A poem that inspired a book

This, poem, written by Rimbaud when he was 16, inspired by Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, will inspire my next novel. Not so much the poem itself, but the poet, and his life. I came across him via Patti Smith.

Rimbaud stopped writing by the time he was 21, and I need to know why.

As I was floating down unconcerned Rivers
I no longer felt myself steered by the haulers:
Gaudy Redskins had taken them for targets
Nailing them naked to coloured stakes.

I cared nothing for all my crews,
Carrying Flemish wheat or English cottons.
When, along with my haulers those uproars were done with
The Rivers let me sail downstream where I pleased.

Into the ferocious tide-rips
Last winter, more absorbed than the minds of children,
I ran! And the unmoored Peninsulas
Never endured more triumphant clamourings

The storm made bliss of my sea-borne awakenings.
Lighter than a cork, I danced on the waves
Which men call eternal rollers of victims,
For ten nights, without once missing the foolish eye of the harbor lights!

Sweeter than the flesh of sour apples to children,
The green water penetrated my pinewood hull
And washed me clean of the bluish wine-stains and the splashes of vomit,
Carrying away both rudder and anchor.

And from that time on I bathed in the Poem
Of the Sea, star-infused and churned into milk,
Devouring the green azures; where, entranced in pallid flotsam,
A dreaming drowned man sometimes goes down;

Where, suddenly dyeing the bluenesses, deliriums
And slow rhythms under the gleams of the daylight,
Stronger than alcohol, vaster than music
Ferment the bitter rednesses of love!

I have come to know the skies splitting with lightnings, and the waterspouts
And the breakers and currents; I know the evening,
And Dawn rising up like a flock of doves,
And sometimes I have seen what men have imagined they saw!

I have seen the low-hanging sun speckled with mystic horrors.
Lighting up long violet coagulations,
Like the performers in very-antique dramas
Waves rolling back into the distances their shiverings of venetian blinds!

I have dreamed of the green night of the dazzled snows
The kiss rising slowly to the eyes of the seas,
The circulation of undreamed-of saps,
And the yellow-blue awakenings of singing phosphorus!

I have followed, for whole months on end, the swells
Battering the reefs like hysterical herds of cows,
Never dreaming that the luminous feet of the Marys
Could force back the muzzles of snorting Oceans!

I have struck, do you realize, incredible Floridas
Where mingle with flowers the eyes of panthers
In human skins! Rainbows stretched like bridles
Under the seas’ horizon, to glaucous herds!

I have seen the enormous swamps seething, traps
Where a whole leviathan rots in the reeds!
Downfalls of waters in the midst of the calm
And distances cataracting down into abysses!

Glaciers, suns of silver, waves of pearl, skies of red-hot coals!
Hideous wrecks at the bottom of brown gulfs
Where the giant snakes devoured by vermin
Fall from the twisted trees with black odours!

I should have liked to show to children those dolphins
Of the blue wave, those golden, those singing fishes.
– Foam of flowers rocked my driftings
And at times ineffable winds would lend me wings.

Sometimes, a martyr weary of poles and zones,
The sea whose sobs sweetened my rollings
Lifted its shadow-flowers with their yellow sucking disks toward me
And I hung there like a kneeling woman…

Almost an island, tossing on my beaches the brawls
And droppings of pale-eyed, clamouring birds,
And I was scudding along when across my frayed cordage
Drowned men sank backwards into sleep!

But now I, a boat lost under the hair of coves,
Hurled by the hurricane into the birdless ether,
I, whose wreck, dead-drunk and sodden with water,
neither Monitor nor Hanse ships would have fished up;

Free, smoking, risen from violet fogs,
I who bored through the wall of the reddening sky
Which bears a sweetmeat good poets find delicious,
Lichens of sunlight [mixed] with azure snot,

Who ran, speckled with lunula of electricity,
A crazy plank, with black sea-horses for escort,
When Julys were crushing with cudgel blows
Skies of ultramarine into burning funnels;

I who trembled, to feel at fifty leagues’ distance
The groans of Behemoth’s rutting, and of the dense Maelstroms
Eternal spinner of blue immobilities
I long for Europe with it’s aged old parapets!

I have seen archipelagos of stars! and islands
Whose delirious skies are open to sailor:
– Do you sleep, are you exiled in those bottomless nights,
Million golden birds, O Life Force of the future? –

But, truly, I have wept too much! The Dawns are heartbreaking.
Every moon is atrocious and every sun bitter:
Sharp love has swollen me up with heady langours.
O let my keel split! O let me sink to the bottom!

If there is one water in Europe I want, it is the
Black cold pool where into the scented twilight
A child squatting full of sadness, launches
A boat as fragile as a butterfly in May.

I can no more, bathed in your langours, O waves,
Sail in the wake of the carriers of cottons,
Nor undergo the pride of the flags and pennants,
Nor pull past the horrible eyes of the hulks.




The thing about thinking too much

As a creative person, as pretty much everyone is, whether realised or not, you tend to overthink everything, and when you’re not creating, you feel like you’re wasting time.

At the moment, work is so hardcore – that’s what you get when you run your own business – that I actually WANT to concentrate on it for a while. But the other side of me, the creative one, wonders if I’m not just wasting time? Or maybe I’m procrastonating.

Arg, somebody give me the answer!

In the meantime, I’m watching the Patti Smith doco from 2008, Dream of Life. Fuck, I love this woman. I hope you do, too.

PS. Just last week I went to a tribute show of Patti’s Horses, featuring Australian musos I love to bits: Adalita, Jen Cloher, and Courtney Barnett. Check out the photos.


It’s a Giveaway!

It’s giveaway time over at Goodreads. Enter to win a copy of Floating Upstream – a real, flick-the-pages-with-your-fingers copy that you can dog ear, cry onto, underline and the rest of it.

For your chance to win one of three copies, head over to Goodreads. PLUS All winners will also receive a usb stick filled with music that inspired the book. Good luck!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Floating Upstream by Jo Vraca

Floating Upstream

by Jo Vraca

Giveaway ends October 05, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

A thousand million years ago

A thousand million years ago I ran away from home (for the second time out of four) and took up a room in Geelong. Pretty sure it was a big old rooming house with 9 other women (also pretty sure this is one of the reasons why I could never be a lesbian, besides not being one, whatever).  So anyway, I was at Deakin Uni and one of my classes was called “Narrative Studies” or something (this was 1987!) and a woman called Ania Walwicz came to our class and got us to do some weird-ass writing that changed my life.

One hour for a life-changing experience.

Ania had us do some stream-of-consciousness writing, something I’d never heard of. Yet it was life changing.

A few years later, I came across Ania again in a writing class at the Footscray Community Arts Centre, and had coffee with her at the Black Cat on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy, and visited her home. Ania believed in my writing before I did.

Many many years later, I took a class at Melbourne University with Karen Burnes. Karen had me do a reading at a bar on Brunswick street. Karen believed in my writing before I did.

I still don’t believe in my writing, because that’s weird, and presumptuous.

Anyway, I’m publicly launching my book next week, the one I started as a short story during Karen Burnes’s class 15 years ago. I’ve connected with a few people from that time, who read my stuff, people like Rachel Matthews and Peggy Frew. They believed in my writing before I did.

I’ll believe in my writing some day. 

Here’s some of Ania Walwicz’s writing. She’s such a rad spoken word artist, and I believe in her.

David Bowie, Therapy, and Live Music

What a freaking week! I LOVE change. Change is also pretty overwhelming. Right now, I have change-a-million (and a cat crawling over me).

So let’s ignore that fluff and look at David Bowie. I heart Bowie’s music. Until tonight I thought I hearted Bowie. Period. After visiting the much hyped Bowie Is Now exhibition at ACMI in Melbourne tonight, I learned that I really just love the music, not the artist. Is that even possible?

Can you love the music but not the performance?

Friday nights at the Bowie show, ACMI is putting on some live shows, and tonight I got to see a favourite of mine, Jen Cloher, with Courtney Barnett (on guitar) – talk about all of my girl crushes in one room!

The band wore black.

The band was noisy.

It made me think hard about the avant-guard-ness of Bowie’s performance art-ed-ness.

That’s why I’m more Lou Reed than David Bowie.

I like artists who just tell it like it is.

I still love Bowie’s music.

I just don’t care for Bowie’s costumes or performances.

But I love this.

Can it be true?

Researching my favourite songs of the 70s for a mix-tape I’m giving away with my book at my upcoming launch and re-discovered this one. Just saying. I remember this song, and it made it to #11 of the Australian Music Charts in 1974. #11!!!


Holy Shitballs!

Tonnes of writing advice tells us that we should read our writing out loud to see how it feels and reads. Let me tell you what’s better than reading your writing out loud – getting someone else to read your writing out loud. To that end, last night, during my husband’s weekly Art Night, I asked my little cousin to read to me a new poem I wrote over the weekend. Wow! The kid is so sweet, so when she read back my I HATE poem, it was truly something. Here it is. Read it out loud or down low. I don’t mind.

I hate the rain
I hate umbrellas
I hate the sunlight when I’ve forgotten my glasses
I hate parents who scream at their children
And let them run around my table.
I hate sound
I hate memory.
I hate bikinis on skinny bitches
I hate the sound of airflow outside the window
I hate maths
I hate the sound your damp finger makes as it turns another page
I hate your success
I hate ordinariness
I hate our normality
Sometimes I hate the cool water pouring from the tap and want to cork it so
I hate the moon on a cloudy night
I hate those piddly wooden benches in the park and wish they were deeper
I hate cowards who didn’t tell their truth
I hate sprinklers left on during a storm
I hate your throat.
I hate repeating the same thing over and over
and over again.
I hate the colour blue, the way it cloaks you at night.
I hate missing you.
I hate breathing.
I love the water on my neck when I shower
Deglazing me.
Pouring me, drop by bloody drop
Down the drain
I love to be debris, cast out to sea.

Out to sea.

When will I be a real writer?

At what point do you become a real writer? Is it when when it’s available on Amazon and you get your first real-life printed copy? Or, if you’re in Australia, when it’s available for purchase from Readings?

Or maybe it’s the moment you write that last page. Or the day you burn it forever. Every last page.

I don’t know about you, but I wrote my first novel when I was 12. That’s way back in 1982. Thriller had just been released.

Time’s Man of the Year was given to the Computer.

One of my favourite songs was “Centerfold” by the J. Geils Band.

John Belushi died.

I used to go to bed wondering what Adam Ant was doing while I was asleep or having breakfast or (yawn) learning maths.

I read SE Hinton’s The Outsiders for the first time.

I was obsessed with the Outsiders when I heard that the film was due to be released in ’83, and wanted nothing more than to be a bad girl, the only bad girl of the group of Greasers – not like Cherry, who was a Soc with a bad streak, but one of the really bad kids. But I lived in an uber-strict world. So, rather than live it, I did what so many writers do, I wrote about the life I thought I wanted. Then, because I was a total wanker who had not siblings and fewer friends, and read Edgar Allen Poe, I torched every hand-typed page. Because that’s what you did to art when it wasn’t perfect.


Book launch… for reals

A Book Launch? Yes, A Book Launch!

Join fellow author, Belinda Missen and I as we launch our debut novels on Thursday, September 24, 2015

@ Littlefoot, 223 Barkly Street, Footscray. 6-8pm

There’ll be drinks and nibbles, as well as readings from our works (I promise this is going to be awesome).

If you think you can make it on the night, please head over to Facebook to RSVP or just come on the night!

Pre-order Floating Upstream

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