‘I Looked Better Than This Mannequin on Sydney Road’, Brunswick, September 2006, photo by Alicia Bee.


Alannis Morrisette really did something when she sung IRONIC, and I have returned to the lyrics many times over the past 15 years.

“It’s like rain on your wedding day”, sung the 1995 Number 1 singer all over the world and you couldn’t avoid it no matter how ‘indy’ or ‘nirvana buddhist monk’ you were in the 90s. At the same time I was loving living out of home and sitting on couches listening to the first Lucksmiths Albums from The Simple Times newsletter; she really got to me, not only with the confusing use of the word ‘ironic’ in the explanation lines of the verse and the multiple characters in the video clip all played by Alannis- it was that line about the weather.

‘Get to Bed Birds’ The Lucksmiths 7″single cover art, designer not yet known, released September 2010, limited edition of 1000.

“It’s like rain on your wedding day” some would have sung on their wedding day when the wild weather hit the ceremony, but I sing whenever wearing white because water makes the color see through. You can see your insides if you throw water on a white dressed person; note what color underwear they are wearing and how their hair looks when the gods rain on their parade. Many brides to be would spend time selecting their white underwear for wearing with their white dress for the big day, just in case it rains.

The purity is important.

When selecting clothing for my book launch I dressed in an evolved ‘Brett Whitely Phase’ outfit of BEIGE.

It’s ‘off white’, ‘creamy’ and not as pure as the bleached color, but it was chosen over my BLACK MUUMUU HAWAIIAN FLAVORED DRESS for its lightness and formality. In my beige dress I was soaked loading to and from the car, but luckily dried out in time for the good people to arrive at my BATHERS ON THE BEACH BOOK LAUNCH in rainy Spring Melbourne; which was a collection of beach related poems set in sunny Hawaii.

We were inside and dry, and no-one could see through our clothing but there were so many that did not come and were rained out as the flood spread down Sydney Road.

They may have had wet clothes, and shoes.

The rain changed their minds, the rain hurt my reign.

Our event was affected by the weather change, and torrential downpour and therefore I had less people. It does happen alot in a  newer climate change gig guide.

I was a little disheartened, though prepared for small numbers. If you were going to come I really did miss your company, and you should know these things go on ‘rain hail or shine’. By the way, you should really  ‘break a leg’ because it is really fun and character building!

‘Spotless Linen’, Richmond Rehabilitation Hospital, 16 February 2007, photo by Alicia Bee.

Those that were meant to be there missed viewing my 10 pairs of bathers, the museum of my swimwear in the first decade of the millennium. They were displayed on hangers and discussed to symbolise the private self that many would not see when living and working in a city like Melbourne, and how we all have insecurities when stripped down and reduced by water.


FIONA L MAYNARD – How old were you when you first started to write without being told you had to by an authority figure? (teacher/parent)

ALICIA BEE – I was just turned 11 when first desiring to write my first novel, which was written by hand. It was about a girl that runs away and goes on an adventure it was set in the Northern Hemisphere where all the books I had read were.

At the time I thought I was really clever writing away at a novel in secret. I was so psyched into being a young author that when I found out that Anne Frank was younger I was devastated, and soon abandoned that story. At the time I was very into the fame aspect of being a young writer and imagined myself interviewed on television. I mention Anne Frank in one of my poems, and she was a very big influence on my life in diaries.

FIONA L MAYNARD – Which writers do you really love to read? Are they the same ones that inspire you to write?

ALICIA BEE – I love to read classic fiction, the kind of books that were in the English classroom 50 years ago. I was really against the straightness of Lockie Leonard by Tim Winton and Ali Brandi by Marlena Marchetta and loved the rebels of ‘The Outsiders’ by SE Hinton and ‘Romeo and Juliet’ by Shakespeare over modern Australian writers. I liked the flappers in Gatsby’s parties and F.Scott Fitgerald’s Beautiful and The Damned because they were equally naughty and poetic.

I love to read New Journalists from the 1960s and they inspire me to write. Though he always wears a suit, and is the straightest cool writer, I am a fan of Tom Wolfe.

Joan Didion. The kind of journalists from this era are Hunter S Thompson and Truman Capote and Norman Mailer.

Miss Piggy Journalist is a generation younger than Gonzo journalism, but reaping the benefits of experiencial journalism riders and that newer respect for writers.

Likewise I am attracted to the Beat Poets in poetry, but then I was always into 1960s music anyway.

I giggle sometimes at the 60s consciousness in poetry as it sought to explore words, news topics, and sexuality because it is so teenage and without the knowledge of the present age. I see the 60s as a teenage consciousness, while the 70s as maturing, though my own adolescense and growth came later; I think our parents had the same worldwide knowledge that we had as teenagers. These days we are all smarter.

After reading the Beats again earlier this year I was openly shocked by the desire to tantilise with words, and felt myself a ‘straight’ in opinion, but then there would be alot of people from that era that have changed their minds and write more conservatively now.

FIONA L MAYNARD – What motivates you to pick up the pen? (or sit at typewriter/keyboard?)

ALICIA BEE – I write poems away from the computer. Often the thought that triggers a poem could have come in the day or week before. I think of cool things and write them down, or produce them from a mental note, then turn a writing task into finishing it in fuller development.

When I am working on longer writing projects I will start by editing in the chapter before, then write after a period, which if left for long periods in between can be up to the hour. I just edit for longer till deciding where to start. I usually have only a certain time allocated each day to longer projects, and have to feel some achievement in completing a part of that each time I work.

FIONA L MAYNARD – In your opinion, what are the key elements to a great story and/or a great poem?

ALICIA BEE – A great story ( and I mean feature article) makes you want to read, and teaches you something knew about the topic.

A great poem, makes you want to find yourself; and triggers a new awareness of your emotions or brain thoughts.

Good writing should make a sound with its language; and inspire you to read it out loud to someone else.

FIONA L MAYNARD – Who is your favourite male writer, favourite female writer, do you think there really is a difference between genders and styles?

ALICIA BEE – I will do one answer because this question is hard; if my favorite male writer was F.Scott Fitgerald then my female would have to be Zelda Fitzgerald. They wrote together often, and Zelda used F.Scott to get her work published under his name. They have a collection of short stories called Bits of Paradise, where it is difficult to understand which is the author until you know that Zelda was given less credit so she didnt have the same development as F.Scott.

Zelda was crazy and I wanted to be like her from a teen age.

The difference between male and female writers that I like is not always clear especially in modern journalism, but the females from 1930s-1960s that I liked can be seen to have a different style. Those females can write about relationships with female characters as personalities that operate decisions, while the male writers distance themselves from them and describe them lovingly as portraits. Zelda for instance can sometimes be more patronising to females than F. Scott.

Howover I am more drawn to the new journalism and beat poetry work of male writers simply because there was more of it.


Young female writer, and star of her RMIT Bachelor of Arts Creative Writing course SAMANTHA VAN ZWEDEN has asked me for an interview for her own blog LITTLE GIRL WITH A BIG PEN.

SAMANTHA VAN ZWEDEN – You play many roles, especially writing roles. How does the role of “poet” fit in with your other writing roles – do you find it helps or hinders your other work? And do you take this role any more or less seriously than your other writing roles?

ALICIA BEE – I was using a daily poem to free up my writing flow when work on a nonfiction book about a murder really overpowered me. I’d start in the morning to practise some poetry forms, and write one within 20-40 minutes each weekday.

Sometimes my poems draw inspiration from current news events, and in this way can illustrate the control journalism has over my writing. But then everyone can be moved by the news; and acts under the majesty of the changing weather, so that is not special.

Sometimes I find that my poems act much like a news article, in that the core information is found in the first line, and the story is built around that. If you are looking for the ‘news’ in my poetry it would be found in the repetitions and refrains or the first line.

I think my poems help to make something of my opinions on many news storoes that cant have a writing outlet because I’m working on something else. I often wonder why people want to read the news at all if it hurts them, reminds them of a bad incident or only tells them when people die. I am also often frustrated by the news events, and this can get in the way of my other work. At least when I write about it, it puts the thoughts in a finished space for the time being during the day.

If you like, poetry can be seen to use creativity to heal the stress of the daily news.

Comparing my opinion of the poetry now to the private mental diaries of say January 2010, I think it has taken a more serious form since deciding to publish my first book mid year. Even earlier this year I still thought of it as something that didn’t need to be seen by anyone else, while freelance journalism articles are easily written and given up to be published.

For the first time people are publicly calling me a poet which is new to my ears. It does mean that my poetry is now public, and now people will know me for that aswell as other public titles.

SAMANTHA VAN ZWEDEN – Writing poetry for yourself and writing poetry for the world are quite different things – what made you decide to make this Hawaii collection of poems into something to put out in the world?

ALICIA BEE – I really got into the beach bum vibe of surfing lifestyle, and formally announced myself as a ‘dharma bum’ that would rather be in Hawaii or another holiday destination. Hawaii is absurd; all those islands dedicated to tourism and holiday culture. It was difficult to think of it as a place where people worked, and I stared at the schools around Oahu wondering how their school bell rang. It was American Independence Day holiday period so locals were on holiday too which was nice.

Most of the tourists are ‘unemployed’ and that may be through being on holiday, being too rich, retired or simply lifestyle choice.

When I got back from the sunny islands to colder Melbourne, I longed to continue my holiday. I could only write poetry for the first couple of weeks and had slowed down completely. I thought about how I most enjoyed writing creatively, and that if I wasn’t going to get back into it then I had to do something with my poems.

I saw that the last poems were Hawaiian themed, and that I often discussed hotels, planes oceans and being away from home. I compiled a collection of the Hawaii poems, and some written in April, May, and June and they went into Bathers On The Beach.

SAMANTHA VAN ZWEDEN – Once one decides that this is what they want to do – what does the process from collected diary scraps to published work look like?

ALICIA BEE – I had some notes in a little book just on little subjects and things that could form a poem, when I got back I turned most of them into the Hawaiian poems that is in the collection. They were just a couple of words, or just a word that made me remember a train of the thought that occupied a little bit of my holiday.

In the days when I got back, each poem would be written out from start to finish in one time period.

I write in greylead, and erase words as I go and often spend a little time looking for my rubber and sharpener! I also count the sound-syllables out on the day and make sure each of the lines are the same length, so the top might contain a number of how may sound-syllables for each line. Very occasionally if there is some time or other appointment consuming the perfection of the poem, I will put a note at the bottom to ‘change second last line’, or note if it has some sort of decision to be made eg. ‘did I mean that tone?’ when a poem is a runaway.

When I decided on which of the poems would be included, I typed them all up in an afternoon.

I save all of my poems as single Word documents, and place them in folders of poetry genre.

I used those files when inserting them into a word document, which was then made into an Indesign package. You dont have to insert them into one long Word doc, I just did it like that knowing it took longer because my brain was not looking at the design at all, I also used it to order the poems.

I just wanted a document to look at the entire text, so I could edit that only.

SAMANTHA VAN ZWEDEN – Is it a process you’d like to repeat? Are there any things you’d do differently to make it easier? Any advice for those of us thinking about going in the same direction?

ALICIA BEE – It was easy enough to drop the poems into Word in the one document once they were decided, and there is no harm in drawing out the edit process over a longer period especially with decisions on what would form your first book. I always knew that the page design process would not take long because Im fast at that, so I knew that I was stalling there.

Some advice I have to share is to make sure that your communication process with your printer is correct and confirm that they understand you, and that you don’t have to put up with errors.

Your book and product is important, and any errors that are not yours should not be acceptable.



Anne Martinelli didn’t want to do an email interview and would rather talk on the phone, but I asked her twice as it is the easiest way for me. She started by talking about the Greens policy of two years of funded early childhood education.

ALICIA BEE – How important is early childhood education?

ANNE MARTINELLI – Early childhood education is critical for a child’s educational and social development. I have two children of my own (kinder and Prep) and we have been really lucky that (after a 3 year wait) they were able to both go to a good quality, community-based childcare and kindergarten centre that’s within walking distance from our home. In some ways their kinder experience is not that different to mine 40 years ago, because the really important aspects of early childhood education don’t change – the opportunity to interact with others in a caring environment, lots of outdoor exploratory play, lots of messy, investigative activities and lots of fun. I think where things have changed is the opportunity to use technology such as digital cameras and the internet to enrich that experience, and much greater awareness about the diversity of our community and the importance of children having a meaningful relationship with people outside their own family experience.

But unfortunately many families in the Northcote electorate and further north in Preston don’t have a centre that meets their needs within walking distance, and so we’re still seeing unmet demand, particularly for centres that combine kinder and crèche, and for community-based versus private centres. The biggest unmet demand is for 3 year old kinder, where many children including my son, have missed out on a place because only one year of pre-school is fully funded. The issue of capacity is going to be even more critical when the 4 year old kinder requirement increases from 10 hours to 15 hours per week in 2013 and Government really needs to be planning for this capacity expansion now, or many centres will face the choice of having to cut their 3 year old kinder in order to fulfil the required hours for 4 year old.  The Greens policy is for 2 years of fully-funded early childhood education. The other big issue now worrying parents, is that while a last minute expansion of kinder places at a couple of centres was delivered last year, there is no evidence of future planning to ensure the kids at kinder now have a primary school or high school to go to. A recent article in The Age reported that high schools in the northern suburbs would be at capacity by 2016 – which is not very far away.

ALICIA BEE – If you stand on southern High Street you can see an different view of the Melbourne skyline developments, Northcote residents are well aware of how fast buildings can change the shape of the city; but can they see what going on further down High Street? What new buildings have come up in the last 4 years? What projects are planned?

What is your opinion of Northcote developments for growth and residential areas?

ANNE MARTINELLI – The changing shape of our city and our local community is a hot topic in Northcote (and Thornbury, Fairfield and Alphington), not because people are opposed to the concept of medium density development – they recognize that continued urban sprawl is unsustainable and that there are opportunities for making the best possible use of land in established areas. But people are concerned that decision-making processes are unclear and appear ad hoc, and too many decisions are ending up at VCAT instead of being resolved at  a local level. The Greens position is that specific changes are required to the Planning system to make the rules by which developments are judged much clearer, more consistent and transparent, so that as much as possible the right decisions are being made the first time at a local level with appropriate community consultation, and only the exceptional cases end up at VCAT.

The Greens also strongly believe that increasing density needs to be matched by investment in high quality public infrastructure, such as public transport, schools and open space so that the liveability of our community is retained and enhanced by new development. But the current focus of both the Government and Opposition is to focus the majority of infrastructure spending in new growth areas. I was at the Darebin Transport Forum on Wednesday night where both Jenny Mikakos MLC (ALP) and Matthew Guy MLC (Lib) said precisely this – that the public transport problems faced by the people of Northcote – infrequent and overcrowded trains, infrequent buses that don’t connect with anything, and services that are inaccessible and inconvenient for disabled and elderly passengers, and  were less of a priority than investment in growth areas.  The Greens of course support investment in infrastructure in growth areas – we think public transport should be like sewerage; it should just be automatically included when a new suburb is being built, rather than providing it years or even decades later, such as the case of the South Morang rail extension, now not due until 2017 and the further extension to Mernda not expected till 2027 when in fact we need rail all the way to Whittlesea right now. The Greens have a plan for fixing public transport in Melbourne called The People Plan, which is available from our website athttp://www.vic.greens.org.au/.

ALICIA BEE – What do you like about Northcote?

ANNE MARTINELLI – I’ve lived in Northcote for 15 years, and I love its creeks and open space, great local shops and markets which mean I hardly ever have to go to the supermarket, it’s an easy bike commute to the city with some good bike lane options to get me most places I need to go without having to ride along major roads, it has (relatively) good public transport and a great, diverse community. In my street we have Greek neighbours on either side, lots of young families and still many elderly residents who have lived in the street for 40 years or more. I’m also lucky to live within walking distance of both the Westgarth shops and Ruckers Hill so I never have to go far for a movie, restaurant or live music. My favourite cafés are Foxy Brown and Penny Farthing, favourite eating place for dinner with the kids on a Friday night is the Northcote Social Club because they are so welcoming of kids and you always see plenty of other families you know there at the same time. We also regularly take the kids to Pho Dzung in High St Preston, particularly for lunch after the market. My favourite non-kids eatery is probably Otsunami although I also love Chowhound, The Estelle and TaxiBoat. My favourite live music venues are the Northcote Social Club and Wesley Anne, and the last live music I saw was a night at the Uniting Church Hall recently that featured local women musicians including Annie Kennedy, Tania Bosak and the Expressive Womens choir. My favourite place for relaxation in Northcote is a walk along the Merri creek, and I love taking my kids to the Northcote and Fairfield libraries, although they are getting too big for storytime these days – which is sad! I regularly catch public transport in Northcote, particularly the 86 tram, 246 and 251 bus and Epping and Hurstbridge rail lines. My favourite clothes shop in Northcote is “I Dream a Highway” in High St and I recently bought some great skirts and T-shirts there which are all locally made. I also love Northcote’s various op shops, although I have to say my favourite is the one in Station St, Fairfield where I can always find something great for kids, particularly prizes for parties etc to avoid all the $2 shop stuff that typically goes into kids parties.

ALICIA BEE – What is one of your favorite hobbies? how often do you do that?

ANNE MARTINELLI – My main regular non-work activities are walks or bike-rides along the creek, gardening and playing with my kids. After that, there’s not a lot of time left for hobbies, although when we came back from South America a decade ago, I did keep up the Spanish lessons for a while, but they have sadly gone by the wayside lately! We are also keen cross-country skiers and campers. I combine politics with my work as an advisor to the community sector on sustainable water and energy issues, so I will continue to do that if I am not elected. I have worked in the Mekong region and so that region, particularly Vietnam and Laos are places that are special to me, although I have many favourite places from travel I have done over the last 2 decades through Asia, India, Central and South America and the Middle East. Highlights from that travel are hard to pick but would have to include snorkeling in the Red Sea, walking the Inca Trail, meeting women in a micro-credit scheme in a slum in Pune India, spending 2 days walking around the ancient site of Palmyra in Syria, visiting the Solola market in the Guatemalan highlands, visiting the Mayan city of Tikal in Guatemala, and spending 2 days in a mountain village in India after getting lost on a day-hike. The last place I visited on holiday was Port Douglas but my favorite Australian holiday experiences include camping with my kids at Wilson’s Promontory, walking around the base of Uluru, and skiing around the Bogong High Plains on a perfect spring day. The last book I read was “The Half-Child” by my good friend, Angela Savage.

‘Ruby Hunter’, whose birthday you should remember to fall each year on October 31, was born on a Monday in 1955.



by Alicia Bee

She wore some feathers in her hat; pinks on gypsy clothes,

Seventies music woman living on the good folk street,

She looks like Janis Joplin (to me) in these old photos,

Goodbye Ruby Thursday; remember her day on her birthday.

You sing another song about the clan people you meet,

Older woman lived as teacher; a female who knows,

Our history will keep on walking with her proud working feet.

This country spent little time with apologies they owed,

River people took the long walk home; after bush they beat,

We’re planting native gardens for generations to grow,

Goodbye Ruby Thursday; remember her day on her birthday.

END. Alicia Bee © 2010.