Saturday, July 12, 2014

The New York launch.

The day of the cabaret launch arrived! In the mid afternoon I trundled my books down to the venue a few blocks from where I was staying on the Lower East Side. There I met Adam Horowitz, the manager of the Bowery Poetry Club, and checked out the space. Lovely, perfect, it couldn't be better. A bar near the entrance draws people off the street into a high ceilinged cabaret space, with chandelier and white clothed tables and chairs gathered around a small small stage — very durasienne indeed.


I took a few pics and walked home again, swinging by the Essex fresh food market to my now fave Japanese snack bar for some brown rice balls with umeboshi. I'd been trying to cure my traveller's belly with bland foods — so far it wasn't working, and I didn't know what to do for my swollen ankles except put them up the wall when I got home as I went over my running order and ran through a few tunes.

Singing in New York! I was already doing it, in a tiny apartment down near the East River, to the accompaniment of jack hammers from the building site next door. Somehow it's these small moments that are the most memorable. Like my walk back to the Bowery once I had showered, dressed and fiddle fuddled around with accessories. Even if I somehow I took the wrong turn and didn't get to the venue until after the audience had gone home (a recurring dream of mine), even if no body turned up, even if the whole thing turned out to be a big flop, I would forever cherish this moment of feeling like a NY local walking to work in my momentary NY neighbourhood, past the Chinese grocer stacking his cartons of smelly frozen fish, past the Taqueria taco bar, the Indian convenience store, the red neon sign of PSYCHIC $25, past designer shops as big as cupboards, past noodle bars, cocktail bars,  green juice bars, frozen yoghurt bars, tiny art galleries, teeny bookshops, kinky vintage shops and more; to join the crowd of New York street characters on a hot July afternoon.

It turned out I wasn't dream walking and I arrived with a good 45 mins to spare before our 6.30pm show time. Not long after, my assistant for the night, fellow theatre maker from Oz, Suze Smith appeared and we got to, setting up the books and CDs on a table between the bar and the cabaret room. Then I popped downstairs to freshen up.The bathroom/dressing room was as stylish as the bar and I changed my shoes, fluffed up my hair with a bit of yummy smelling stuff, wacked on some lippy and deodorant, threw my red silk scarf back and forth in different positions and emerged to greet my fans. 

They hadn't turned up yet, but soon enough they began to trickle in: old friends from Bali, Australia, New York, other parts of the US, even a Londoner among them. At the end of this July 4th weekend it was quality, not quantity; an intimate crowd who laughed, smiled and nodded a lot, perhaps even shed a tear, as I delivered my song-poem, Money Honey, about a young man mourning the death of his much older sugar mummy, not because now he misses the money honey, but the love that has grown between them over the years. 

I felt relaxed and happy on the wee stage, doing what I was born to do: sing a song, perform a poem, give a little patter in between. I was in my element and I could tell those who hadn't seen my work before were pleasantly surprised and delighted. 

The feedback afterwards was genuine and appreciative, I even sold some books! and it was wonderful to hang about chatting with old friends until it was time to leave. Suze and I went for ramen then met up with friends, Sally Ford and partner Patrick, who had just come off tour with the Melbourne Ska Orchestra. They had  been at the launch and rushed off to a jazz club after.We caught the last song of the Mingus Band with them, then rode the lifts to the top of the Empire State Building. A great end to a great night! 

 Early next morning I was on a Greyhound bus to Shelburne Falls in Massachusetts for some extra curricular activities, including attending a dance festival and retreat, running a writing workshop and taking part in a cafe reading with noted poets: Louise Landes Levi, Jacqueline Gens, Peter Fortunato, Mary Gilliland and Jim Bauerlein. 

Jacqueline worked closely with Allen Ginsberg for many years and was co-director and a founder of the MFA Program in Poetry at New England College.  She is currently involved with running the Khandroling Paper Making Cooperative in Conway MA. We had a long chat about possible future projects. 

Back in NYC on my last day I visited the Poets House, a free, open to the public, 60,000-volume poetry library in New York City. Its collection is among the most comprehensive, open-stack collections of poetry in the United States and they also run excellent poetry events and workshops.  'Poets House documents the wealth and diversity of modern poetry and stimulates public dialogue on issues of poetry in culture.' I donated a copy of Archipelagogo to the grateful librarian who remarked what a beautiful book it was. I left wondering who it will sit next to on their rows and rows of shelves. Another reason to go back for a second visit!

When you make a book you are making a gift for the world. A gift is a talking point, a gesture, the beginning of a conversation, an opening. When you doubt yourself, you close down, you contract, the light can't get in. Plenty of doubt and fear goes into writing a book, a poem, a song; the biggest being that you will make a complete fool of yourself, and believe me, along the way you will. Yes, there will be moments when you feel so foolish you want to crawl back in your hole and never come out AND there will be moments of total euphoria, as you revel in your audacity and daring to reach for the heights only you know you are capable of. 

For those of you who helped make my New York dream a reality, I give my deepest thanks. I went to New York City to launch a book but in fact I did much more. I revisited a creative relationship I began in a country where in the mid 70s I wrote my first song which, unbenowns to me then, began my writing career. I made new connections with poets, artists, musicians, dancers, writers and got a taste for more —of one of the wonders of the world, New York, NewYork.

There's something very satisfying about coming full circle and arriving in a familiar but different place. Stay tuned, who knows what will happen next!

Performance photos by Cok Agung Wiramajaya, Thuy Nguyen.

Friday, July 4, 2014

NYC - The Lower East Side

I arrived  in NYC yesterday after a long haul flight with transit stopovers in Taipei and Osaka. I'm feeling a bit woozy and my time clock is confused but I'm walking it off by exploring the lower east side and the east and west village. The weather when I arrived was 38 degrees but a big electrical storm came through in the evening and cooled everything down.

In this part of town, close to Chinatown, I'm catching whiffs of other cities I've visited: Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh City, Yangon, even Paris! Found a wonderful fresh food market and got some supplies in and had a long deep sleep in my tiny but cute airbnb room.

Today I'm in search of a print shop to get some leaflets done re the show but businesses are closed due to the July 4 holiday. I went down to the Bowery Poetry club too, but it is closed as well.
But it's good to be getting my bearings, and sussing out the territory. Now I've landed in  the Noho Starbucks for a large peppermint tea and free wifi. It's raining outside and I've left my brolly at home so I might just have to go singing in the rain!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Newtown send off

We could easily have been in NYC. A cute wee cafe on a busy boheme street, where we celebrated the end of our Indiegogo Campaign with a sneak preview of the Archipelagogo cabaret.

The tiny venue, Parliament on King,  was packed with friends and supporters.

Pumpkin soup, coffee, tea and champers kept the crowd happy.

How many people can you fit in a living room cafe!

and this was before the latecomers arrived.

Somehow as more people arrived we managed to find a place to put them!

It was standing room only for 10 or so peeps and they stood valiantly enjoying the show.

I was in my element of course, on the wee stage, made from books, specially built by host Ravi Prasad.

On a talk I gave two nights before at Ultimo Library with Walter Mason, I gave some creativity tips. 'We all need a cheer squad,' I said. 'A small group of people who encourage your creative side no matter what.' My cheer squad are in these pics. Thanks dear friends! Your support means everything to me. Without it I would forget to do the things I love to do!

Read more about Archipelagogo here.


And thanks to Jennifer Smart for pics!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Newtown gets a sneak preview

The New York Launch is all set for July 7 at The Bowery Poetry Club. It's been a whirlwind of activity organising the Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to get there, but the payoff has been receiving the fabulous support from friends, family, fellow artists and sympathisers while covering my travel expenses.

The campaign is still rolling and I'm hoping to hit a renewed target of $4500 by the June 26 deadline. To receive a signed copy of the book or other great goodies you can still make a contribution HERE.

In the meantime I need to turn a little attention to the cabaret performance I have promised of the songs and poems from the book, so I will be doing a sneak preview at my fave cafe, Parliament On King, 632 King St on Friday June 27 at 6.30 pm. Do drop by if you can for a taste of what I will be presenting in NYC.

Please spread the word to all your NY friends (doesn't everyone have them?) to show up for the real thing, the launch and cabaret of Archipelagogo,  on July 7, 6.30 pm at The Bowery Poetry Club for the launch and cabaret.

 Read excerpts from and about the book here.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Archipelagogo New York Launch Campaign

Breaking News!! Archipelagogo, the book and cabaret is set to launch in New York City on July 7th at the Bowery Poetry Club, 308 The Bowery NY, NY.

That's if I can get there!

I've just launched an Indiegogo crowd funding campaign to help raise funds for my air fare, accommodation and travel expenses. The target goal is $3500. The cut off date is June 26.

I do hope you can help. Any contribution no matter how small will be greatly appreciated.

                                     MAKE YOUR CONTRIBUTION HERE

"Archipelagogo - Love Songs To Indonesia is Jan Cornall's spoken and sung cabaret of songs and poems, rants and raves, from the recently published book of the same name. Many of these love-song-poems about people, places and the complexities of cross cultural relationships, have been sung acapella to audiences at literary festivals across the Asia Pacific Region. With a frank and fresh approach, Jan applies her playful wit and raw insight to her experiences as a naive bule (foreigner) who falls in love with everything Indonesian and every Indonesian she meets. With songs and poems like Indonesian Handbag, Jogja Cowboy, Lampung Boy, Married Men Invite You In, Pleasure and Pain, Money Honey, Exotic Erotic, Jan’s cabaret takes you on a tour of the sights and sounds of Indonesia via a map of the heart.


The words in the book are accompanied by a selection of wonderful paintings by Indonesian artist Jumaadi. See more of his work and read some of the poem/songs here.

Many thanks for your support! See you in New York!

Thursday, May 8, 2014


Archipelagogo Love Songs to Indonesia by Jan Cornall
This unique collection of songs, poems and stories pays tribute to Jan’s travels around Indonesia in the decade beginning 2002. While many of them are written for Jan’s musical performances this book immerses you in her evocative, hilarious, playful and original creations of words , words, words. The beautiful illustrations and the way the text is presented contribute to the delicious pleasure of dipping into this erotic pool of poems again and again.
The songs/poems are enhanced by reading them aloud allowing their cadence, rhythm, alliteration and imagery to come alive. However, if you choose to read them silently they also have another story to tell. I love her depiction of cultural difference which she sometimes turns upside down as in the delightful poem Married Men where she imagines how their wives may be pursuing erotic adventures just like them. Jogya Cowboy is another such song and Jan comments that if he had a horse he would ride like John Wayne but instead he is small in stature, rides a Vespa and is so charismatic you can’t help falling under his spell. When you read the poem you believe her and want to catch the first plane to Yogyakarta in Java and not just to wander among the Buddhas.
Erotic hilarity reaches new heights in the song Follow that Thing featuring the lament of wives which easily crosses cultures and cannot fail to bring a smile, a laugh, a grimace and a nod of recognition.
Other poems and stories show us the shadow side of eroticism but they never fail to intrigue and bring both joy and sadness to the reader. The Balinese ‘folk tale’ of the woman with seven husbands is such fun but has a message of loving presence that transcends the stereotypes of age and place. There isn’t a single poem or story I could suggest you skip even the chilling House of a Thousand Doors which evokes its history of torture and death.  
When you are near of the book there is a special treat in store for you in the wonderfully moving poem Little Mother. After her mother’s death Jan imagines her presence wherever she goes so that her mother becomes part of the landscape and the people that Jan loves so much. It is impossible not to have tears in your eyes and love in your heart as you read this poem.
This book is a treasure trove of sensual, literary and musical delights revealingly embedded in Indonesian culture and place.  
Narelle Scotford, author, singer, lover.

Archipelagogo It is certainly a book filled with desire, culture, vibrancy and colour which give the reader  insight into the deepest exploration of the exotic and erotic dreams of every woman. The writer certainly expresses her love for Indonesia – which in my bones is the exact feeling I have for Australia. In her travels  Jan Cornall seemed to fall in love with all kinds of Indonesian men, Indonesian culture and everything Indonesian. A  fantasy Balinese folk tale called Seven Husbands is certainly my favourite part of the book. In it a Balinese woman uses her desire to rebel against our oppressive Balinese culture and show the men that women have needs just like them, whether in terms of education, participation in ‘Banjar’ community activities, voicing our need to be heard or for gaining equality in sexual desire. It shows that Balinese culture is not paying a lot of attention to basic human needs such as sex, still pretending it doesn’t exist and still upholding the taboo to talk about it. I would recommend it to both Indonesians and westerners to raise and eyebrow and question their innocent sweet smile.

Desak Yoni, author of Renditions of My Soul - The Story of a Balinese Woman

'Jan Cornall's new book of love stories, songs, and poems to Indonesia and its people is like a joyous rollercoaster ride. I was both moved to laughing out loud and close to tears. Jan's witty and fast paced language and word play leaves one dazzled as each sentence is a little rollicking adventure that needs to be savoured and explored. This is a fun book and one of the best I have read in a while - and mind you I am usually not one for poetry. Enjoy the ride!'

Ilka Schroeder.

'A visually stunning array, a concoction of diarist tales even Borges would be proud of….

Jan'’s world takes us along a jungle path, through the gates of Indonesian intimacy, exposing us to tales of inaccessible Javanese familiarity.

She presents the seduced  traveller to a delicious plate of petit four brimming with a delicate scent and wafting up from her collection of love songs…. 

Tony Laurent

Late last year I stumbled upon a wonderful evening at Bar Luna in Jalan Goutama Ubud, as part of the Ubud writers festival. It was Jan Cornall and her Archipelagogo cabaret and I felt like I had been transported back to a time when performances were more personal, what some call 'old school'. To me it means multi skilled, multi talented, funny, smart, relaxed; like being welcomed into the artists home, but with the edge of sharp wit. My friends and I left laughing and singing one of her ditties which had definitely touched the spot for one friend in particular,who felt as if Jan had read her emails to friends back in Australia of the idiosycratic lifestyle of an expat in Bali. We all agreed..."they dont make em like they used to!" Jan is a treasure. 

 Maria Wilson Singer/Texta Artist/Shutterbug

" reading Archipelagogo so blowing the mind, as outsider Jan Cornall the author with beautifully write down her every unique experience exploring the Indonesian islands and aspect of life in it by elaborated through poetry and short story so deep and detail, collaboration the beauty paintings of Jumaadi in each chapter make more lively the story within. Archipelagogo should not be missed, once you get drowned into page to next page till the end....never think twice to read over and over again ! "

Melisa, Surabaya - Indonesia

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Books across the water

Following your heart is not always a simple process. Following your intuition may feel just right even if you know it could get tricky down the line. This is the story of a perfect intuitive match between writer and publisher (the reason I ended up publishing in Indonesia), the only complication being to this wonderful relationship was — how to get the books across the water.

From the cover of Sea Of Poppies by Amitav Gosh.

I met my Indonesian publishers Sarita Newson and her son Kadek Krishna Adidharma at the first Ubud Writers Festival in 2004. In those early years we were all involved in helping get the festival off the ground and when I finished my first novel (set in Bali), in 2006,  Saritaksu Editions offered to publish it. Of course I agreed. I loved the wonderful art and poetry books they produced and this was to be their first novel. (They have since done more see here and here). We launched at UWRF in Oct 2006 and worked together in other ways: helping launch another of their books, Butterflies of Bali by Victor Mason in Jakarta, editing Toeti Heraty's, Calon Arang - Story of a Woman Sacrificed to Patriarchy, running writing workshops at their beachside hacienda in Sanur, writing retreats at their Lakeview Hotel in Kintamani, co-sponsoring West Papuan poet John Waromi to workshop his new novel in Bali, to name a but a few.

From left: John Waromi, Sarita Newson, Kadek Purnami, working on John's novel at Saritaksu.

It may sound like my pubishers are millionaires and in the untold riches of life you would say they are, but the fact is like most people in Bali they eke out a living as best they can.

Which is where this story comes in. Working out ways to transport books across the water to Oz without paying hefty freight and import/export fees is always a creative challenge. While my novel Take Me To Paradise was on sale at bookshops acrosss Bali  (nestled next to Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray Love), it was up to me to find distribution in Australia. But how to bring the books over without extra expense? Surely it wouldn't be so difficult for as you can see from the map below, it's just not that far!

As I was coming and going from Bali often, I became expert at packing my carry-on suitcase with nothing but books plus a layer of  dirty underwear on top. I could fit up to 50 books that way. These were the days in the old Bali Airport before they checked the weight of carry on. You could go through, check in your big bag, then come back outside again, pick up your carry on case from a waiting friend, and waltz right through with no questions asked. The only suspicion would arise with a steward remarking as he was heaving the case into the overhead lockers, 'what have you got in there -bricks?' Not far wrong!

It was also the days of Schapelle's ongoing appeal and the Bali Nine, so there was added level of paranoia and anxiety. The advantage of having your suitcase plastic wrapped was that it may be less likely to be searched in Oz, then again maybe not. If they did want to open it up I would explain, 'no this is not a commercial venture, I took the books over for a festival and alas didn't sell so well.' They would sympathise, wish me better luck next time, and off I would go.

In 2007 we had a lucky break. Sandra Thibodeaux with the NT Writers Centre had been working with Kadek Kris and Sitok Srengenge on an anthology of writing from the Oz/Indo region called Terra. It was published in Jakarta by Kata Kita Books and they had the same problem, until word came through there was room in a container leaving for Darwin from the coast of Java with some extra space for some of mine. I don't know how above or below board it was, but it was going to be a free ride for a few hundred of my books to Darwin at least, then perhaps I could bring them down through the centre by camel! Just kidding, but the deal had that kind of feel to it and was being supervised by an Aussie guy called something like Dakka, and we had to get the books to him by 4pm on such and such a day or else the deal was off. Sarita and Kadek somehow got the books to Jogjakarta and then on from there. Apparently they just made it in time. The last leg was done by motorbike. My writer's mind embellishes visions of the bike piled high with boxes of books tied on at odd angles with bamboo string, driving up a mud track to an out of the way wharf, with Dakka or was it Macca? pacing, smoking kretek, while the boat is champing at the bit to set sail so it can slip into the strait under the cover of darkness.

The books arrived in Darwin safely, in perfect condition and were delivered to the NT Writers Centre. Mine sat under a table waiting to be ferried by a friend to the trusty Greyhound depot and dispatched to me in Sydney.

A couple of years later I got a message from NT Writers asking what did I want them to do with the books? Apparently half the boxes were still sitting under the table! Greyhound came to the rescue again just in time to replenish my stocks.

Here's another story.  Last year when my latest book, Archipelagogo, arrived in Ubud fresh from the printer in Jakarta, I was so smitten by it, I forgot to remember I might be cursing it in months to come. We had a lovely cabaret launch at Bar Luna during UWRF, sold a few books (never as many as you'd like to) and once more, like a mother who had forgotten how painful the birth was, I was faced with the same conundrum — how to get the books home.

This is not such a silly idea, one of my editors on TMTP was Bob the raft guy.

If I had been super organised I could have given a package of five books to each Aussie attending the festival (there were a lot) and that would have taken care of it. As I couldn't do the old walk-in-walk- out trick at the airport any more, I worked out how many books I could sequester in my luggage and still be under the limit. My carry-on bag wasn't as heavy as last time, and somehow I still managed to bring about 40 -50 books home. But I needed more for the Sydney launch planned for April, so Sarita and I investigated shipping costs for Denpasar to Sydney.

To bring six hundred books by sea was affordable so I went with the cheapest quote, negotiated the pick up and expected to see the books at my door in under a month. I should have had second thoughts when the shipper sent me an email to say 'we can't guarantee the books won't get wet'. !!! I imagined the books teetering on deck in a rickety container, the door flinging open on the roll of the sea and the waves breaking over my boxes. Or god forbid — this...

 'Don't worry,' the shipper explained after I sent a 'concerned reply. ' It should be fine, we have to say that as when they spray for quarantine it can get a bit moist.' 'Oh', I replied flatly, 'ok,' wondering if it was too late to wriggle out of this deal and try another company. Nah, lets just stay with it, I decided.

The days passed and when I enquired if the books were on their way, the shipper explained they were still at the dock, waiting for the container to fill up. They'd had some problems with some of their suppliers, sorry, nothing they could do. Did you want us to organise to send some by air freight? No, way too expensive. How long will it be? Well, a month on the dock and another month to get to Sydney. Two months!! I huffed and puffed. Nothing I could do, but postpone the launch. Lucky it had only been mooted, not announced.

Where are the books now you ask? The answer is I don't know.

Perhaps they have been put to better use!

But we are still planning to launch July 7 at Bowery Poetry Club in New York and Sydney in September. Now how will I get the books to New York City? We could go overland by mule.
I'm looking into it.


Find out more about Archipelagogo here.

Stay tuned for details of upcoming launches.


The books arrived in Sydney on June 23, just in time for pre NYC events.