Salt Room interview: Emily Crocker

Friday, 28 April 2017

For each edition of the Salt Room in 2017, our poetry curator, Andrew Galan, is asking performers a series of questions to provide some insight into their practice and themselves, as well as a short work they would like to share. Each of these questions has been found in the interviews of well-known dead poets.

‘Now what about music, are there particular pieces of music which give you special comfort when you are feeling over-strained?’ (1959, John Freeman to Dame Edith Sitwell, Face to Face)

You know that whirring sound of a spinning washing machine? Love it. I used to fall asleep in the laundry as a child. I still would, but the place I live in now keeps the washing machine in the bathroom and that’d just be inconvenient for my fellow householders.

Is it Eurovision yet?

‘What do you think about the artist being supported by the state?’ (1956, Marion Capron to Dorothy Parker, the Paris Review)

I didn’t want to get serious in this interview, but this question does a few unfortunate things. To start with, it creates a divide between the artist and the state. Art is part of this nation, and, as essential to the way we exchange ideas, is part of the democratic governance of our community. The artist and the state are not apart. That is not to say that the two can’t be independent in their perspective and launch criticism at each other. Indeed, there should always be critique. And that is exactly why art is part of a functioning state.

Mainly, the term ‘supported’ devalues art as an industry that exists in and contributes to our economy– why is the question not about the state investing in art.

I also think directly referring to ‘the artist’ here buys into some dangerous stereotypes. Firstly, that real artists are poor. And secondly, that poor people are just looking for state handouts. More so, the question about art funding isn’t just about funding artists. We are also talking about subsidising the cost of art for audiences. Real conversations are happening in galleries and theatres that everyone deserves to be privy to. Funding means less of the cost of producing art is being passed on through entry fees and more people able to take part in those conversations.

In answer to the question, the goal is obviously to have independent and sustainable financial models of artistic practice. But your ability to establish a model like that in your own practice does not correlate with the value of your art to the community, and for that reason should not be a barrier to production. Indeed, we the community benefit a great deal from the voices of people experiencing disadvantage, and diverse funding sources, including from the state, are pretty important in giving the community the opportunity to receive those voices.

‘In interviews you’ve been known to rail against “the obscure and effete in poetry” – that “heavy, pretentious ‘boys’ poetry” full of semantic incoherence.’ (2007, Magdalena Ball to Dorothy Porter, Compulsive Reader)

I’m flattered that your willing to euphemise ‘being drunk and disruptive during gallery opening speeches’ to ‘in interviews’. I love a man in glitter and lippy, but sometimes they smear it on their poems instead and that’s a just a waste of a good mac book . Or worse, the ones who swear by using typewriters in the 21st C – buying an antique and drinking until you weep does not a poem make. Look, I’m truly sorry for all of us that so many tell you to keep your feelings in their packaging, lest you devalue yourself like Star Wars memorabilia. But you can’t substitute poetry for having feelings. Poetry isn’t about feelings. Swing at the page like an amateur-baseball playing lumberjack and write something bloody useful.

The world outside your own circle of friends tends to think of you as being remote eccentric forbidding and rather dangerous, now perhaps that’s a false impression and I want you to tell me face to face what sort of person you really are, now first your appearance, which everybody knows, why did you devise the very personal style of clothes that you wear so often? (1959, John Freeman to Dame Edith Sitwell, Face to Face)

Once I paid a woman $35 to tell me my future in a pokey room with a skirt hung over the only window. She said that I liked clean lines, classic cuts, and dull colours, and that green looked great on me. I guess we were both there out of boredom. She also stole my lighter and chewed my pen but that’s a different issue. Regardless, due to poor spatial awareness, a helium-inflated ego, and a chronic fear of taking up too much space, finding things in my size is just a nightmare.


A short piece from Emily Crocker

When we ask for a map, the mouse haired woman

in a Department of Conservation fleece tells us

there’s a tour where you can chip iceberg off

into your champagne flute and that the lake didn’t

exist forty years ago. Then, it was a glacier.

I realise I’m waiting for a way to see the earth

not as a tourist. A fallen alien slicked in

petroleum membrane onto this bank of stones.

We walk guideless instead. The water,

blue as a raspberry Slush Puppy was

the most terrible thing I’d ever seen.


Emily grew up in the outer-suburbs of Sydney. She has since found a home in the Wollongong spoken-word community, including performances with Wollongong Writer’s Festival and at The Vault Cabaret, Port Kembla. In 2016 she won The Rumble youth slam, and scored the opportunity to feature at the Australian Poetry Slam National Finals. Her work can be found in various Australia journals including Southerly, Verity La, Cordite, and Seizure. Emily habitually picks junk up and pockets it away only to turn it all out a week later asking ‘what can I get for this?’.

Emily will be performing as part of the Salt Room alongside Paul Munden, Nick Delatovic and Brentley Frazer, at 7:30pm on Friday 5 May at the Gorman Arts Centre. The Salt Room is produced by BAD!SLAM!NOBISCUIT! with the support of the Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centres. Tickets $15 full or $10 concession available online or at the door.

  • Emily Crocker