Emerging Poet in Residence Aries M. Gacutan

Red Room Poetry news

The Emerging Poets Residency is an initiative which encourages the creative trajectory of emerging Australian poets with the support of the Adès Family Foundation and Moonrise on the River.

We are delighted to introduce emerging poet Aries M. Gacutan, one of the two 2024 recipients of the residency.

Congratulations on being selected for the Emerging Poets Residency on Yuin Country (Bermagui)! Can you tell us a bit about what you hope to work on while you’re there?

Thank you so much! The Emerging Poets Residency is my first ever literary residency, and I’m so humbled and honoured to have been selected for such an exciting opportunity, and to be so privileged to be working in such a beautiful location.

The plan is to start working on my first full-length poetry collection, tentatively titled Last Island on the Left. It’s about how weird and awful and exciting and exhausting and silly it is to have to re-learn your cultural heritage as a second-generation Filipino migrant, especially when going through all the rigamarole of daily life as a twenty-something living in a capital city in so-called Australia. The idea for the collection was spawned when I was serving a white woman at work, and she asked me where I was from. I was bracing myself for a racist comment, but when I told her I had been born in London she slapped her knee and went, “That’s what you sound like! British!” That’s the main conceit of the collection, juxtaposing massive internal agonies and epiphanies with the mundanity of late-stage capitalist urban Western living. I hope that it is incisive and ground-breaking and life-changing and that it will fix racism once and for all, but failing that, I’ll also be happy to publish some of my poems about how absurd the hospitality industry is.

Is connecting to place an important part of your poetry practice?

One hundred percent! Place has always always always been important to me. I think it’s so fascinating how the places you occupy or have occupied haunt your every move, and shape you into who you are without you even realising. For example, reading Kale Bantigue Fajardo’s research on Filipino/a/x tomboy masculinities was very freeing, and made me realise how I could have easily come to such a different conclusion on my transness depending on the place that I had grown up. By contrast, in collaboration with Crawlspace and Emerging Writers Festival 2023 I wrote a generative poem called “suburban flaneur”, which is a piece about how the suburbs are always exactly the same and always feel utterly inescapable. So to me, place is a vehicle for identity assignment and reassignment, and the ways people navigate that are always very poetically generative.

Who are some poets you are inspired by? (OR Do you have any reading / listening recommendations?)

Evelyn Araluen, Sarah Holland-Batt, Chen Chen, Hera Lindsay Bird, Panda Wong and Ada Limón are the first ones to come to mind. Rory Green was the person who made me realise you can write poetry with code, and for that I will always be indebted. As basic as it is, Wendy Cope and Frank O’Hara were probably my first poetry loves. At any given moment I will be thinking about The Orange and/or Having a Coke With You.

What is something you are curious about in your practice at the moment?

I’ve always been so enamoured with pieces that play in multilingual spaces, and I’d love to experiment with Tagalog/Tausūg/Filipino in Last Island on the Left and beyond. I can’t speak any language beyond a few stray words, and I’d love to lean into that linguistic discomfort. Something something migration, assimilation, a sea-faring people, archipelagos, what it means to be at sea. Xiaole Zhan’s Think an Empty Room, Moonly with Phone Glow was what first got me thinking about weaving other languages into my practice. I’m also really excited to get stuck into Grace Yee’s Chinese Fish and Alice Te Punga Somerville’s Always Italicise: How to write while colonised as part of my research.

Do you have any special writing rituals?

Oh, absolutely not – any time I’ve tried to instate a writing ritual it’s fallen apart by the second week. I suppose the closest thing I have to a ritual is generally practicing attentiveness and reverence, whether that’s internally or externally. It’s mostly for mental health reasons, which winds up impacting my writing by default. Practically, this means I write most of my poetry on my notes app while on the go, then return to them months later to see if I think any of it is even a little bit good.

About the Poet