You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘bravery’ tag.

Source: Australian War Memorial

A soldier and his dog, Okinawa, World War Two. Source: Australian War Memorial

‘How beautiful maleness is, if it finds its right expression.’
DH Lawrence

‘It is a wise man who knows where courage ends and stupidity begins.’
Jerome Cady

‘To me the definition of true masculinity – and femininity too – is being able to lay in your own skin comfortably.’
Vincent D’Onofrio

‘This is the test of manhood: How much is there left in you after you have lost everything outside of yourself?’
Orison Swett Marden

‘The opposite of bravery is not cowardice but conformity.’
Robert Anthony

‘Only when manhood is dead – and it will perish when ravaged femininity no longer sustains it – only then will we know what it is to be free.’
Andrea Dworkin

‘We have gained a legend: a story of bravery and sacrifice and,
with it, a deeper faith in ourselves and our democracy,
and a deeper understanding of what it means to be Australian.’
Paul Keating MP

‘As far as I’m concerned, being any gender is a drag.’
Patti Smith

‘In a modern war…you will die like a dog for no good reason.’
Ernest Hemingway

‘The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.’
Thucydides

‘Fiction never exceeds the reach of the writer’s courage.’
Dorothy Allison

What to do when things get busy?  Well, ramp things up and get crazy-busy of course.

Not satisfied with all the things I currently have going in my life, over the last few months I’ve been collaborating with Melbourne writer Alec Patric on something we both hope will be pretty bloody special – an on-line creative arts/literary journal.  Whilst format-wise there are still a few things to iron out we’re throwing caution to the wind and as of today getting it out there.  We’re planting a seed, and seeing what takes hold.

The name of this something pretty bloody special?  Drum-roll please.

Verity La.

It’s named after a hidden back-alley in the small Australian city where the journal was born.  We’re looking for the truth, and reality, and actuality, whatever these things mean.

We’re publishing short fiction and poetry, cultural comment, photomedia, and review.  What’s the point of difference?  Bravery.  Yes, bravery.  Courage, daring, pluck and nerve are all essential in the Verity La neck of the woods.  We’ve produced a place for creative risk-taking, freedom, and – above all else – being no one but yourself.

We’re interested in new voices, different voices, progressive voices; we like writing that gets you in the head as well as the gut, that has a point, that isn’t afraid.  Whether it’s fiction, poetry, comment or review, we want high-quality text, and by ‘high-quality’ we mean thoughtfully composed, a focus on words, words with impact.

Verity La publishes in the following streams:

  • ‘Lies To Live By’: Short fiction to 1,000 words.
  • ‘Heightened Talk”: Poetry with gumption.  Alec has kicked things off with a blistering poem called ‘What We’ve Done’.  Do have a read – it’s here.
  • ‘VL’: Cultural comment to 1,500 words.
  • ‘More Than Opinion’: Reviews of literature and contemporary music to 500 words.   Principles for submissions of reviews: accuracy, respect, truth.  We’re looking for high-quality text, hence the whole ‘more than opinion’ thing.
  • ‘Catching Light’: stills only.  Hint: Polaroid pics are particularly hot property on Verity La.
  • ‘The Melbourne Review Interviews’: interviews with writers and other artists.

Submission guidelines can be found here.

So…charge your glasses and join us in sending Verity La into the world!

The last time I was on a residency, a year ago at Bundanon in New South Wales, I put up an A4-sized sign above my desk – BE BRAVE.  A high-end publisher had given me that advice a week before and I made sure to take it with me down to the Shoalhaven.  Whenever I struggled, I looked up, saw the sign, and then I was brave.  At least, I tried to be.  I have the same sign with me here at Cataract Gorge: it’s just there, on the wall, a metre away from where I’m writing this post (still by hand, would you believe; I’m sticking to my guns).

Bravery seems to be the theme of the week.

Most days in this place young boys or men strap themselves high up to the Gorge cliffs and abseil their lives away.  Sometimes they stop mid-fall, steady themselves, put out their arms and have a photo taken by their friends back up the cliff – should the rope break, or the equipment fail, they’d smash their bodies open on the rocks below.

Every evening, Launceston joggers – men and women – plug themselves into their i-Pods and send their bodies up one side of the Gorge and down the other, across and through and around and over the duckboards, boardwalks, catwalks, even along a suspension bridge that makes you feel drunk just by looking at it.  I scared the living crap out of one of these folk last night, when, wearing my black jeans and black hoodie and black jacket, I rounded a corner and almost ran into a guy.  He stopped, put his hand to his heart, and said, ‘Bloody hell, it’s a bit dark here, eh?’  He meant, of course, I’m sure you were about to stab me with a flick-knife, you bastard.

In summer, apparently, Lonnie boys throw themselves off the Kings Bridge (pictured above, at dawn) and dive or drop or flop or crash into the liquid, silty mud that makes for water at this the Gorge end of the river.

I think I’d rather listen to The Smiths.

As hoity and literary and – quite frankly – wanky as it may sound, I’m having a Grim As Buggery Short Fiction Festival while I’m here in Launceston.  The head-lining acts are the Grand Reapers of Grim-ness, Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov, and Australia’s own Nam Le (who can actually be very funny, but that’s beside the point).

In Tolstoy’s short story ‘The Raid’, his main character, a civilian who’s curious about war, says, ‘I remembered that Plato had defined bravery as the knowledge of what should and what should not be feared ‘ [and] wanted to explain my idea to the captain.  ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘it seems to me that to every danger there is a choice, and the choice that springs from a sense of duty, for example, is courage, while a choice made under the influence of base feelings is cowardice.  Henceforth, the man who risks his life from vanity, curiosity or greed cannot be called brave.  Conversely, the man who avoids danger from an honest sense of responsibility to his family, or simply out of conviction, cannot be called a coward.’’

Today, am I brave or cowardly?

Would I dive off the Kings Bridge?  No.

Would I run around Cataract Gorge at night?  No, I wouldn’t.

Would I abseil down the rocks and stop to pose for a photo?  No, is the answer to that as well.

But good characters must do all these things, and more.

In Adelaide recently for a variety of reasons including taking He Who Had A Birthday To Celebrate out for dinner (and what a dinner it ended up being) but also to experience the Fringe Festival, which we did with much unearthly delight, I found myself in North Adelaide one night in a room above a café watching a young man film himself.  No, I hadn’t strayed and ended up in a strip joint, though this was before He Who Had A Birthday To Celebrate flew over to join me.

You see, I’d run into a friend at an arts function – Malcolm, a performance artist, and I first met on a residency last year.  Anxiously, he invited me to attend his Fringe show.  I’d seen his work before, in fact I’d been quite moved by it: it was both shambolic and finely honed, which sounds oxymoronic, I know, but is accurate.

So I accepted the invitation and headed over the Torrens.  The café was posh: well-dressed patrons comfortably sipped expensive wine or imported beer and ate $30 pizzas.  But upstairs five other people and I watched the young man film himself; for an hour he did nothing else but dance, the footage projected on vertical blinds for our viewing pleasure, on an adjacent wall YouTube video clips of other people filming themselves dancing.  Apparently it was about how the internet has blurred the line between public and private, which is undoubtedly true.

After a ten-minute break during which I hurriedly drank a glass of Riesling, we returned upstairs and watched Malcolm, now alone, begin his piece (his opening-act colleague had inexplicably scuttled away in a taxi).  But Malcolm was so nervous he couldn’t get a glass of red wine to his lips.  Nevertheless, he repeatedly asked us to love him; he stripped down to his boxer shorts and conversed with an empty chair; he eventually managed to get some red wine into his mouth and then let it dribble down his neck and chest so it looked like he was bleeding from the inside; he smashed a red wine bottle and put the shards between his toes and paraded around the room; he tried to explain the show by drawing a graph on the wall; he sang a Nick Cave song; he finished by inviting us to get naked, which we declined.

In the taxi back to the relative safety of Hindley Street, I couldn’t help wondering what makes someone travel halfway across the country to perform in front of six people.  The thrill of the risk-taking?  The rush of communication?  The satisfaction of pursuing a career most would consider useless at best?

I bunkered down in my hotel room.  Needing company I clicked on the large flat-screen TV and watched beautiful young men and women go through their meretricious moves on So You Think You Can Dance.  And then some Peter Carey lines popped into my head, from his story The Death of a Famous Mime: ‘Asked to describe death he busied himself taking Polaroid photographs of his questioners.  Asked to describe marriage he handed out small cheap mirrors with MADE IN TUNISIA written on the back.  His popularity declined.’

My friend Malcolm may or may not end up being popular, but his bravery has been etched onto my mind.

(First published in Panorama, The Canberra Times, March 27 2010.)

Happy on my treadly some Sundays ago, I found myself thinking about bravery.  I wasn’t planning on dramatically sliding my pushbike beneath a truck or launching myself over a giant pothole.  I was thinking about a good friend who’d received feedback from a potential publisher on his latest manuscript for a novel.  ‘They say I have to be braver, the bravest,’ he’d told me.  ‘Give me an example of what this means,’ he added, ‘to be the bravest of the brave.’ And then he’d flung back his double-shot long black, and more than a bit wounded, disappeared into the wilds of the nearest supermarket, heading for the chocolate aisle, then the ice-cream aisle, and then the bottle-o.

I rode off to the pool in town, because swimming for me is what camomile tea is to those brave enough to try living without caffeine.  See?  Bloody bravery!  That word was smothering my beautiful autumn afternoon, all because my friend had received that feedback.

But what does bravery actually mean?

There is, of course, bravery and there’s stupidity.  It wouldn’t be brave of me to even consider sliding my bike under a truck just because I’d seen it done in movies, and it wouldn’t be brave to try bunny-hopping a pothole by clenching my thighs around the bike frame and getting some kind of levitation thing going.  This would be the stuff of fiction.

Well, let’s talk about fiction.  Was Tim Winton brave when he put two different families in an old Perth house and wrote his Cloudstreet epic?  Was Morris West brave when he constructed the extraordinary Eminence around the idea of the Pope-in-waiting being an atheist?  Was Annie Proulx brave to write about a life-long love affair between two American cowboys in Brokeback Mountain.  Was Heath Ledger brave to star in the filmed version of Proulx’s story?  I’m not sure I know the answers to these questions, except the last, which is a resounding yes.

But I needed to find something more definite for my friend.

I reached the city’s paved central square, the cafes half-filled with neatly dressed Sunday afternoon types guzzling coffee.  A short distance away, black-clad teenagers lurked menacingly over a stainless-steel pillow with its accompanying poem inconspicuous beneath.

Within seconds my ears filled with the speed-boat-like sound of trance music coming from a portable CD player off to one side of the stage.  Gathered around the CD player was a group of about a dozen boys.  I’m hopeless at determining ages of people but I figured that the youngest would have been about ten, the oldest maybe fourteen, fifteen.  Some were small, others just beginning to be awkward and gangly.  Most were casually sitting on the lip of the stage, but three of them, the youngest of the group, were dancing wildly as if the ground was burning up; they were moving so fast it looked like their legs were going to separate from their bodies.  They weren’t there to draw a crowd.  They were simply dancing in public, and they didn’t have a care in the world, it didn’t matter what others thought of them.

Minutes later, as I lowered myself into the cool pool water, I silently said to my friend, I have found what you need.

(First published in Panorama, Canberra Times, April 25 2009)

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 177 other followers