. I said to the editor, this is very sad. He agreed.
Skip to 4 months later.
Local grant funding was approved for the launch of the book at a local bookstore. Queensland poet Nathan Shepherdson was confirmed to read at the launch.
Skip back 2 months earlier.
I am 2 days away from departing for a tour to America. The editor sends me the digital proof of the book. Sans cover.
I take a quick glance over the file.. it seemed fine.
The rest is history.
Fire in the Head is a book that has been given an artificial context. The choices the editor and publisher made on how the book is presented, how he managed to use titles of series that I had written to denote sections in the book, defined how the book is seen and hence how it is read. Many of the subsections in the book have been taken from a 10 year context. If this was a film it would be called a trick of the light or the magic of cinema to create fantasy. It is both the books strength and its downfall.
As a first collection it wasn't until after the book was launched that I learnt just how much power a publisher and editor has over an authors work. Merely we are scribes, and in my case, i like to add pictures. To say when I receieved the actual printed copies in my hand I was non plussed, is an understatement. It was not how i had imagined they would look. To define the point, if you take off the strange gothic lettering, the hyperbole of the back cover blurb, the inversion to black and white of what was orginally grey and cream, the way the subsections seem to create a context that is juicy and sweet. It is merely a sad, hopelesly desperately sad book. Never confessional, never sentimetal, it is the angel dissapearing into the air wrapped in fire. It is the work of someone who had lost everything before they even started. It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah on the path of Buckley, moreso than anything, because he had Buckleys. Just like me.
That is its magic. That all that experience could go through the crucible and come out into words and that what is hidden in the words is what the cover of the book fails to match.
Marisa Allen 3/2021
Poetry Chapbook. Published by outsiders press. $10AU ($8 postage) ($15 postage international)
Poetry Chapbook. Published by Walleah Press. 2014
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