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.


  1. All sounds good, except the swollen ankles. Looking forward to the next instalment. Mx

  2. Coming soon I hope! Swollen ankles have gone down.. Xx