issue 5

october 2017

issue 5 - october 2017

Editorial - Tracey Slaughter

Writers read. Full stop. No exception. End of story. A writer who doesn’t read is like a painter who never opens their eyes. Is there a musician out there whose headphones aren’t crunching with punk history, or brimming with symphony, who doesn’t slip the turntable their latest LP and lie down to wait for the chromatic transports of the needle? If you write, you’re a junkie for the word, wherever you can pick up the next hit. And luckily, the drug is everywhere. It’s stitched into the battered leather covers of volumes you ease off the shelf in a gilded haze of dust, the classics whose pages breathe out the weather and melody of ancient sentences. It’s loaded on link after electric link, the latenight screen set alight with glinting rivulets of now. It pops up in ads, banging hardsell lines into your brain. It’s inked around the toilet stalls, dirty clues to our psyche’s deep graffiti. It’s packed into the graphic punch of zines. It’s stamped on the back of endless planet-choking packets, a landfill of plastic language, a best-before hell. It shouts from streetsigns, it whispers from notes slid along the desk in class. It zings between besties, a fast track of texts, trading plans and goss and ohmygods, or weaves between lovers, a trail of coded want, shortcuts of heartbeat. It jams your letterbox with red lines, sales that must end, payments overdue. It posts its status in flashes of self-satisfaction, or updates of lonely sob. It looms in the leaves of the dark tale that spellbound you in childhood, luring you to where the wild things are, where language first taught you to listen for its feathers and claws. It spills out your course-reader, if you open it, and don’t just pay Campus Copy for nothing. If you’re a writer, you read everything, because you want to see language at work, everywhere it goes. You want to pay attention to how it travels, how it shapes and hides, how it heals and hurts. You want to see it in action, you want to scope its moves, break down its m.o. You read like a hunter, you read like a heroine on a dark quest, you read like a noir private eye (so what’s a beautiful word like you doing in a lousy joint like this…). You never quit. You’re addicted to language, however you can get it, its gift, its trick, its nectar, its fix.

For this kind of reader, another edition of Mayhem is a rare thrill, a one-stop shop of sensory wonders. It’s full of the kick of language, full of writers who share this hunger, this urge for words’ energy and entropy and rush. It’s an issue made of writers who push, on limits, on meanings, on yesterdays, on relationships, on genders and genres. It holds the magnifying glass of words up close to the body of experience and everywhere the light strikes finds us ‘highly combustible,’ our contemporary lives made of ‘intense heat’ (see Rebecca Hawkes’ ‘Would I recognise the garden if I saw it’). It tips the lines of convention on their side and sets adrift a lonely silhouette to wander ‘the depths of the left-hand’ margin littered with vagrant loveliness and longing (see D.A. Taylor’s ‘-ve space’). It vandalises the house of fiction, to ‘turn on all the taps full bore and open up the windows,’ strobing a new prose form into lush poetic shape through use of the fragment and the flash (see Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor’s ‘Amber’). Perhaps above it all it wants to make felt the links between language and the body, to jam the lexicon of binaries and doublebinds that have reduced and ensnared our flesh, and let the physical revel in the ‘shuddering call and response’ of unleashed language (see the work of Essa Ranapiri). It reads skin, it reads bloodbeat, it reads ‘the violent reality’ of ‘nerves hit on nerves,’ to bring alive a stunning imprint of who we are and who we need to be, who we should be free to be. Mayhem 5 reads us – we hope it brings you joy to read it back.

Editorial - D.A. Taylor

The relationship between writers and their work is strained and dirty. It’s the late nights scratching at a pad and a beer tab-pull, streetlamps shutting off at the sprawl of dawn, enamel-staining buckets of coffee. It’s snatching a few lines between classes or the nappying of babes, or devoting a weekend to a hotel or treehouse to get some lines down. It’s the hairline thinning to the labouring over verbs, the specks between your vision and the ceiling bulb, the slow timekeeping contractions of the oil heaters in the silent orbit of that sentence that refuses to cooperate. A laptop keeps the sheets warm; a biro sits just so in the pen-shaped dent at the end of the middle finger.

These are the signs of our compulsion to write, to endure the ‘intolerable wrestle with words and meanings.’ To put words to paper, to comb and re-comb them for fault like searching for lice in a child’s hair, to then take your grubby and glyphed paper to a workshop or writer’s group; to hear it aloud, sometimes damp underarm, sometimes without eyes lifting from the too-small desk, sometimes vibrating from the plexus to the whiteboard in the next room; to ask for a small piece of your soul to be judged one word at a time: these are not things we do for love but, as Catherine Chidgey and Tracey Slaughter once remarked, to save some small and precious moments from the plunge of time.

Mayhem 5 is a testament to those moments that bear witness and refuse to be left to time and oblivion. It’s the rhetorical question of a stain in the underpants and a pink plus in Ash Dorgan’s +, the pain of distance and unpromises in Mark Prisco’s lines by the river, the gorgon at the periphery of Eefa Yasir Jauhary’s Season of an eating disorder. It makes its way from under the base of the spine to scratch with chewed hangnail in Bronwyn Laundry’s Fingers, puts a blade to the breastbone in Mark Anthony Houlahan’s Conference, offers instruction and forgiveness in Hamish Ansley’s Four Simple Steps to Becoming a Successful Writer, calls from our blind spots the ‘functioning messes’ of the human body in Essa Ranapiri’s ENBY.

Mayhem 5 shines darkly with need to write, to salvage from the wreckage and jetsam of the everyday, to resist the simple and celebrate dirt-frosted glass and survivors’ scars, unclean lines, boots on the table, the agony of putting pen to paper and the pleasure in having saved something. So put words to paper, and make them matter to someone somewhere, starting with yourself. Nobody minds if it starts with an HB on looseleaf or on a $5.99 app; whether you have to have to be three cups deep in tea or face north in the mornings. Write. Then read. Re-read. Write the stories you want to read. Read stories you wished you wrote, and take notes. People-watch on your days off. Start a blog. Write a play and put it on. Tell bad stories and learn from the experience. I don’t know if writing gets easier—go ask someone with more miles on the clock—but you will get better with practice. Grab some paper and get to it.

Contributor's Note

Dr Tracey Slaughter lectures in Creative Writing in the English Programme at the University of Waikato. Her work has won numerous awards including the 2010 Louis Johnson New Writers Bursary and the 2004 BNZ Katherine Mansfield Award. Her collection of poems and short stories entitled her body rises was published by Random House.

D.A. Taylor is a graduate of Tracey Slaughter and Catherine Chidgey’s creative writing programme at the University of Waikato and deputy editor of Mayhem Literary Journal. He is working on his first novel.


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