Author - Ian MacNeill
Above: part of 'Querelle of Glebe' 1993, Gary Dunne.
Ian requested that Gary Dunne read this poem at the funeral service.
Lana Turner has collapsed!
I was trotting along and suddenly
it started raining and snowing
and you said it was hailing
but hailing hits you on the head
hard so it was really snowing and
raining and I was in such a hurry
to meet you but the traffic
was acting exactly like the sky
and suddenly I see a headline
LANA TURNER HAS COLLAPSED!
there is no snow in Hollywood
there is no rain in California
I have been to lots of parties
and acted perfectly disgraceful
but I never actually collapsed
oh Lana Turner we love you get up
Biography and bibliography
Ian MacNeill, with his sharp unique style, has
been a contributor to the Australian gay lit scene for a long time.
He's appeared in a number of Australian gay anthologies including Travelling
on Love.... and Pink Ink. His published books include Red
and Silver, Libbing, and Beaches and Billabongs.
Available for download from here are pdf remakes of his chapbook TV
Tricks and the novel Red and Silver. Also available is
his novella Portraits for the Blind.
Ian has contributed widely to
gay-ebooks publications including:
Haloed Perverse Verse Feb 2006
[poetry collection] TV Tricks Feb 2006
Diary of Percival Geraint Boy's Summer Collection Nov 2006
Portraits for the Blind [novella] Portraits for the Blind Feb 2007
The Correspondent My Boyfriend's back July 2007
Le baiser de la fee Queer Hearts Dec 2007
Reconnaisance Flight Justified & Ancient Feb 2008
Barebacking Man Overboard Nov 2008
In the Marble Bar I am a Camera Feb 2009
The Red Hat I need some Dec 2009
Editor for Catching On July 2010
Out of the desert and, then, he kissed me March 2011
Red and Silver (novel) Red and Silver April 2011
Queen Lear When you're a boy Oct 2011
With deep personal sadness, we record the passing of Ian MacNeill on 27 November 2011 from liver cancer. Queen Lear, his story in our collection When you're a Boy, was completed at St Vinnie's Hospice in Darlinghurst. Ian's literary output over four decades of writing included poetry, fiction and biography as well as journalism, reviews and commentary pieces. What is perhaps less well known is the extent of his personal support and encouragement of other writers, from the days of the emerging gay press in the seventies, through the Mieli, Burn, BlackWattle and QueerLit era until now. Ian's unique style, his personal courage and, most of all, his abiding friendship will be greatly missed.
Ian MacNeill: a tribute
I go to my bookshelves. (How nineties.) Ian is there. He’s there in many of the key anthologies and journals that formed Australian gay and lesbian writing and publishing: in Gay Information (1984), Love and Death (1987); Cargo 1 –the opening story – (1987); Travelling on Love in a Time of Uncertainty (1991); Pink Ink (1991); Fruit (1994). Together these publications mark the years when deaths from AIDS were rising inexorably, when BlackWattle Press took on a central role in publishing and consolidating gay and lesbian writing formations and the Mardi Gras festival was at its finest.
I notice what seems initially to be a gap in Ian’s writing between 1987 and 1991. It’s not. In 1989 BlackWattle Press published Ian’s first book: TV Tricks and other poems. In 1990 he published a collection of essays, Libbing. In 1990 and 1991 two of his plays were read during Mardi Gras at the Belvoir Theatre. In 1992 there were two novels: Red and Silver and Beaches and Billabongs.
These two novels, as well as Libbing and a later third novel - Looking for Ms Warscewicz (1998) - were published under the imprint Miele Press. In the years after Pasolini was murdered/assassinated, Italian gay liberationist Mario Miele was part of a collective political and theatrical response to the social power of heterosexual privilege. In his meditation on Miele’s suicide ‘Recalling Mario Miele’ (Pink Ink) Ian wrote, ‘He was not just a gay Rosa Luxemburg; he ate shit, actually’.
Ian continued the honourable practice of publishing with small presses and self- publishing, common amongst many feminist and gay writers, sometimes out of choice, sometimes out of necessity. He was in good company, much of it female: poets like Margaret Bradstock, Pam Brown, Lee Cataldi, Jill Jones, Louise Wakeling; novelists like Jan McKemmish, Finola Moorhead. Gay community publishing launched writers like Damien Millar, Phil Scott, Christos Tsiolkas,
Ian understood these collective practices, just as he understood the experimental writing they supported and how they enabled new voices and new writing. Ian was a member of the organising collective for the 1993 QueerLit conference and is published in the conference proceedings, A Cold Collation. He was well versed in various traditions of homo posturing, and what produced them:
you turned your back and comforted yourself
(Love and Death)
He loved Nina Simone and knew which china he
wanted to live up to.
Put simply, Ian was there, but that compliment says too little. It was clearly a period of both great personal creativity and community engagement. TV Tricks is still my favourite of Ian’s works. The sources of the poems, he said, were ‘tawdry and elevated’. I am fond of quoting from ‘Hyperreal Juke Box Number’:
But I swear
I’m sure I heard Ian read that at the Harold Park Hotel, but I can’t swear, at least not with his studied elegance.
In 2005, Ian wrote in Art Monthly Australia about
curator Brian Finemore who was murdered in his
Melbourne home in
1975. Finemore, he said, kicked against the needless social austerity
of the post-war world –
The wanton dullness, the mindless conservatism, the fearful resistance to change … the resistance to pleasure and to happiness that characterizes so much of Australian history … homosexuals were locked up in so many ways. And as a homosexual man of conscience Finemore must have felt obliged to rattle the bars.
It’s worth remembering that rock ‘n roll
(‘Elvis’) gave relief from dullness, celebrated pleasure and preceded
gay liberation. Ian knew this. It was part of his story. Gay Liberation
was a politics. It was also an opportunity to dance. Ian was there in
1978 at the first Mardi Gras, arrested, publicly exposed. In Libbing
rattled the bars, railing against various aspects of politics, literary
culture, discrimination and how some were failing to respond adequately
to AIDS. In the 1990s he wrote novels for teenagers offering those who
were different alternative ways of understanding their world.
In the poem that follows ‘Hyperreal Juke Box’, Ian’s writing took and takes my breath away. The poem ends:
This is Amelia Earhart
Then there’s ‘Pedophilia: The Libretto’ that appeared in Craig Johnston and Paul Van Reyk’s collection Queer City (2001). The libretto was in part a response to the cheap but dangerous sexual politics of the Wood royal commission (1995-1997). Early in the Libretto, Ian writes: ‘A child cavorts in a restaurant. Her mother demands to know what she thinks she is doing and who taught her to act like that.’
Ian wrote what was possibly the first history of the Solomon Islands, Sweet Horizons (2000) and kept writing, editing, publishing right through the 2000s with www.gay.ebooks and his long time friends and collaborators Gary Dunne and Laurin McKinnon. All of this deserves proper documentation, a scholarly bibliography, memoir. I am paying tribute here to Ian’s literary reach, his verbal deftness and experimentation, his wit, his eye for the ironies and awfulness of social life, for the tawdry, the delightful and the tender.
Just weeks ago, Ian wrote on his blog:
I espresso the coffee
I realised over time we came from a similar family background: one haunted by war, and by the strictures of a pre-war world which had to do with courtesy and a certain level of formality in behaviour. One could call this manners.
Just through conversation - and hand written letters on his part - he became a mentor.
Perhaps the fact he was in a different country gave him the ideal distance. He could take the long view. But he was also a passionate New Zealandophile, his letters arriving in the box always delivered to the future: Aotearoa New Zealand. He guided me through the rocky landscape of being a contemporary writer. I learnt to interpret his eloquent silences. He always gave me confidence in the importance of the act of writing itself.
In some ways it was like an ideal love affair - one without the interruptions of sex. I did love Ian very much. He came and visited me in New Zealand and on his last visit here I took him out to visit one of the great landed properties of Hawke's Bay. It was a hot dry day and inside the enormous wooden mansion something seemed amiss. A young matron in bare feet came to the door and took the money we offered to view the garden. Then an older model in pearls, with sculpted vowels, jumped out of the woodwork. What exactly were we doing there? Who were we? Ian appreciated this encounter with the redoubtable old school. (It turned out the great property itself was changing hands that day, leaving the ownership of the original family who had held it for 120 years. Things were mysteriously afoot.)
We sauntered off into the remains of one-time magnificent garden. Birds sang. Always curious, Ian inspected foliage in detail as well as taking in the grand landscape effect. We found a seat. So we sat there and in the great silence of a hot February day we just sat beside each other. There was no need for words.
This was as far as we got. It was like a Jamesian walk into some eternal sphere. Friendship, I like to think, is like that: a penetration into distant views, an ability to sit beside one another in silence.
Now Ian has joined himself to some eternal silence. But I like to think of certain things: that thin yet defiantly jaunty smile, his individual refusals to join in mass cults of belief - I can hear him say, 'Oh Peter, come on!' - his nicety with detail - and his listening aware silence which I like to think willl encompasses us all for some time to come.
Ian MacNeill - Red and Silver
ISBN 0 646 09818 7, Mieli Press, 1992, 156 pages
Re-release: April 2011 in pdf format, 145 pages A5
Phillip joins Chrissie, Helen, Ben and Mario
at his new school. It is Year 11 and they are pleased
A novel for mature adolescents by Ian MacNeill
Ian MacNeill - Portraits for the Blind
Released February 2007, pdf format, 72 pages A5
Three Aussie kids on a beach in the eighties;
it may be paradise but they're not happy. And
A novella exclusive to gay-ebooks
Ian MacNeill - TV Tricks
ISBN 1 875 243 00 3 June 1989, 48 pages, A5
From the Foreword:
Ian's work also appears in:
And then he kissed me
[pdf file >2MB]
[pdf file >1.2MB]
I need some
[pdf file <2MB]
Justified and Ancient
[pdf file <2MB]
I am a camera
[pdf file >2MB]
[pdf file >1.2MB]
[pdf file <2MB]
My boyfriend's back
[pdf file <2MB]
Boys' Summer collection
[pdf file <2MB]
Also Perverse Verse 2006 more info
See also these paperback books:
Libbing, Mieli Press, ISBN 0 646 01502
8, 1990, 84 pages
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This site is a not-for-profit project. Updated 28 November 2011.