31 October 2016


 Muertadella is the title of a small photography project that I am piecing together.

A photo posted by Varia Karipoff (@variakaripoff) on

It will always be that feeling of heading out to Fawkner cemetery with my Baba as a kid to tidy up my grandpa's grave. Invariably it would be 36 degrees Celsius when she'd pile us up into her tinny white Toyota direct from the early 1980s. No power steering, sticky brown vinyl seats. The interior always carried the aroma of the fish component of fish and chips: Baba liked to cook with a lot of vegetable oil.

Despite having the bone density of a canary (osteoporosis is a symptom of all the famines she lived through in northern China), she could somehow manage the heavy steering wheel with her ropey thin arms. Baba's clothes were always billowing on her small frame and colourless. Back then she'd sometimes tie a tiny pony tail in her mass of white hair with black velvet ribbon, her mouth set in a line and that hair, led us to dub her George Washington

Baba would fill up old plastic vinegar bottles with water to tend to the patch of flowers she had growing over Deda's grave. She bucked the trend of the other grave sites in the Orthodox section by not having a slab of granite poured over her husband's resting place. A white cross marked the spot, and instead of putting cut flowers in a vase, she'd plant colourful seasonal flowers, the ones that come in $2 pots and perish a month later. They seemed like a half-hatched plan. Baba watered them with her vinegar bottle pitcher and removed cleavers and other weeds from the muddy plot.

Baba never asked for help with any of this. I suspect we were on security detail after a brutal murder took place here, the day after Halloween, just a few rows away.  It was 1997 when serial killer Peter Dupas stabbed a young Greek woman 87 times as she tended her grandmother's grave. She lay there for four days, face down at her grandmother's feet.

There was not much to do, so I'd look at the crushed and yellowed carnations, the camellias in the mud, the Cyprus trees straddling the perfectly green lawns, the red lampada burning and the carefully selected photos of the deceased and beloved.

23 August 2014

Deep South

The only important things 
I have written
were to you

Ada or Ardor
Heirs and Herren
His and Hers, terry towel shorts
The Deep South, the Tasman Sea
Yours and Mine and Ours
Wirey-limbed boys with feet kinda funny out
Rehab man, Frenchman, no man's land

but great dames, chugging down the Mississippi 
and on diesel trains in Eastern Europe, 
all of it, all of it
The Carpathians, the book shelves in apartment blocks, 
the piano lessons
admonitions at train stations
Prayers sewn into our clothes when running from it, 
all of it
Your stupid duvet cover and sitting on the stoop on the upper west side

I don't know where you are now after ten years
but we will make it,
if not as writers or saints,
or women of letters; of note, or standing
then as humans

29 May 2014

you spoke

you spoke—

and you
watched me with a detachment
that can't be learned like

In a basement, the crowd surges
and here we are strictly one mass
suspended in sound, beat
but we're all foreign

bodies. Just 

if you look close enough I bet there's dust and dirt
on your skin

and I'm practising you,
stopping in a bathroom stall
to mouth the words 
and the word you spat at me
'phlegmatic' I became that too

When they say,
you're beside yourself
is it because you can no longer stand to be 
inside yourself

for grief or joy?

I'm no longer here, 
an idiom

Axiom. Axiom.

Varia Karipoff 2014

28 May 2014


I am back from a serious blogger hiatus, in part due to family commitments and a housing crisis. If you are a young artist with a growing family, you can pretty much understand my desperation of late. If you are living in the sky-high rent land of Melbourne, or have thought you would explode before the housing bubble did, you might be on the same page as me.

 photo image2_zpsb5a1e824.jpg
thank goodness you cannot smell the eau de chat and 40 years of tobacco smoke

But we got a house in the end. 

That's what the lounge room looked like before we began its transformation into a library and a study.

The bathroom was an asbestos-filled monstrosity, with the most psychotic moulded-fibreglass shower unit. Space age meets Hitchcock and not in a good way. It took a day to tear it out with all kinds of high-powered devices. 
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fibro sheeting, asbestos, fibreglass, linoleum; dead sexy
Still not in yet, but we are so much closer now to a room of one's own. 

So the neglected blog hung about during all these upheavals, just waiting for a bit of love and I had none to give it. It got to the point where I was considering deleting siberianpepper this afternoon until realising I have had tens of thousands of hits here and that is not to be scoffed at.

I've been all kinds of busy, in short.

I have been making websites. Like this one, for the wonderful artist Anna Rowbury
and also managing this one, for my dear ball and chain.

I have been writing a wee bit. As much as lack of headspace and two children allow. 
Tonight I am modelling teapots. That is apparently, the job of a muse for a ceramic artist.

I have decided it needs to be held like a handbag. And I wish I looked this good being that white.

10 October 2012

A poem for my mother

My poem Mama (Nusya), was chosen for Offset Creative Arts Journal (Victoria University)

The poem is really about migration, assimilation and the generation gaps within families. My mother was born in a village in northern China, a village that didn't have paved roads or motor vehicles in the 1950s. In comparison, I was born in the western suburbs of Melbourne back when Billie Jean was in the charts and the Clash was rocking the Casbah and Prince was in his Little Red Corvette (god that makes ME feel old).
The western suburbs today are still home to migrants and often, homes in which people play '80s music.

Our neighbours come from countries as far-ranging as Vietnam and Ethiopia -- so many people have compelling and heartbreaking reasons why they can't stay in their homeland.

My aunt, who works for Queensland government, had this to say. 

It is also good to make people think of what new comers go through during the adjustment period. I still remember traumatic moments of disillusionment and I was only 9!

02 October 2012

small things

I miss those summer holidays, somewhere on the south-east-coast-to-nowhere (for me, a hamlet called Currarong about 3 hours south of Sydney) where time comes to a virtual standstill of sun, small moments and sea water. The sticky night air, on a balcony, with thoughts/songs/voices, laying on wooden slats, crickets, grass itch from earlier......mozzies........aeroguard. Bed then morning coffee, stretch, kookaburra, parrots, bathers, seeing the sun through the underside of a wave. The ocean changing colour with weather and time of day until you are in it, a mood ring, blue for in love, the negative ions in saltwater charging you up like a liquid battery. When summers were so slow you could look at small things like the ends of your hair or mosquito larva in a puddle, the slow arc of the sun, silhouettes. And you forget to appraise yourself, freckles, beach hair, same shorts because you have only time for truly small things and grand things... and grand dreams. 

summer. Vintage good. Vintage bad.

Vintage good. 

On the topic of bikinis and all things summer, this little number from Le Meow is adorable.

And here are some freaking hilarious home interiors I found while searching for my dream home in Castlemaine.

Vintage bad. 

AGENT ORANGE. Yes to Elvis, hanging there like a communist leader. No to the orange being the only element tying this room together. Yes to the wallpaper photo - again, a mainstay in Eastern bloc apartments. And definitely no to the bedspread and Franco Cozzo faux Baroque stuff, including the pompous little legs on the bedside table.

MAGIC CARPET RIDE. Won't take you places that aren't in your own head already.

17 May 2012

April Gertler

Sandra loved her salami.
A5, found photographs, graphite
©2009 April Gertler
I love April Gertler's collages. There is something wildly funny and a little unsettling about them. She's a German born, California-raised Berliner, and she's got a deft touch with a pair of snippers. I think it takes cohones to rip into an old photograph (found or inherited) and subvert it like this.

Emerging Writers' Festival

Gearing up for the Emerging Writers' Festival. I've been calling it my 'coming out' as a poet.
You can see me perform alongside Matt Blackwood and Sophia Chapman.

16 May 2012

time capsule

A time capsule letter, sent to me a year after I wrote it at an exhibition at Abbotsford Convent. I struggled with the mechanics of the wilful typewriter. I'm not sure which personas I am inhabiting here but it made me guffaw and sigh by turn. I hide little keepsakes to find at later dates. There is one cheap envelope with 'Open in year 2000' on it. It contains a lock of my hair from when I was 12. I keep everything like this locked up in a red Samsonite suitcase from, me thinks, the '60s.

My very best love dove, Wanda, is away in Paris for two months. She has a residency at the Cite de Arts. I am not kidding you, her apartment has a view onto Notre Dame. I lived for two weeks in a 16 euro a night hotel in Montmatre when I was 20. I had a view of a brick wall and a communal shower/toilet block, and still I felt like I was somewhere. 

As summer approaches the northern hemisphere, I get melancholy remembering some of the dream bright excursions I have made abroad. Sometimes, just quietly, Australia feel so so small and fragile. You have to keep everything the right way up or it will tip over and break.