The Importance of Being Provocative


Published in Edition One (2024) as part of the Provocations of the Past column.

Kartiya Ilardo: 

I prop myself up against a chair, waiting for Sagar to arrive. He sends me pictures to indicate he is on his way. A child cries in the distance, and I find it funny. The child wanted to go somewhere and his dad said no. So the child throws his arms up in protest. What a provocative little child. What if we all still did that when we didn’t get our way? Maybe we do, in a more silent manner.

The person crossing the street has neon blue hair; is that a rebellious act against the norm or someone who just simply likes the colour blue? What about art? More specifically writing, my chosen means of indulgence. 

There’s nothing like a grand session between a writer and their pen, or in most cases, a writer and their notes app. I soon come to the realisation of how vulnerable writing is, how it is a silent provocative act against, well, yourself. 

You see, to live provocatively, as the little child did, is to live your life to the fullest. There is nothing more soul-destroying than regret. The life you could have lived but didn’t because you were scared. That child did not give up easily, albeit he didn’t get what he wanted in the end, but he tried right? And that’s what counts?

Most of us are too scared to wield the double-edged sword that is to live provocatively. To strip yourself down to nothing in front of thousands of prying eyes. 

To choose words that make you dizzy, they make you question yourself. Am I dancing into the  above where stars lie or am I sucking myself into an all-consuming black hole? 

And as I stand and wait for Sagar, I realise each word I wield would reveal my open wounds to all. Their gazes could either heal or harm me further. But, that is where the fun lies. So the importance of being provocative, lies in your ability to withstand the limbo that is between worlds and between your words. 

It is that betweenness where life truly exists, 

And now you are truly living. 

A.A. Sagar: 

On my way to meet the Inklings, I stroll along the bank of the muddy, smelly, dirty Yarra. It’s a sorry sight. But so early in the morning–6:30am to be precise–the quiet beauty of the sleepy-eyed city evokes hope that one day, it will turn to make the river as beautiful as itself. As the sun rises above, behind and around the distant MCG, little rays reach to swirl over wet bicycle helmets and water bottles caught against the restaurant floats. It’s almost majestic. Like seeing bright-eyed children rummaging through a flood of filth that used to be their home. They hunt for the memories that lived there, but they’re gone. All gone. Eroded by toxic waste and wasted dreams.

            After my musings, I find a bench looking across the watery gap. Over the way is the Arts Centre. Melbourne’s pinnacle of Art! Next to a river made destitute, neglected and unloved. I love the Arts Centre. Inspiring the next generation of artists! Next to a swamp of dumped carelessness. If I were to scribble one more comparison, I might just throw myself into the river… I wouldn’t drown, I’d just catch pink-eye. 

But the river travels on. Sickly and flat. It bears the berating of the rowers with elegance. The engines of the boats churn up its guts, but it lets them pass with extreme courtesy. The river travels on. Sickly and flat, but strong. The river perseveres. It bides its time. It waits, like I wait, for the moment to pounce! To suddenly overwhelm its enemies in a torrent of their own filthy backwash that has been dumped and dumped and dumped! I will wait for that moment, and when it comes, my words will be ready. Words that will take the revengeful flood beyond the boundaries of Southbank. I will take it over the walls in people’s minds. Through the barriers to their hearts. Behind the glossy sunglasses that hide their eyes from what life is all about! 

Nature provokes, so I must provoke. Nature picks its moments, so I must pick my moments. Nature is kind, patient and resilient. I must be the same. The river knows the season of its restoration. I must have faith in that, because the river has faith that I will know the season to join the fray with my weaponised words.

L. F. Ferguson:

I hadn’t seen them for a while, the Inklings. My own world has been too much, way too much. I sometimes feel myself slipping away;my writing is worth nothing now. It hurt my little heart because, well, being provocative is important because I can share myself with others. It’s how I make sense of myself and, without it, I am a mere shadow of me. 

I’m in a bar. It’s just past one am. Me and my wine and a blank piece of paper with no words. 

“I need to write again.” I try to urge myself on, but there are barriers in the way, pressures, expectations. It’s just too much. 

The scent of the wine savours on my tongue as I rest back into the stool. This is fucking hopeless. Writing used to be the way to push the barriers of my own nature, to experience things I would never be exposed to and to explore ideas that never get discussed. 

I write to provoke myself into being new things. I write to provoke in myself the reflections of different lives I could live, to throw a stone at a mirror such that I can see in each tiny shard the different reflections of myself. But just as I write to be something other than myself, I write to remind myself of what has been. To shore up thought against the advancing tides of time, to provoke in myself the feelings of the past which time slowly washes away. 

And right now, I can’t help but feel everything is being washed away and no amount of words can stop this now. 

Amy Wortmann: 

At 9am, the temperature is 30°C and shows no sign of relenting. The view beyond my dashboard is smudged with heat-haze: tarmac and banal white houses, minimalism flying too close to the sun. My perfectly curated Spotify playlist is peppered with notifications: Sagar and Kartiya, striding the Yarra while I evaporate in the Queensland heat, being tailgated by a red P-plater.

From a bird’s eye view, I imagine my little car, struggling up the Buderim hill. I envision myself in a similar way: a tired little creature suspended in the void between degrees. The tragedy of my Honours thesis looms in the rear view mirror; the blind rise ahead is the unknown of the Masters. All I can think about is the iced latte I’ll buy when I’m finally at the top of the hill.

Most of the poetry I write disappears by the time I’ve parked my car; it materialises in the middle of the intersection before melting into air, all Baudelaire-like. The scraps I manage to capture in my notepad are infused with the same dry grit as the gum leaves pressed against my window. Sometimes, I write provocatively, and sometimes, it is the act of writing itself that is provocative. Wedging poetry together when all it wants to do is disappear. Forcing your little car up the hill while its engine staggers with effort. Refusing to let yourself give up. While Ferguson stirs his words into wine, I am fighting against evaporating.

Sometimes, the most provocative thing you can do is carry on. Step out of the car, even when the air feels like soup. Flip off the P-plater as he hurtles past, giving one last cursory honk of his horn. Flood your notes app with poetry until something leaps out. 

Provocative: me and my iced latte, against the world.

The Provocative Inklings are an established emerging Melbourne-based writers group who experiment with many forms and aim to create a supportive community of writers. @theprovocativeinklings


Farrago's magazine cover - Edition One 2024


It’s 2012 and you have just opened Tumblr. A photo pops up of MGMT in skinny jeans, teashade sunglasses and mismatching blazers that are reminiscent of carpets and ‘60s curtains. Alexa Chung and Alex Turner have just broken up. His love letter has been leaked and Tumblr is raving about it—”my mouth hasn’t shut up about you since you kissed it.” Poetry at its peak: romance is alive.

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