Michael Farrell Interviews Andrew Zawacki

22 June 2001

In April this year, Michael Farrell and US poet Andrew Zawacki travelled to the Queenscliffe Festival of Words, catching a dose of cabin fever on the way –

//0. Do you think Australian poets are a depressed lot?

By and large, the ones I've met, I don't think so. They seem less depressed than others. Australian poets don't romance melancholy the way, say e.g. Slovenian poets do – the weather's too good here to be depressed.

//4. What books did you bring with you this weekend?

Mostly Creeley. I think that's all I brought. I've got Susan Howe's singularities on me as well.

//6. What do you think of Australian food?

I've had alligator, but at a Japanese restaurant, and that's probably not the way to go. However, I've also had sushi – at a Japanese restaurant, and that is the way to go. I think the food in Melbourne in general is fantastic. The food in Tennant Creek, on the other hand, leaves something to be desired.

//10. Any regrets?

I regret not seeing Gig Ryan's band [Real Estate] perform.

//12. Tell us about your car.

How much time do you have? The Millenium Falcon, as it's known, was purchased in May of last year from an outgoing Fullbrighter. It's a theoretically white 1985 Ford Falcon Stationwagon GL about 5 metres long. I know this because I took it on the ferry to Tasmania and they measure your car. It took me and 2 female friends to Alice Springs and back. It has a dent by the front left tyre where I backed into the fence at my own house. In my tenure with the car it's gone through 4 petrol lids – lid covers – because I've a bad habit of driving off with the lid still on the car after filling it up. I have a sneaking suspicion that the car serves as a home for any number of spiders, because there are constantly new webs on the outside of the car. But I've never seen a spider in it. This is confusing to me.

//14. How would you feel if you were a wine?

As a glass of wine I'd have tremendous anticipation of who would drink me. You can imagine that the large red-faced fascist bloke is not the guy you want, whose stomach you want to end up in. But if you've just been put on Juliette Binoche's table, your life's been well spent. You'll be a legend in your vineyard, among your fellow grapes. Even as a wine, Mike, I would dream big. I would definitely be a Shiraz, a dark and somewhat dry Shiraz.

//24. If you were to be someone's personal poet, who would you pick? Nicole Kidman, Keanu Reeves or Liv Tyler?

It would certainly not be Keanu Reeves, though he's probably the one in most need. Nicole Kidman has too much baggage at the moment – and I trust she can speak for herself. So we'll go with Liv. I think she's a prose poem kind of girl.

//27. How many poems have you written here?

About 30, which is maybe double my usual rate (over a year). I might not keep them all. The goatee wrote about half of them.

//30. How old is your goatee?

About 6 years old. Old enough to speak.

//33. Are there any parts of your body you're unhappy with?

Umm, most. Particularly the way the whole is often no more than the sum of its parts.

//48. I understand the climate has been a bit harsh for your skin?

This is indeed true. However, I took drastic measures when I discovered my neighbour, Hilary, was a face mask guru. I bought an avocado, seeweed, and green tea or something mask and she administered it of an afternoon. I think I probably look younger, and my goatee looks 3 years old, when, as you know, it's 6.

//54. Were you tempted in the desert?

The desert was fake, Mike, but the temptation was real.

//70. Do you have a favourite boy band?

New Edition. [ MF: I think you need to commit to one more recent, and preferably less cool.] I don't think I know any. I know who the Backstreet Boys are, but I turn them off. Who sings “Teenage Dirtbag”? [Wheatus] I'd like to plug them.

//64. What song of farewell will you be singing on Tuesday night?

I'll be singing Bob Dylan's “Trying To Get To Heaven” (I'm seeing Dylan Wednesday night).

//84. Have you changed?

Since being here, you mean? I now sometimes use consciously the phrase 'different to' instead of the more grammatically correct 'different from'. This may sound like a small thing, but that's a radical change for me. I change slowly, but surely, Mike.

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Michael Farrell

About Michael Farrell


Michael Farrell's Cocky's Joy was published by Giramondo in 2015. His scholarly book, Writing Australian Unsettlement: Modes of Poetic Invention 1796-1945, was published by Palgrave Macmillan.

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