Voiceworks #69 'Identikit' – A Responsive Review

Depending on which side you open it from (a magazine with an identity crisis?) you will not be disappointed with the latest issue of Voiceworks, an Australian magazine that showcases the creative talent of under 25s. It is non-profit, literary, and intellectual without being inaccessible. ‘We are the youth and we are not apathetic’, it screams. But boy, are we disillusioned – I can’t help noticing the elegant darkness of Voiceworks’ writers in the issues I have read (Identikit, Superfunhappy, Zero and Ratrace). While the fiction, poetry and artwork vary in subject and tone, in almost all pieces there are spikes under the mattress. There may be vague semblances of hope, but the majority of these lie in nostalgia. The awareness of beauty is always tainted by the awareness of its transience.

Although this has ended up being a lengthy review, I wanted to comment on each piece in the issue. I jotted notes as I went – some are insights, some are comments, some are criticisms, and some are amazements. Please enjoy the mish-mash of readerly insights by an Aussie youth reading Aussie youth –

Upon opening:

A genius satirical artwork by Sam Wallman comments on the penchant for youth conformity ‘Become a fuckwit in less than 5 minutes!’

Ryan Paine’s editorial outlines the focus of the identity issue and its broader implications. Ultimately, an individual’s struggle for identity is tied into national identity, and this relates to our integrity (and lack of).

‘Singularity’ is the continuation of creative response project ‘Beautiful Corporeal’. A quirky piece, brimming with pathos, that explores judgement of difference in surface appearance.

‘No Cars Go’ by Caitlin Shearer. Indifferent, stylized – a teasing Lolita, with peached cheeks and shadowed inner-thighs, but a stop sign warning against her innocence – or is it her indifference?

‘The Wire’ by Felice Howden. This story exists in a difficult timespace. Have months passed or just one morning? It is an explanation of paranoia – technological infiltration of our very insides, carving us out until we are hollow. I felt the story was too short though, I wanted to know about the character. Frank is flat in his lethargy and sickness – a blank slate.

‘Braille’ by Geoff Lemon. Sense-stimulating, imagetic. ‘Dense with flavour, she is/the dark shock of raspberry crushed on the tongue’. The Braille metaphor works well closing the first stanza, but is repetitious by the end. It would have had more impact as a stand-alone line, or repeated once – resonant – when the narrator has finally cracked the code. The poem has a distinct rhythm and readability though – beats like a hip-hop song to a sensual climax.

I don’t know what the point is of ‘Miri and her Fucking Lemons’ by Jenni Kauppi.

Guest Artist Graeme Doyle throws you in your seat with his miasmic faces, disturbing layers of vision. A phantasmagorical expression of multiple resonations, simultaneous. Every image has something guarded and something open, eg. the juxtaposition of dark slitting eyes and open light-reflected ones in ‘Eve End Uneven’. Mystical and dark rock album covers.

‘A City of Your Choice’ by Z Barron. A definitive Y poem – ‘we could drown in concrete and no one would notice’. Disdain for commercialism, consumerism of religion. Z Barron speaks to my hearts own. I’m so glad pieces like this are getting published. It is not quite the cyber-punk poem but it is close, utilizing techno-speak as description – ‘pixelated knees, waist-deep in digital’. Speaking a new Universal language and not-so-new themes of youth. Relatable and lonelifying…

‘The Needle’ by Tess Kerbel. A wry smile this poem did plant upon me. A clever snapshot, a moment, an object. What can be made of it, and the irony that it could be nothing. Just another ‘small, silver minute’. Kerbel insists that perhaps we are probing too hard.

Gina Marich’s reflection on Ikea ‘Selling Abstrakt Lifestyles’. She stumbles into Ikea in search of air-conditioned comfort and finds herself confronted by the simulacra of display toilets and plastic plasmas. The article gives a little glimpse into the motivations behind buying – the theme-park-like escapist element (like in WOW Sight&Sound), and also explores the dangers of choice anxiety. Unfortunately, Marich ends on a soft note, where something biting would have fit. But the article is still relevant. I commend her analysis, but feel a bit more pessimistic myself.

‘Illustration’ by Vinna Kartika. Children looking up to an experienced eye, from the comfort of their cottage. Within the eye and its expressive tendons are nestled items of everyday – necessities and expressities. It is too much for the swollen eye, who sheds a tear towards its semi-exposed heart. But the children look on with innocent wonderment, they look on and on with expectation…

‘Uncle Jeremy has Turned into a Tree’ by Patrick Lemon. A simple story with a kernel of truth and a subtle pathos. Infinitely re-readable.

John Swain’s illustration is stylistic.

‘Blind Faith’ by Amy Jackson. The son of a Minister discovers sinful behaviour. A very entertaining story with a strong teen male voice.

‘Skin’ by Anna Dunnill. Intriguing, philosophical and searching, a slender story, a moment with some anonymity. It’s almost as though the conversation between two characters is really an internalisation. Confessional, open. A youthful and feminine need to have our insides tattooed on out skin, but a fear that they might be misconstrued, or, like Pluto, made irrelevant, cast off.

‘The Truth of Horses’ by Bridget Lutherborrow. A horses identity. Like a campfire story, about family, freedom and unknowing.

Matthew Lorenzon’s music column. Intelligent, educational. Tying in music theory to larger spheres of identity, history, culture and politics. One of the best pieces in the magazine.

Aimee Nichols’ sex column. Delicate and informative. Discussion and information for survivors of sexual abuse.

Linus Lane’s comics column. I always enjoy the comics column as I don’t have time to read many comics, it keeps me posted. This time, an informative look at the history and ultimate failure of the Aussie superhero comic. See Linus Lane’s ‘Eugene’ comic – www.theunibin.com.

‘Emo Accountant’ by Mary-Anne Georgy. Apt for this issue. The true loss of innocence… Already symbolically aware of the weight of the world, now it is thrust in his face. Time to choose a new way of fitting in by fitting out?

Geoff Lemon’s Edcommitorial. Discussing Voiceworks’ role: training ground for entering established media, or genuine alternative to it?

‘Fish Brain’ by David Murcott. Rythmic, visual, odd. I like.

Sam Wallman’s ‘Earnest Planet’. Clever.

Pavel Wojtech’s ‘Untitled’. Fluid in line, great contrast, moody.

Beck Haskins’ ‘Illustration’. A surreal dreamscape of the victimised rats. The pursuer plucking them from his vantage point over the fence.

‘Day Five and the Burden of the Big See’ by Keira Dickinson. Paranoia and Kafkaesque confusion. Animals as authority figures. A marketplace where the characters are forced to PICK ONE! Fear. Wisdom gained only in the silent undercurrents of a river. A very intriguing story. Many layers of absurdist meaning.

Featured poet – Mandi
sa Mabuthoe. Her themes of sexuality, faith and belonging have (forgive me) a universality. The spaces in which the poetic events occur are micro worlds – rooms, transport, a mirror. ‘Comfort in My Unmade Bed’ is personally my favourite. The wanting to remain but the pressure to face the outside. The rain, the wine, the books, the pencil – bitter-sweet.

‘Veritas’ by Steph Moriarty. An emotive character study. A full-circle short story. A very promising writer. To explain what it is about would be to minimize it. Subtle yet clear.

‘Alzheimers’ by Jessica Wright. A series of snapshots that hint the protagonist’s condition. Ends perfectly.

‘Small Gestures’ by Jessica Joseph-McDermott. Literally gave me shivers. The second person narration puts you in the story. By the close, you are the one whose eyes are opened.

To digress for a minute – feelings evoked at this stage of reading:
The consumerism and manufactured dreams we have been brought up on shatter at some stage, thus we recognise the shiny surfaces that disguise the dark truths – our naïve innocence, our comforts and protectedness, are exchanged for overwhelming responsibilities, a labyrinth of choices, and a fast, flashing, evolving environment.
Stories can reclaim the little things – noticing the truth in each other’s eyes, not merely waiting for our turn to speak, a tiny tattoo, a memory, a flower…

‘From Behind the Lens’ by Briohny Doyle. Incredible piece. History, memory. The fear of amnesia brought about by modern consumption and construction of historical truth.

Pat Grant’s ‘How to be a Good Zombie’. Useful!

‘Hungry’ by Amelia Walker. Symbolic. I believe it is about the distance between what we need and hope for, and what society delivers. The impossibility of new beginnings when we have displayed our raw selves? The only recognisable identity being our ‘official’ one.

‘On the Back of the World’ by Jessica Au. Jessica – where is your novel? Vivid characters bred from true insight. Shockingly beautiful.

‘Old Jindabyne’ by Fiona Wright. Nostalgic imagery.

Alex Hutton’s Media column. A look at the Bald Archy Prize. Supportive of alternative ways of artful expression and recognition.

Emma Wortley’s book column. When Emma is done I would like this job please. She does a wonderful job – here, what a reader gains from observing and being unable to partake in the decision-making of characters.

Timoth DeAtholia’s film column. A very apt piece on three types of typical Australian films and how this is tied into current politics of economy.

Candace Petrik’s Zine column. Still not 100% clear on Zines. Possibly because I am not city-based. Can I look at one? Candace compares Zine-creating and blogging.

If you haven’t yet encountered Voiceworks, see the website for stockists. If you have read this issue – leave a comment – I would love to know how others received it.

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