This is backstage at The Fringe Bar in Wellington. It’s a two-hour drive for me to get here (well, to the carparking building I use, then a four minute walk to The Fringe Bar).
I don’t write here.
I’ve written in my office, in my bed, on the floor, on my couch, in my kitchen. I haven’t written in my dining room in a really long time, because there’s too much stuff on the table. Actually, there’s too much stuff on the floor to do much more in the dining room than open and close the curtains. I’m not a tidy person.
I’ve written in my car, in waiting rooms, in restaurants and cafes, in the psych ward. I’ve written in the doorway of my lover’s bedroom (I guess I should call him my former lover now). I’ve written in the dark in theatres. I’ve written in the semi-dark of gigs in small towns.
I don’t write backstage at The Fringe. I drive down to Wellington, to The Fringe, once a month to perform at the Wellington Feminist Poetry Club. There’s nothing like a paying poetry gig – it’s profit sharing, so I can pick up a cool $6 for the night. My carparking is $6.60. Petrol is about $40 for the return trip. My dinner is $25.50 (beef massaman with rice from the Thai place I really like, one street over from The Fringe). Clearly I’m a poet rather than an accountant.
Backstage at The Fringe is where some of the other poets in the club hug me. Backstage is where some of the other poets in the club curl up in a corner and write a poem.
Backstage at The Fringe is where I deal with my anxiety before getting in front of the mic. Backstage is where I put an essential oil blend – just one drop – at the base of my skull and on my sternum. It helps with my anxiety. Backstage is where I use a homeopathic anxiety spray, four squirts of it in my mouth. It helps with my anxiety. Backstage is where my hand shakes while I put on my killer red lipstick, the lipstick that stains, the lipstick you can’t make a mistake with while applying, because you won’t be able to fix it.
I don’t write here.
Paula Harris lives in New Zealand, where she writes poems and sleeps in a lot, because that's what depression makes you do. She won the 2018 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize and the 2017 Lilian Ida Smith Award, and her chapbook "i make men like you die sweetly" will be published in September 2019 by dancing girl press. Her poetry has been published in various journals, including Berfrois, Queen Mob's Teahouse, Poetry NZ Yearbook, SWWIM, Glass, The Spinoff and Landfall. She is extremely fond of dark chocolate, shoes and hoarding fabric, and tweets randomly at @paulaoffkilter