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Centre for Stories

Indian Ocean Mentoring Project – An Interview with Patrick Kain

"I started writing poetry as a way of working through the experience of being a queer, mixed race teenage boy in Mandurah."

December 5, 2018

The Indian Ocean Mentoring Project  is an extension of our incredibly successful mentoring program undertaken two years ago for early and emerging writers of African heritage. This second mentoring program is focused on early and emerging writers who are permanent residents or Australian citizens of Indian Ocean heritage living in WA. The Indian Ocean Rim countries are: Bangladesh, Union of Comoros, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Seychelles, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. In this series of interviews, we uncover the inner worlds of these budding writers, focusing on their connection to the Indian Ocean region, their motivation for writing and the authors that inspire them.

Patrick Kain is a biracial poet who seeks to shed light on the structures of power and oppression through his work. As a queer, mixed race teenager growing up in Mandurah, Patrick turned to poetry as an outlet for expressing his self and his experiences in a society he didn’t quite fit into. He holds great admiration for author and singer Vivek Shraya, who is a dominant figure in global conversations about race and feminism.

Tell us a bit about yourself…

I’m an emerging interdisciplinary artist working in performance art, theatre, and poetry, although I received most of my arts education in visual arts and drawing is a big part of my art-making process. My practice is informed by theories of disidentification and aims to cause little disruptions in social sites of power, as well as challenge the conditions and engage in a destabilisation of systemic oppression. I enjoy baking cakes from recipe books and telling my friends I love them, and I also spend a lot of time listening and attending to my body’s needs because I live with fatigue challenges and am not able-bodied.

What is your connection to the Indian Ocean region?

My mother is Sri Lankan and moved to Australia in the mid 90s. Sinhalese, Buddhist, biracial, and brown are some of the ways I can be described.

When did you get interested in writing or when did you realize you had a passion for writing?

I started writing poetry as a way of working through the experience of being a queer, mixed race teenage boy in Mandurah, living with trauma and trying to find my place in the world and how I wanted my life to be. After building up my profile as a local spoken word artist over the last couple of years and finding that the majority white spaces I performed in could no longer honour and appreciate my work once I started writing about racism, I took to publishable (or “page”) poetry to find more intimate and empowering ways to write how I wanted to. In the middle of this year, I was a mentee in Express Media’s Toolkits: Poetry program and learned a great deal about the social and material contexts and legacies I am living and making in, and it was really through this experience that I have ended up where I am now as a poet, through the discovery of an academic side to poetry which can support my writing practice in simultaneously technical and sublime ways. Writing the way I do now is much more exciting, urgent, and (inevitably) more challenging, and I love it.

What are you hoping to get out of this mentorship?

I will be using this mentorship to discover more about and develop the poetic self of my writing, and to expand my writing “toolkit” through the generous feedback of my mentor and fellow mentees. I’m really excited and curious about what I will make and how I will grow during this time.

Who are some of your favourite writers/books?

My go-to gift is a copy of Omar Musa’s poetry book Millefiori as his defiant critique of and challenge to the violent layers of Australian identity is something I think should be widely read, and I recently picked up a copy of the locally produced anthology Meet Me at the Intersection which I’m really loving as well. As for favourite writers, one of mine is poet, author, singer and multidisciplinary artist Vivek Shraya. Regularly absorbing and supporting her work is a big part of my self-care as a person of colour in the arts, and I have a photo of her performing on my phone’s lock screen. Her work is loud, technical, fearless and she is a critical and respected voice in global conversations about race and feminism. I perform a section of her Too Attached song “Grateful” at the beginning of every poetry reading I do.

Photo: Zal Kanga-Parabia

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