Loose Canons30.05.23

Loose Canons - Joy Holley

Loose Canons is a series where we invite artists we love to share five things that have informed their work. Literary dream girl Joy Holley talks about the aesthetics, rituals and music that inspired her debut book.

Loose Canons is a series in which we invite artists we love to share five things that have informed their work. Meet the rest of our Loose Canons here.

Joy Holley lives in Pōneke. Her debut collection of short fiction Dream Girl was recently published by Te Herenga Waka University Press. She completed her MA in Creative Writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters in 2020. Her writing can be found in journals and anthologies in Aotearoa and overseas, including StarlingThe Spin Off and Sweet Mammalian.

Dream Girl is in bookstores now, or you can buy it here.

You can read Urban Foraging, a short story from her collection here.

Author photos by Ebony Lamb.

My bedroom

The fastest way to get to know me is to look around my bedroom. You will see: a wardrobe bursting with pastel coloured clothing, heart-shaped Lana Del Rey vinyl, an unsettling number of Virgin Marys, books written and signed by good friends, photos of my mum in the 90s, my sister’s embroidery. My bedroom reminds me who I am and what I love. Much of Dream Girl was written from my bed, always with a scented candle or incense (from The Virtue) burning. All my diaries come with me to every flat, and I often drag them out mid story, to remind myself of a certain time, or to steal little details. The oldest diary is a pink one from when I was eight, with a broken lock and key.

So much happens in bedrooms, and I find it pretty magic how many memories can exist in such a confined space. Let alone how many people have lived in that room before me, and how many will live there after! My girlfriend and I moved in together at the start of this year, so our bedroom is now the place where we come together to talk about our ideas and the things we are inspired by. It’s my favourite place to be.

Spooky stories

Back in primary school, I had a reputation for telling spooky stories. There were the classics (Click Clack Slide, Baby Bonnet, Best Friends Back to Back) and some I made up. I didn’t want anyone to know this, so I’d claim my cousin had told me those ones. After school camp, the parent of a boy in my class called my mum saying they’d had to buy him a nightlight because my stories were too scary. I felt guilty at the time, but now I’m quite proud of my younger self.

I’ve always been a sucker for Gothic imagery. As a five year old, my favourite things to wear were a long sleeved, white, petticoat dress, and a ghost costume from the two dollar shop. Twenty years later and I’m still obsessed with girls in pale nightgowns, running through the forest and creeping down dark corridors. I lived on Inverlochy Place last year, and could see both the infamously haunted Inverlochy House and the original Wellington Girls’ College schoolhouse from my bedroom window. I spent a lot of time thinking about the history of those buildings, and all the possible hauntings surrounding them. It made every strange thing that happened there seem like the beginning of a spooky story.

Hounds of Love album cover, Kate Bush.

Watching You Without Me by Kate Bush

This song is a spooky story in itself. The sound is so eerie and addictive, and I love the Twin Peaks style backwards vocals. The lyrics – from the perspective of a shipwrecked ghost watching over their loved one back at home– make me think about the more general concept of watching/being watched. Since I was a teenager, I have been very aware of my tendency to perform for an imagined audience (almost always a crush), even when I’m alone. I know I’m one of many, because when Mariner’s Apartment Complex by Lana Del Rey was trending on Tiktok in 2020, my FYP was full of girls and gays joking about their ‘main character syndrome’ and the need to act cute at all times, in case someone is watching. Margaret Atwood puts it like this: “Even pretending you aren't catering to male fantasies is a male fantasy… You are a woman with a man inside watching a woman. You are your own voyeur”. But for me (and many other queer people, I suspect) I have imagined myself through a woman’s eyes much more often than a man’s. I am constantly seeking queer art that reflects this experience—if you have recommendations, hit me up!

Orchard, 1998, Justine Kurland

Justine Kurland

My copy of Justine Kurland’s Girl Pictures has pride of place in my room. I first discovered her work (Orchard, 1998) on the cover of The Virgin Suicides. I was a teenager, like the girls in the photo, and they immediately reminded me of my friends and I: plaiting each others’ hair, lying around in the grass, climbing trees. Kurland captures so many familiar feminine rituals, from makeovers to blood pacts, but rather than taking place inside the expected bedroom or school, these rituals all happen outdoors. Unlike my friends and I, these girls were runaways, making their own home in forests and fields. They kill deer, build fires and torture boys. These pictures make me imagine  whole stories behind them, especially when I look at them all together. Some of the photos remind me of Yellowjackets (another fave!), but they are never dark or scary. Kurland’s utopia of girls is an act of resistance against an often dark and scary world.


I strongly identify with my Virgo sun, but parties are where my Sagittarius moon runs free. I love the permission parties give you to let loose. You can wear outfits that aren’t appropriate anywhere else, say things you would never say in the daylight and dance as sexy or as silly as you want. Unbelievable things can happen. You just have to be there! After multiple lockdowns, parties feel especially precious and precarious. Though there is now more risk involved with partying, I think people are more grateful than ever to be able to come together and have a good time.

Obviously one of the traditional purposes of parties is to meet new love interests (which is important!), but the best parties are also full of other kinds of love. Compliments flow, strangers hold hands, best friends ignore everyone else and talk for hours. And the music! There are very few things that make me happier than dancing with my favourite people to our favourite songs (queue Beyonce’s Renaissance). After a good party, I always want to write everything down so I can’t forget it. It doesn’t matter if the photos I thought were so gorgeous last night look deranged in the morning. The memories will keep me buzzing all week.

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The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

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