Pollyanna-ish is a column about the process of becoming (undefinable). Exploring the intersection between life and art, these essays will explore and intermingle different aspects of the author’s life, interests and development. We are very excited to share it with you.
.@lorde’s cry-snarl at 2:33 of ‘Supercut’ is one of my fav moments. Of all time.
I spend an inordinate amount of time debating my tweet, debating where Lorde’s cry-snarl falls.
It is June 2017, and I’ve come down from Canberra for the Emerging Writers’ Festival. In the cavernous space of 1000 £ Bend, chatting before the readings start, I hear a familiar weeks-old beat.
‘Oh my god,’ I say, clutching my mulled wine a little tighter. ‘I love this song.’ I scan the room for Jen.
it’s just another graceless night…
When I find her, she says, ‘I played it just for you.’ It is the night we first meet IRL.
A year later, we are part of West Writers Group and see each other fortnightly. Jen has a poem accepted. We send GIFs to celebrate. Jen sends: Lorde in a clingy magenta dress, spinning deliriously through the streets. I reply with: Lorde flinging her hair and arms every which way as ‘Green Light’ builds to its crescendo. Jen: Lorde bouncing with joy. Me: Lorde killing it on Saturday Night Live.
In the opening of The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic, Jessica Hopper confesses:
sometimes, […] I am painfully aware of every single thing that I need from music, embarrassed by what I ask of it. Having developed such a desperate belief in the power of music to salve and heal me, I ask big, over and over again.
She describes this relationship with music, what she needs from it, as strange:
I want it. I need it. Because all these records, they give me a language to decipher just how fucked I am. Because there is a void in my guts which can only be filled by songs.
I do not think such a relationship strange. I too have a void in my guts. (it feels so scary, getting old.)
When Lorde sings, ‘so I fall / into continents and cars’, I hear:
so i fall
into consonants and cars.
It makes sense to me, to fall into consonants.
When I am upset, angry, afraid or confused, I write. I reach for my diary. I open a blank document and I type. Watching the words bloom, trickle across the page gives me a sense of control.
I am reminded of this feeling, of my motives, when I read Sylvia Plath’s journals:
How can I tell Bob that my happiness streams from having wrenched a piece out of my life, a piece of hurt and beauty, and transformed it to typewritten words on paper? How can he know I am justifying my life, my keen emotion, my feeling, by turning it into print?
Writing cauterised my wounds, stopped the bleeding, if only temporarily.
A year ago, I wrote ‘Good Asian / Bad Asian’. This, I decided, will be the Last Essay I write about sex/pain/men/trauma. The next essay will be happier, on friendship/music/photography/travel.
Get your sex essays out of the way, I thought, so you won’t have to include them in your book.
There will always be more hurts.
I end up writing another sex essay. For the first time, I focus on my desire, my pleasure. It is defiant, and I love it. But it is also a goodbye: to M, to sex (?), and to writing about sex.
I am tired.
In an essay titled ‘Ill-Fit the World’, T Clutch Fleischmann writes:
The assumption that a marginalized person should feel the duty to define, contextualize, or rationalize her own life to someone else is suspect (although certainly fine when she chooses to do so).
Lorde’s cry-snarl stretches across 2:33 and 2:34.
It falls as one second ticks into another.
Shu-Ling Chua is a writer of memoir and criticism, who focusses on sex, culture, femininity and growing up. Her work has appeared in Feminartsy, Peril Magazine, The Lifted Brow and Meanjin, among others. She tweets @hellopollyanna and is working on a collection of essays on coming of age as a young Asian-Australian woman.