Journal Review: Bloom from the UTS Writers’ Anthology

Melissa Lee & Erin Mason
March 3, 2022

Bloom is a collection of 37 pieces brought together for the 35th edition of the UTS Writers’ Anthology. The stories, poems and essays all provide diverse and profound insight into our ever-growing lives. It is like sitting down with old friends and reminiscing over all your experiences, some that we can all relate to and ones that appear foreign. Yet, they all pierce our hearts and make us consider the parts of our lives we might overlook. It looks at life through an ordinary lens; life is not romanticised to the extent that it seems separated from reality. Bloom flourishes by demanding our attention be directed at the details of life we may disregard. It looks at relationships, at our inner lives, and it makes us consider what we are living for. The collection takes us to great extremes and then invites us to appreciate the simplicity of life. Bloom is a great collection of literature that will overload your senses and give you something to think about and to love. Here are some of LitSoc’s favourite pieces . . .

Photo of a paperback copy of Bloom held in the warm light of a lamp.

'On Yearning' by Claire Matthews . . .

. . . is like reading diary entries of days where the rain falls softly onto window glass. With no set line length, metre or rhyme, 'On Yearning' lives in the space between the isolation of the individual and the connection between people. 'Bogman' set the tone extremely well, leaving a bittersweet taste in my mouth, before guiding me into the fog of memory and idealism. As the first poetic text that appears in Bloom, it’s a section of solace between narratives and captivating to the point that you’ll want to revisit.

'Genghis Khan – Markings' by Kerri Le . . .

. . . is, in essence, a reflection of change. The narrator ties together stories of birthmarks and couch stains – things that appear permanent but disappear over time – with intangible marks of families breaking apart and re-building what’s left. It’s a compelling story of change that spans beyond things that happen over the natural course of ageing. We are reminded that, ‘You have to chisel your character out of the raw material of yourself . . . I surmise the inverse is also true; character can also develop from the adding onto, not just from chiselling away.’ It’s the continuous process of breaking down old and familiar structures and rebuilding to suit the current self that makes this a perfect fit for the Bloom anthology. And, of course, it reminds us that all change comes with scrutiny. You can’t please everyone.

'The Sleeping Giant' by Morna Seres . . .

. . . is a personal favourite of mine. We’re tossed into a state of confusion from the get-go, following our narrator’s day where words and understanding don’t seem to connect. The old lady’s lack of comprehension clouds our own understanding as we try to piece together how every event and person fits into her life. Context clues are cleverly dropped through the dialogue structure, and at times the ‘why’ of everything ceases to matter in favour of the ‘what’. A well-crafted story that had me puzzled, smiling and sombre throughout the journey.

'Panda & Max' by Angus Thompson . . .

. . . also does a great job at tying together the tiredness and memories that come with age. Tiredness, in a way that some of us may have experienced, but not the tiredness of being burnt out after back-to-back exams and days that drag their feet towards the light at the end of the tunnel. More specifically, it is tiredness that is weathered to the bone and acceptant of the present once the reminiscing of the past has dried up. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this is a depressing read. I like these stories for how ‘human’ they are. Relatable doesn’t encompass the nuances of how I feel about this story, so ‘human’ becomes the adjective that aptly describes it.

'Haunted' by Lucy McCarthy . . .

. . . had me hanging in the point between drinking in every word and wanting to glaze over sections. Most of my predicament can be attributed to the twitter post format it is told through. 'Haunted' is brilliant, keeping the main narrative going while we are also subject to the cynical, the sceptic and the politically correct commentary that wedges into the timeline. In the fictional string of posts, it’s a little difficult to pick a side regarding whether the story is a true recount or a piece of embellished fiction. The responses are on varying extremes of the spectrum depending on their interpretation and personal agenda. Thoroughly entertaining.

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Bonus: Liam and Erin Interview Neysha Santos

Towards the end of each year at UTS, two exciting callouts are made regarding the Writers’ Anthology: one for submissions and another for editorial committee members. Neysha Santos was talented enough to be selected for both, and she left her mark on Bloom twofold with a seat at the committee table and her short poetry collection, ‘May It Live, Grow And Flourish’, immortalised in ink.

Neysha at the launch of Bloom.

Your collection of poems, ‘May It Live, Grow And Flourish’, provokes reflection on life and mortality. What are some key takeaways you wish for readers to have?

Neysha: Poetry is one of the most romanticised forms of literature, typically focusing on big notions of life, love, death and other inexplicit ideas that can be expressed aesthetically through the arrangement of words and their metre. However, this is not the only way that poetry can be conveyed. One of the primary objectives of ‘May It Live Grow And Flourish’ was the process of actively seeking poetry in everyday life. I loved writing about growth through the subject matter of a shower or a morning commute. I like the idea of romanticising the everyday – I wanted to remind readers of the beauty of everyday. It’s something I wanted to remember too.

‘Time flies’ reflects on the nuances of primary school and childhood and their relationship with maturity. We see the narrator reminiscing about ‘Lemonade icy poles, with their wooden sticks licked clean.’ How do you explore the relationship between your inner child and your present self?

Neysha: I loved writing ‘Time Flies’. Nostalgia is something I really wanted to connect to, and this inspired my work in my last semester of uni. I feel like there’s something distinctly Australian about 30º days while in a school uniform – turning the lights down, the fan on and eating lemonade ice blocks. I wanted to explore that relationship with innocence and joy.

In ‘Beauty is Harsh’ you present the challenges people – typically women – go through while having to adhere to strict beauty standards until one becomes ‘A modern-day radium girl’. What was your aim in linking the narrator’s beauty regimen to a self-destructive and poisonous outcome?

Neysha: Radium girls are so interesting!! I think linking beauty regiments to something that was genuinely toxic was vital for this poem. Beauty standards have a way of influencing how you see yourself. I’m not saying make up is bad – I’m obsessed with blush right now – but I wanted to draw a parallel between beauty standards, practice and self-esteem. We are much more than how we look.

With ‘Remember you are mortal’ we see a tonal shift into more grotesque imagery where the narrator talks about digesting themselves and ‘swallowing what is/and was/and could be’. What did your process of creating a more confronting, destructive insight into human mortality look like?

Neysha: ‘Remember you are mortal’ was heavily influenced by the concept of the abject. Dr Sarah Attfield introduced this to me in the subject, ‘Genre Writing’. It relates to the notion of the disorderly body as opposed to a societally accepted pristine and pure body. It relies on a society where bodily functions are not discussed. Leaning into that weird imagery was really fun and really interesting. I think gaining any reaction to a piece of writing is a good thing – even if that reaction is discomfort.

On a lighter note, what have you learned about your creative expression while being part of the Anthology in 2021, and how this will influence your future work?

Neysha: Being involved in the Anthology has been the highlight of my academic life. It was a privilege to work alongside the student editors and produce such an amazing collection of student work.

I’ve learnt that creativity is more than the pieces you create. You can find creativity in your everyday life – in what inspires other people and their experiences. I find what influences me the most is what I have experienced myself.

I love the power that literacy possesses, how it can expand ones understanding of the world through the perspective of others – be it social, cultural or economic. I love how reading and writing becomes that lens for empathy and understanding.

Photo of Bloom open to the first page of Neysha's collection.

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