Andy Jackson


I was born with Marfan Syndrome, a genetic condition which for me has meant severe spinal curvature. In my teenage years, the most common name thrown at me was Hunchy, faux-affectionate diminutive of Hunchback. No, not very creative, but certainly memorable, in a visceral and formative way. I am known through my body. I can never be anonymous, continually reminded by the friendliness of long-forgotten acquaintences and the furtive glances of strangers. What has this got to do with gender? The answer is more intuitive than rational, more to do with imagination than a clear explicable link. My poetry has always explored the many dimensions of embodiment, what the gaze does to people's sense of self. In our current era (especially in the West), difference often disturbs, unsettles. And, ironically, difference is everywhere, including in the many ways we conform to (and confound) norms of gender. “All is not as it seems” explores gender, not in the general, but in the particular and the exceptional. I suspect this is the way poetry can approach the deep complexity of the universal, whatever that is...



All is not as it seems

for Ilizane Broks, born 1987
with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, an intersex condition

You won't recall the swarm of scalpels
sent to greet you as you emerge, confused
by the absence of fluid, this world
a blur of blue face-masks and hard white light.
First, they check your breath, then your genitals,
thinking, What do we make of this?, literally.
It's too soon to ask you which box you'd tick,
which cubicle you'd rather use. Now, the mind
is a humming stillness, the body ambiguous.
Somehow, your parents wave them away.

Digging in her heels, your teacher snaps,
Don't be silly – you're a little girl! You laugh
at the words after normal in the thesaurus –
so thin, your breath could snap them.
An actor-to-be, you wield them like a prop.
I like the idea of standing up in front of people,
saying 'Hey, this is me'. Or rather, this isn't me.
All is not as it seems. I am not as I seem.

Your soft limbs hide the outline of wings.
At the verge of thirteen, your toes grip the edge.
Beneath your feet, a wind you dare not predict.



Andy Jackson lives in Melbourne, Australia, and writes poetry exploring the body, identity and marginality. He has been published in a wide variety of print and on-line journals; received grants from the Australia Council and Arts Victoria, and a mentorship from the Australian Society of Authors; and featured at events and festivals such as Australian Poetry Festival, Queensland Poetry Festival, Newcastle Young Writers Festival and Overload Poetry Festival. Most recently, he was awarded the Rosemary Dobson Prize for Poetry, and will be a Café Poet in Residence for the Australian Poetry Centre. His most recent collection of poems, Among the Regulars, is scheduled for release by papertiger media later in 2009.