Scott-Patrick Mitchell chats about their debut book ‘Clean’

Scott-Patrick Mitchell is no stranger to readers of OUTinPerth, for many years they have contributed interviews and reviews to our pages. They’ve coordinated fashion shoots, promoted local designers, and brought attention to street artists.

They’ve also forged a career as an acclaimed performance poet, an art form that they cherish and have pushed the boundaries of. Now Scott-Patrick has released their first collection of poetry. Published by new local published Upswell, it’s titled Clean. 

A chronological selection of poems documenting moments from Mitchell’s life over several years. At the beginning of the collection we’re dropped into the world of addiction to methamphetamine, and slowly we move through world of sleep depravation and a maelstrom of emotions, to the slow and hard fought road to recovery.

Graeme Watson spoke to Scott-Patrick Mitchell about their new work.

I know how long you have dreamed of this day, what does it feel to have a book on the shelf in bookshops, with your name on it?

It’s a mixture of being absolutely terrified, but also just so incredibly humbled and proud of myself and my journey, and being able to articulate my journey, and to have the bravery to put it out there. And go, ‘Yeah, this is going to be my first book, it’s going to be a tough read. But it’s real.’

There was a lot of interior hesitation about doing it, but I was like, it’s a story that I know, and this is a story that I want to tell, because I haven’t read any other kind of Australian stories that deal with addiction and recovery in this way. So I wanted to tell my story.

I was thinking about when I read it, I hear your voice, because I know you and I’ve seen you perform spoken word so many times. So naturally, as I’m reading it, you’re so very present for me.

But there’s a whole bunch of readers out there who will be experiencing this. Who don’t know, you don’t know your voice, who must have a very different experience.

It’s interesting talking about voice because it is very authentically me. I know, having written it all, I know that it’s authentically me.

But it’s interesting getting the feedback from readers who haven’t seen me perform or heard me read. It’s been really overwhelming positive and affirming. I’m kind of thrilled by that. The fact that quite a lot of people have reached out and said, ‘Thank you, for this’, it’s just really affirming that that has happened.

 

I was really intrigued by the structure that these these poems are put in, and the way that you write. They’re all different, they’re all sort of laid out differently. They’re phrased differently.

I’ve got to be honest, I don’t read a lot of poetry, but the poets I have read, some tend to be very similar from one poem to the next in their technique, but your technique is lots of different things, which makes it very interesting.

That’s a really interesting question. I’m glad you asked that.

So there’s some of the more formal poems that sit nicely on the margin. And they have a kind of nod to traditional forms. There are moments when the punctuation appears at the beginning of the lines, which is very much an experiment and accentuating the breath present in a comma and a full stop.

But that’s also a nod towards that period of time in my life, where I was using drugs, and everything kind of falls out of place, and things that should be familiar, I suddenly under-familiarise. So that’s what I tried to do with the punctuation at times.

There are the moments when it’s cascading and falling down the page, and know that when you read those poems, you’re probably in the midst of some kind of malstrom some kind of overwhelming moment.

It not only happens in the final in the first two sections, but also in the final part, particularly when in the poem that refers to the Orlando Pulse nightclub event, and also when I’m talking about the different experiences, or maladies that my body has undergone, such as alopecia. So there were moments when that falls apart.

Then there are other moments where the prose poem becomes a very slender obituary down the page. And it’s a nod to Victoria Chang and her collection Obit, which was an exploration of grief. So those are predominantly love poems, and they’re very much it’s very crucial central to the narrative of the book, that there were essentially these love poems for a great nostalgic romance.

There is a journey through this book, but I found, as your book has sat here next to me for around six weeks now, I found myself in moments picking it up and randomly opening a page and, and reading part of it. There are clear themes that keep coming through. And interestingly, you mentioned one of the words I’d written out in front of me. Grief – grief is really something that you touch on many times in this book.

In my very first therapy session my drug and alcohol counselor said, to me, ‘Recovery is a form of grief.’ I laughed, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s very poetic, ah, whatever’

Then as it progressed, it became even more apparent that that was the case. Recovery is very much about letting go. It’s about saying goodbye to not only the old people in your life, but the old parts of yourself, that kind of shake and hunger and crave, and it’s shedding them.

Also there was the realization when I got clean that I had missed a period of time with my family. My mum is now quite old, she is 87, and so there was a realisation I’d missed a period of time.

So I was not only grieving that period of time that I missed, what I was preparing, it’s like a pre-grief for what is inevitably going to happen, with somebody of that age. So there is there is this grief, and there is this kind of melancholy, but the book does have a happy ending, and there is joy, even in the madness, I think there’s a lot of joy in the madness as well. It does have a happy ending, because ultimately, I’m alive, and I survived.

Scott-Patrick Mitchell will be appearing at an book event at the Fremantle Library at 7:30pm on Thursday 19th May 2022. Registration is required for this free event, enjoy live spoken word performance, light catering and drinks, and a pop-up book store by New Edition Bookshop.

Sign up to attend.


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