Dr. Coral Hull
Dr. Coral Hull, whom you may remember from the Australian Issue, has sent me some photographs. They are of people from various parts of Australia and the globe. Enjoy looking at them.
Amanda, Mountain View, Rylstone, New South Wales, Australia
Jen #2, The Toronto Tower, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Tarnia, Commission Housing, Palmerston, Northern Territory, Australia
Adrian #2, Hanging Rock, Macedon, Victoria, Australia
Dr. Coral Hull has just completed work on a new chapbook
called 'Point-Blank-Poor". A
noted poet, writer and editor of the ezine "Thylazine", her collection of poems is honest, blunt, graphic, disturbing
1) I have noted, through other interviews you've done that much of
your work comes from causes and beliefs you
have, such as animal rights etc, now you're talking about your experiences being poor, is this the first time you've
addressed this topic.
I think Point-Blank-Poor was the first time that I focused on poverty.
The issue of poverty has always been present
in my books – particularly in How Do Detectives Make Love? There is a kind anguish in that book that I believe
comes from poverty, a psychological poverty that is a product of physical poverty. Poverty permeates more than
economics – it lives in the system like blood, is passed down from generation to generation and even more
insidious, there exists this kind of internal poverty that breaks the spirit. I don’t like to sit around and think about
my own situation too much. I prefer to find those who are in worse situations than me – and there’s plenty of them.
It is very empowering when you are down and out to find someone who is worse off and give what you have left to
them. I once gave away my last dollar to a beggar. It made me feel good and what was a dollar really going to buy me in this life anyway? Once you get to that level of existence, the only thing left to give is love. My work for animals and the environment over the years has helped me to overcome my own situation. At the same time I believe that my own situation has allowed me to develop an empathy for others. If I had tried to help only myself or indulged in self pity, I would not have survived. Also I never gave up. I knew that one day it would all be a lot better.
2) Does a person ever get over being "poor". I noted in one of your
poems "Charity, including a Free Orange
Cardigan", you talk about the outfit given to you at one of the "food banks", that's what they're called here in
Canada, do you ever lose that outfit?
It is hard to let go of poverty – even during moments of material
wealth, the terror of poverty past, present and
future still lurks as a darkness within oneself. Coincidentally, when this interview arrived by email today I was sitting in the corner of my room crying because my computer crashed out of warranty. After I was quoted the price and unable to afford the repairs, I suffered a kind of black out and was reminded of all the other times and situations when I have suffered terrible things – things I am not prepared to talk about here – I am still not immune from being poor, either in reality or somewhere inside. My background was one of constant and continual poverty on many levels. I chose to be an artist and to work for voluntary organizations for twenty years. But I didn’t chose the tough background or the physical and mental illness that went with that way of living. You call me a noted poet, writer and editor, yet in 2000 I had to use a credit card to join a university library in Darwin, in order to read Manning Clarke’s History of Australia.
As a full time writer and artist in Australia, I am still unable to afford food, clothing and shelter at the same time. One always has to be sacrificed for the other. Still I believe that it is possible to overcome anything, or any kind of pain and degradation. I have often felt elated and optimistic in very bad situations which leads me to think it’s a matter of shifting ones perspective in order to change a reality. Hunger is the killer – years of semi starvation has caused me serious problems with my metabolism. No amount of positive thinking can stop hunger pangs, but it may be able to shift the psychological damage that long term starvation brings. I never wore the outfit of ‘the orange cardigan’ to begin with. I was very aware at the time that such establishments offer this kind of crappy clothing to the poor to make them look like idiots. Most of the clothing in that shop should have been used for rags or the costumes of clowns.
Instead I wore an old black raincoat that was at least half functional
in Melbourne's icy winter months. It served the
double purpose of keeping me warm and hiding my hole ridden clothes underneath. I became frightened of the
changing seasons because I had no clothes to wear. Often poverty put me in dangerous neighborhoods and
situations. I went around to charities with a backpack on collecting tins of food. But that food was so bad that even
my dogs wouldn’t eat it. Once an Anglican minister from The Kensington Christian Network gave me $15.00 in order to get my hair cut. He knew that sometimes a trip to the hair dresser was better than a food voucher. Aside from physical survival, it’s all about self esteem. I lived in an empty house on Colette Street in Kensington and when someone left a dirty old brown lounge on the street I dragged it inside an furnished my loungeroom. Sometimes I slept in my car, in a tent, in hostels, at friends houses or under a piece of tarp the side of the road. All this can be okay, of course – but when the self esteem and dignity are lost, it wouldn’t matter if you slept in a mansion from then on.
3) You're blunt in your view of the middle class as they think of the poor, is that mindset still as rigid.
The poems are rigid. They were a product of a certain period in my
life. However, I still maintain that even with the
best intentions, the middle class can never really understand the poor, in the same way that I can never really
understand the poverty of a third world individual. At best we can only hope to empathize.
4) You write of the visits made to charitable organizations, if you
could sit down with the leadership in the Salvos, the
St. Vinnies, and the Brothers, what would you like to tell them.
I would tell them the same as I would everyone else – that is, to
get rid of the expensive administration, executive
wages, inner city mansions and posh cars and help your neighbors, not only with small handouts but with self
esteem. Dignity is what is most often taken away from the poor and these charitable organizations play a part in that destruction of self worth as well. These people obviously do some good work and I believe that we need them, but I saw people treated like shit by these organizations. I read a couple of books by author Norm Barber called; How To Become A Successful Derelict in Adelaide and Disappearing Charity Donations in Adelaide. He basically exposed the corruption on charities like the few I have mentioned above. As a result of reading his books and my own observations over the years, I would never hand over money to large organizations of any kind. I think it is best to help people, other animals and the earth directly and on an individual basis. Compassion is not an institution – it has to happen on a grass roots level and more importantly on a personal level. Take care of yourself, your family, your friends and your neighbors. It’s in the world’s religious texts and it’s on Sesame Street. Why don’t people get it?
5) How institutionalized is poverty in Australia. Also, I noted that
you Aussie poets can get very political and radical
in your work, is this a common theme.
I have not come across many Australian poets who get political and
radical in their work, at least to my way of
thinking. I would say that a majority of writers in Australia pray at the shrine of mediocrity and the government
funding flows forth. Poverty in Australia is the same as anywhere else – and that is, completely unnecessary. It is
such a basic thing to make sure that everyone has the right to food, clothing, shelter, free healthcare and education
and yet those things are not taken care of. Maybe I am naïve about this, but mostly I just don’t get it. If we haven’t
come to the same kind of crisis in Australia as other countries, it is only because our population is smaller. Our
country’s isolation from the rest of the world has not caused us any less grief. Our treatment of ecology and each
other has been and is still as brutal as anywhere else.
Selected Poetry from "Point-Blank-Poor"
Fear of Poverty
The feeling of never being good
of never being able to win or get ahead
Ahead of what? A truck?
Of being on a treadmill, of not stepping off,
in fear of going under.
Under what? A train?
Or of confronting something in yourself.
Of going over the edge.
Of what? A building?
So you exist within the burnt out feeling,
beneath the illness like asthma,
benearth the anxiousness.
(never run down? never pulverized? never broken?)
Wake up! You're dead already.
The Weather for Poverty
Poverty reminds me of things
wind chill factor, grey sky.
Never in my wildest dreams, did I associate
grey poverty with poetry.
They would be able to smell my Class
They would be able to smell
alias my 'dysfunction'
with all their senses on alert.
I knew that I could not avoid detection.
I was told that I have refined
features for the working class.
So I tried to slip in unnoticed, alas
you know I've been around & also that I've had no books
& classical music wasn't allowed,
unless it was 'hooked on classics'
& so I got
They would be able to smell
from a kilometre away.
The tip of my shoes would tell them,
the cut & shade of my hair,
the application of my make-up, my jewellery.
They would be able to tell
by my car, my address, my general appearance
& by my household furniture
& by my
But even if this tricked them,
my depth would tell them,
the depth of my anger.
It would be as soon as I opened my mouth,
the slack mouth, chipped teeth,
words mispronounced beneath the disheartened brow,
swearing, muttring & pausing,
the shy & awkward uncertain shifting,
from one topic to another.
Have you read sos & so,
or seen that production by so & so?
My answer is always
Another Worst Thing
The worst thing that happened
was when a friend rang on boxing day
after I had spent christmas day alone
She said 'we had fruitcake yesterday,
& we were going to save you some,
but we ate it all.' I said, 'toby's dead.'
When you have $2 left to last
you for the week,
it is better not to leave the house.
Don't waste too much energy searching like an idiot.
There is never any money lying around under the bed.
Coral Hull was born in Paddington, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia in 1965. She is the author of twenty-five books of poetry, prose fiction and digital photography. Her work has been published in literary magazines in the USA, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.
Coral is the Editor of Thylazine, a biannual ezine featuring articles, interviews, photographs and the recent work of Australian writers and artists working in the area of landscape and animals.
Cricket Songs - 3 am
Paper thin wings chirp outside my office window.
Close to the earth, these creatures of night song
sing soporific to an already sleeping audience
while perched on their pedestals of stone.
The truly nocturnal tend to seek
to the perfect symphony, seek
solace from solitude or perhaps create
this special music for its own sake.
My fingers tap keys, add to the orchestra
of this night musing. Words too make
their own sounds- even when whispered
through humid nights and melancholy attitudes.
Together we seek the same path -
the unseen night-black cricket,
the darkly quiet metronome heart.
At this hour all manifestations of emotion
are of the score that can not be expressed in light.
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She collects the flimsy paper strips with sayings
silly or perhaps momentous, saved from places
with bowing waiters and red plastic fans.
She imagines secret eyes behind, and languages
she’s never fathomed in a dream. Paper lanterns
overhang a stippled water that runs reruns its past
and present future between stones in a garden
that never changes. “Share your happiness
with others today.” She’s nibbled the crisp half-
moons with her last of tea, across from friends,
from aunts and mother. Other girls collect dolls
or cards. “Next full moon brings enchanting
evening.” She lets the pale confetti sift
through her fingers like a late spring snow.
PHOTO OP, BASQUE SHEEPHERDER
On the outskirts of San Berdu,
he can’t take his eyes off a thousand
stupid sheep about to get in trouble
in the suburbs. His clever dog watches
both photographer and herd. On one side’s
a speeding 4-lane, on another, ornamental
hedge. He’ll camp his flock 20 miles
from here, skirts of another city.
How ever will he get there, vacant lot
by traffic light and side road,
with a thousand sheep?
He doesn’t talk about that, but only
how he left his sweetheart
on the other side of ocean.
If you snap his picture,
send it there.
A silent conversation at the sidewalk
table: she remembers so many missed
opportunities; he ticks off all the choices
in the want ads, the shiny magazines.
So little money, a grandmother’s complaint
she found crumbling in the attic
when she was looking for something else.
But still, she sips her drink, reluctant
to take the necessary step. He wonders
how else the world could go forward.
Too late. Somewhere in the wake
of memory, a fence leans its pickets
against all their afternoons.
Upside-down body on a lot of legs
scrappy dingy creature,
what right to creep
across our clean white wall?
The philodendron more than thrives
in the southwest corner of the room.
You water it every Monday
and train its runners along the window ledge
and over the sliding glass doors
that used to open; over that still life
in oils of a peach with worm
and a halved apple browning at the core.
Tuesdays you dust, and you scrub the tiles
on Wednesday. Thursdays you walk
about the room, inspecting,
Fridays you scan the yard for strangers
or forgotten friends. Saturday
you paste the maps of your lives across
the big front window. Sunday you rest.
You’ve earned this independence,
year by year scrimping paychecks, saving
for this, surviving.
The philodendron dreams of Monday,
when again you’ll water potted soil.
It stretches and tingles its countless
nodes and branchings, its open
green hands that survive
whoever lives here.
A Tribute to my Mother she was called Grandma,
by all the folks young and old in our neighbor hood.
A TRIBUTE TO GRANDMA DORAN
There is a poll going on in our Family, on the
Was Grandma';s molasses cookies the best,
Or did her sugar cookies really stand the test?
We know her recipes, are all over the world,
But when we were youngters,
We never thought of a world wide test,
We just knew those cookies were the very best.
So when it came to a vote,
I didn't vote with the rest,
For I thought her homemade bread,
Was where we were surely blest.
I write these words after the horror of September 11th. I hope I speak for all readers when I say that thoughts and prayers need to be directed to those who lost loved ones and prayers to those men and women who are working around the clock to rescue people who may be still alive under the rubble. Truly, life will change. Just stop for a few moments and give that prayer to whatever supreme Power you choose to worship. If not a worshipper, consider what needs to be done so that none of this violence can happen again.
Next issue, looking at Hallowe'en and Gothic themes.
Get spooky everybody.
As always, this issue is copyrighted by the various authors. Respect their freedom to express themselves. All the other stuff that's my words are copyright to, if you want to quote me, go ahead. See where it gets you.
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