May 2011 Archives

2010 Aurealis Award Winners

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The winners of the 2010 Aurealis Awards were announced in Sydney last week.  These jury-judged awards were set up to honour the best Australian sf, fantasy, horror and young adult works.  The winners were:

Best Children's Fiction (told primarily through words)
The Keepers, Lian Tanner (Allen & Unwin)

Best Children's Fiction (told primarily through pictures)
The Boy and the Toy, Sonya Hartnett & Lucia Masciullo (Viking)

Young Adult Short Story
"A Thousand Flowers", Margo Lanagan (Zombies Vs. Unicorns)

Best Young Adult Novel
Guardian of the Dead, Karen Healey (Allen & Unwin)

Best Illustrated Book/Graphic Novel
Changing Ways Book 1, Justin Randall (Gestalt)

Best Collection
The Girl With No Hands, Angela Slatter (Ticonderoga)

Best Anthology
Wings of Fire, Jonathan Strahan & Marianne S. Jablon, eds. (Night Shade Books)

Best Horror Short Story
"The Fear", Richard Harland (Macabre: A Journey Through Australia's Darkest Fears)

Best Horror Novel
Madigan Mine, Kirstyn McDermott (Pan Macmillan)

Best Fantasy Short Story
"Yowie", Thoraiya Dyer (Sprawl)
"The February Dragon", L.L. Hannett & Angela Slatter (Scary Kisses)

Best Fantasy Novel
Power and Majesty, Tansy Rayner Roberts (Harper Voyager)

Best Science Fiction Short Story
"The Heart of a Mouse", K.J. Bishop (Subterranean Online Winter 2010)

Best Science Fiction Novel
Transformation Space, Marianne de Pierres (Orbit)

The Blaze of Obscurity by Clive James, 2009
Picador edition, 2009

2011 Prime Minister's Literary Awards Shortlists

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The shortlists for the 2011 Prime Minister's Literary Awards have been released

The shortlisted works are:

Traitor, Stephen Daisley
Notorious, Roberta Lowing
When Colts Ran, Roger McDonald
Glissando, David Musgrave
That Deadman Dance, Kim Scott


Sydney, Delia Falconer
How to Make Gravy, Paul Kelly
The Party, Richard McGregor
The Hard Light of Day, Rod Moss
Claude Levi-Strauss, Patrick Wilcken

Young adult fiction
Good Oil, Laura Buzo   
Graffiti Moon, Cath Crowley
The Three Loves of Persimmon, Cassandra Golds
About a Girl, Joanne Horniman
The Piper's Son, Melina Marchetta

Children's fiction
Why I Love Australia, Bronwyn Bancroft
Flyaway, Lucy Christopher
Now, Morris Gleitzman
April Underhill, Tooth Fairy, Bob Graham
Shake a Leg, Boori Monty Pryor and Jan Ormerod

The judging panels comprised of Professor Peter Pierce (chair), Professor John Hay AC and Dr Lyn Gallacher (fiction); Mr Brian Johns AO (chair), Mr Colin Steele and Dr Faye Sutherland (non-fiction); and Dr Robyn Sheahan-Bright (chair), Mr Mike Shuttleworth and Ms Mary-Ruth Mendel (children's and young adult fiction).

The winners will be announced in the week of 4-8 July.

2011 Commonwealth Writers' Prize Winners

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The winners of the 2011 Commonwealth Writers' Prize were announced in Sydney last week at the Sydney Writers' Festival.

The winners were:

Best Book
The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna (Sierra Leone)

Best First Book
A Man Melting by Craig Cliff (New Zealand)

You will recall that the overall winners of the prizes are decided from the regional winners.  Details of those regional winners and links to the regional shortlists can be found here.

Poem: A Book-Ghoul by O'Fipp

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To me, in fullness of conceit,
The showman bragged of many a feat
At auction, and with those who fell
On evil days, and had to sell
Their books; and next, in rasping tones,
He told how buried Smith and Jones
Left choicest volumes, treasured long,
Which he picked up for -- well, a song,
And made high profit on each book;
And then, with gain-foreseeing look,
He spoke the ominous reflection --
"You, too, must have a fine collection."

First published in The Bulletin, 30 June 1904

   I love to live in Norwood,
      Where the flowers scent the air,
   And take a walk at sunset,
      When the evening's bright and fair.

The little chap of six, who wrote those lines, thought they were very beautiful. To-day, even though he is perhaps six times six, he still rather likes to quote them, and tell how they were inspired by his first sight of beautiful gardens around Adelaide, which stood out in wonderful contrast to the drab bush country in which he had been born.

Even though he is now known through the Empire as the author of "The Sentimental Bloke," "Doreen," "The Glugs of Gosh," "Backblock Ballads," he is still proud of his first outburst into poetic rhapsody. Of course, that small boy of six was the forerunner of the man who is how C. J. Dennis.

--Dennis's Background.--

In New York every other Saturday, a number of intellectuals meet at lunch at an exclusive club. As a sort of mental appetiser, the brilliant conversation which fills in the pauses between courses is started off by one member giving what in U.S.A. is called "his background." Translated into Australian, this would be his life history. If C. J. Dennis happened at this club, it is certain his "background" would provide much mental food, as well as many thrills for this intellectual group. There would be enough of the picturesque, adventurous and unusual in it to stamp him as a man of mark, even among these exclusives. While painting this background -- it is certain he would do it with the humour and pathos that runs through his writings -- C. J. Dennis could take them right to the small South Australian town of Auburn, where he was born, and where his father, a retired sea captain, kept a hotel. He could conjure up a boyhood, spent in an agricultural district, where horses were his chief thought and topic of conversation. He could show them the small school where he proudly occupied the position of editor of the school paper, The Weary Weekly. Even the most sensation-loving of these Americans would surely be interested in the Dennis story of an adolescence spent first in a stock and station agent's office in Adelaide, and later on the staff of The Critic. Their democratic souls would rejoice over his telling of the days when he went to Broken Hill, arriving with 1/9 in his pocket; of the adventures there while he worked as a miner, carpenter, railway construction labourer, photographer's canvasser, and insurance agent. The fact, that he nearly perished from thirst; and exhaustion while traversing the saltbush wastes between Broken Hill and Poolamacca would show just how and why C. J. Dennis knows how to sound the "human note" in his writings.  Then from this hazardous life the author of "The Sentimental Bloke" would take them back to Adelaide, where newspaper work once more caught him, right on to the days when he went to Victoria, stayed for a while in Melbourne, and then settled at Toolangi, where "The Bloke" was born.

-- The Banjo and the Lyre. --

There is no "Background" Club in Australia, and nowadays C. J. Dennis is a city dweller. He has a desk in a newspaper office, and he writes a Daily Column. Still he is willing to talk to individuals about his days at Toolangi, where he still spends his week-ends and holidays. Soon after he arrived at this spot, in the shade of the Great Dividing Range, Dennis found shelter in a sawmiller's disused hut, where he passed his time writing political and topical verse. Any interludes were covered by playing a banjo, which he fashioned out of a native blackwood, galvanized iron, the skin of a cat, and the sinews of a wallaby. Here he began ''The Sentimental Bloke." Later on it was finished in the unique study which he occupied while staying with Mr. J. G. Roberts. This study was the interior of an old omnibus, brought up from Melbourne and fitted up for Dennis. "I first got the idea for 'The Sentimental Bloke", Dennis explained recently, "from a racy fellow who came to Toolangi to train horses. He had lived hard in the vicinity of Little Bourke street, and was a great 'cobber' at the various Chow shops. This chap was very keen on a local farmer's daughter. The farmer objected to his attentions, as he was a 'crook' bloke. I remember the first time he came down to my hut. 'Gor blimme, Dennis' he said, 'why should he object. I got sisters of my own.'''

By the time "The Sentimental Bloke" was born the original one had faded from the Toolangi horizon, and it is thought he was killed at the war.

"The Sentimental Bloke" written, the next thing was to find a publisher. "I met Hal Gye in Dave Low's office at The Bulletin," related C. J., as he went over the days when success was still elusive.  "I suggested to him that if he illustrated the book we might get £50 each out of it as a subscription volume. I wrote to George Robertson of Angus & Robertson, suggesting this subscription volume, and he replied, 'Dear Sir--We are publishers, not printers and binders.'"

Eventually Dennis fixed up a contract with George Robertson. The first edition sold out in a fortnight, and up to date 30,000 copies of "The Sentimental Bloke" have been published. It has been filmed, and shown on the screen throughout Australia, Great Britain and America, and before the end of the year a dramatic version will be given on the Australian stage.

-- A Soft Spot for Glugs.--  

Like many other writers, C. J. Dennis has a great love of his less successful work. "I always think 'The Glugs of Gosh' is the best thing I have written," he said, as he talked of things he liked and disliked. Needless to say, among the things he liked were the freedom of the bush, the big trees at Toolangi. He confessed to a catholic taste as far as books written by others were concerned. In his youth he spent his first two weeks salary on two volumes of Dickens. He lost one job because his superiors did not appreciate his idea of reading the works of Rider Haggard in office hours. In his spare moments to-day Dennis likes to delve into the works of Masefield, Wells, Max Beerbohm, and James Stephens.  

Probably, because be still has much of the boy in his nature, C. J. Dennis loves and understands youth to an uncanny degree. Just how deep and real this understanding is was shown in "A Book for Kids," for which he also did the amusing illustrations. Many mothers who have crooned lullabies over their babies' cots are still at a loss to know how a mere man could have had enough 'inside information' to have written "The Lullaby," which comes near the end of this book.

First published in The Home, 1 December 1922; and later in The Register, 22 December 1922.

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

Television Adaptation of Cloudstreet by Tim Winton

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Foxtel's adaptation of Cloudstreet by Tim Winton started on their pay TV Showcase channel on Sunday night, May 22.  By all accounts it was well-received.  I haven't watched it as yet as I seem to find Sunday nights difficult to pin down.  But I have every intention of getting to it when I can.

Herald-Sun: "Cloudstreet is a big, risky move for Showcase. To ensure their survival, subscriber channels simply have to go the extra metre, producing original material good enough to belong on an even bigger screen and that's what Showcase has done. At the same time, it has taken on a novel so loved across a couple of generations of Australians that it potentially has set itself up for a fall.  It won't happen this time, though."

The Australian: "The 1999 stage production brilliantly captured it in a very literal transformation. This miniseries does just as well not to be sucked into easy options -- cheesy nostalgia, overwrought visual effects or you-beaut Australiana -- that could have spoiled the visual rendering of a classic. Cloudstreet is fine, involving filmmaking that will meet impossible expectations, those of our own imaginations. The six hours begins grimly in the first two-hour episode, as it must, but soon opens into a delight that justice has been done to a grand novel."

You can read an interview with Tim Winton, conducted by ABC Radio in Perth, here.

Reprint: Amusements: "The Sentimental Bloke"

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Clever, profoundly humorous, and at times touching the heart with its directness of appeal to human sympathies the stage version of C J. Dennis's remarkable book is well worthy of its producers. "Truly Australian" must be the verdict upon this play, and certainly it is truly humorous. He would be a poor creature, indeed, who could find nothing laughable

in "The Sentimental Bloke." Last evening saw an even larger audience greeting the production with delight, and salvos of applause greeted some of the sallies. At the close of the performance, the actors received an ovation. The play is well staged, and acted in a manner becoming the firm of Messrs. E. J. & Dan Carroll. As the 'bloke,' Walter Cornock shows remarkable understanding, and appreciation of the likeable hero. His part is a most clever character study. Tal Ordell gives just the right conception of the off-handed awkward Ginger Mick, who is, nevertheless, so true a pal. Miss Eileen Alexander is Doreen, and she has a winsome way, which C. J. Dennis must have perceived in his creation. Excellent work is done in support, and the whole goes to make one of the most laughable and appealing comedies seen in Adelaide for years. The boxplans for the remaining four nights and the matinee are at Allan's. Day sales will be effected at the theatre office from 10 a.m. 

First published in The Register, 28 July 1923.

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

Australian Bookcovers #257 - North Face of Soho by Clive James

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North Face of Soho by Clive James, 2006
Picador edition, 2006

Poem: The Poet's Grave by Henry Halloran

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The warrior may rest in his trophied gloom,
   The statesman in abbey old;
But the poet shall have a brighter tomb,
   In the green bank's flowering mould.

No marble shall press his fiery clay,
   No walls his bones surround;
He shall rest with his eyes towards the God of Day,
   And the free winds blowing round.

And maidens shall come to the pleasant spot,
   And shall con his sweet themes o'er;
And one, perchance of a loftier lot,
   Shall the treasure she lost, deplore.

And children, whom he so dearly loved,
   Shall laugh as they frolic about;
And his spirit itself, with joy shall be moved,
   To hear their jocund shout.

And birds shall build, and flowers shall grow;
   And sunbeams shall scatter their light,
On the bank, which the poet now rests below;
   And the bright stars shall gleam all night.

But ye who have hearts, base, cruel, or cold,
   Trample not on the poet's grave;
He cared not for power, he cared not for gold,
   And loathed both the tyrant and slave.

First published in The Colonist, 15 June 1839

Reprint: A Poet's Mother - Louisa Lawson

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The Sydney Bulletin contains an interesting interview with Mrs Lawson, mother of the poet Henry Lawson. Her father she stated is still alive "a good old Kentish yeoman - a big, strong, handsome man." Her mother died the other day. The following interesting sketch is a prelude to the interview: "Many gifted men have had remarkable mothers, and Henry Lawson's mother, Mrs. Peter Larsen (better known as Louisa Lawson), is in many ways a remarkable woman. Born at Guntawang, near Mudgee, N.S.W., she has suffered all her life from that craving for knowledge and culture which one sees in so many bush girls - often suppressed in deference to their not-understanding men-folk, sometimes fighting hopelessly against the round of trivialities in which custom circumscribes a woman, rarely succeeding to reach an enlightened plane of thought or performance. Louisa Lawson's mother burnt her books; her husband, a clever, capable man, frowned down her impulse to imaginative work; friends and relatives looked askance at her "queer ways." The energy of a magnificent physical constitution enabled her to struggle on. She read, and wrote, and occasionally talked. When she came to Sydney a dozen years ago, a poor little wooden cross marked the grave of poet Kendall in Waverley cemetery. Maybe the sentiment was a foolish one, for Kendall's monument is in his work, but Mrs Lawson initiated a movement which replaced the shabby little cross with a handsome monument. Then she started "The Dawn, a journal for the household, edited, printed, and published by women." The paper is living yet, and in its heyday spoke many brave and true words. Then she organised the first Woman's Suffrage League established in Sydney. Then she was chosen a member of the Sydney School of Arts committee, and for several years her strong sense was a force in its deliberations. Recently she has become a Government contractor - and inventor. For twenty-one years New South Wales mail-bags have been fastened with a strap, sealed by a device invented by Superintendent Davies. Mrs. Lawson took a contract for supplying these straps, and it struck her at once that the contrivance for fastening was slow and cumbrous. So it was, undoubtedly; the astonishing thing is, that in twenty-one years the concensus of male wisdom among postal officials should not have bettered it. In odd moments Mrs. Lawson thought out an improved buckle, had a model made from her description, and took it to the Post Office authorities, who instantly recognised its ingenuity and adopted it. It saves two-thirds of the time formerly needed to fasten the bags, and many hundreds of pounds annually in value of string and wax. Mrs. Lawson's portrait in another part of this issue barely does her justice. The expression is too hard. Despite all, Louisa Lawson is essentially a womanly woman, of a characteristically feminine type. Her nature is the groundwork of her son Henry's; but there is in him the additional element of restless male intensity.

First published in the Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton), 27 October 1896

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

2011 Man Booker International Prize

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Philip Roth has been named the winner of the 2011 Man Booker International Prize.  This award is given for a lifetime's work rather than a particular book, so it is more akin to the Nobel than the yearly Man Booker Prize.

But the award has not been without controversy after one of the judges, Carmen Callil, resigned in response.  She hadn't wanted Roth longlisted for the prize, let alone being named the winner.

You can read the full list of shortlisted authors here.

Geraldine Brooks Interview

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calebs-crossing-198x300.jpg    A new novel from Geraldine Brooks is always major event in Australian publishing - you'll recall she won the Pultizer Prize for March back in 2006. So as she has her latest book, Caleb's Crossing, out in the bookshops, the writer is interviewed by Mark Rubbo for Readings.

In an interview you said that your journalistic training meant that you threw words down on the page and then fixed them up later. The voice in this book, the young woman Bethia who befriends the young Indian, is perfect in expression and tone and is as one would imagine a young woman in the seventeenth century would write. This seems to belie the 'throwing down of words'. Can you tell us - how you do find the voice?

Some days the writing is fluid, some days not. Those days, you go back to the ma- terial the next day, and revise and revise until it feels right. The voice for Bethia was more difficult than many because there is little written by colonial women or girls before 1750 that has survived, and my tale takes place 100 years earlier. I had a few shards of verbatim court records, a few letters and so forth from the period, but not a lot. I had to create her voice from these scant raw materials.

The impact of Europeans on the indigenous society and culture seems peripheral to the American story. Do you agree, and is this something Caleb's Crossing is trying to redress?

I would disagree with that. I think it is integral to the story, which doesn't mean there aren't the same controversies, the same labelling as 'black armband history' that we encounter in Australia when someone tries to probe first contact and the history of indigenous relations with European colonists.

2011 New South Wales Premier's Literary Award Winners

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The winners of the 2011 New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards were announced in Sydney last night.

The winners were:
Alex Miller, Lovesong
Malcolm Fraser & Margaret Simons, Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs

Jennifer Maiden, Pirate Rain

Cath Crowley, Graffiti Moon
Sophie Masson, My Australian Story: The Hunt for Ned Kelly
Debra Oswald, Offspring
PLAY AWARD ($30,000)
Patricia Cornelius, Do Not Go Gentle...
Ian Johnston
Ouyang Yu, The English Class
Stephen Daisley, Traitor
BOOK OF THE YEAR ($10,000)
Malcolm Fraser & Margaret Simons, Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs
Libby Gleeson
Alex Miller, Lovesong

You can read the full shortlists here.

May Week Was in June by Clive James, 1990
Jonathan Cape edition, 1990

Poem: Vale! Mabel Forrest by "Fanuela" (F. C. Francis)

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Her piquant fancy painted Queensland scenes
   With gentle brush in Nature's golden hue.
She loved the reds and browns and verdent greens
   Of fern, and shrub, and flower crowned with dew.

She sensed the loss of trees, ring-barked and white,
   When winy sap had drained from every stem,
And felt the thrill when through the moonless night
   Forgotten leaves came rustling back to them!

Sleep on, thou singing pen, thou singing heart,
   At one with kindly earth and dawn and dew,
And may the soul of Nature now impart
   The secret of her majesty to you!

Through moonless nights, mayhap, soft shades will creep
   From leafy nest; from grassy mound and cave
To breathe a tender requiem of sleep --
   Forgotten dreams a-mourning at your grave!

First published in The Courier-Mail, 20 March 1935

Instances of Matilda #7

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matilda_mansions b19190605-p22.jpg

First published in The Bulletin, 5 June 1919

Falling Towards England by Clive James, 1985
Jacket design by Craig Dodd.
Jonathan Cape edition, 1985.

Poem: To the Memory of Henry Kendall by David Flanagan

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Araluen! Araluen! first-fruit of a holy love,
I am speeding, swiftly speeding, to eternal life above;
Ah! I hear thee sweetly calling to thy father, "Come away";
And my soul shall pass to join thee in eternity, to-day.

Radiant spirit! thou didst leave us ere the heaven lit beam grew dim,
And immortal now thou shinest 'mid the joyful seraphim.
Days, and months, and years have vanished --- vanished o'er this troubled life,
Since we lost thee, Araluen; lost thee 'midst earth's weary strife.

Hark! I hear rich music swelling --- louder yet --- it fills mine ear,
And a glimpse of life eternal from thy dwelling sbines anear;
Now, I feel myself uplifted; nearer sounds that heavenly swell;
Oh! I pass from earth to heaven! Friends --- beloved --- fare-you-well.

Araluen! Araluen! with thy father by thy side,
Thou dost know the sweet reunion: But for us --- Ah! well he died.

First published in The Queenslander, 3 October 1891

Note: the "Araluen" referred to in this poem was the child of Henry Kendall who died at the age of 13 months in 1870. You can read more about her here.

Reprint: Australian Poets

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Australia is said to possess no native song birds, but she has as many poets as Pembroke College in the days of Dr. Johnson. "We were a nest of singing birds, sir," said the doctor, and Mr. Douglas Sladen, who has just published a portly volume of "Australian Poets," might say as much for the colony (Griffith and Farran). We are apt to think of Australia as a severely practical continent, full of sheep-shearers, gold-miners, mechanics, farmers, and shepherd swains very unlike him who "watched the visionary flocks, "that old-world morn in Sicily," to combine the information of Mrs. Browning and of Mr. Matthew Arnold. But Mr Sladen has discovered a century of poets, -- a cool hundred of them, -- in Australia, or in some way connected with Australia. Yet the colonists are practical people. An Australian reviewer once introduced a British bard to the notice of the antipodes with the remark that a kinsman of the singer was associated with the "celebrated Larra Merinos." Sheep first, song afterwards, is, on the whole, the motto, something like the saying attributed to Richard III, when he stabbed Henry VI before smothering the babes in the tower. Is Australia likely to become the home of the English muse, who, in England, has long been remarkable rather for the quantity than the quality of her effusions?   Whenever a country has a great poetry, critics easily prove that it must be so on account of the climate, the soil, and the character of the scenery. But it is less easy to prophesy beforehand. Australia, according to Mr. Sladen, has "one of those delightful climates conducive to rest in the open air." This has a hopeful sound. The shepherds of Theocritus usually do their minstrelsy while resting in the open air, beneath the pine tree, beside the Fountain or the Nymphs. On the other hand, England has had plenty of poets, and nobody can call the English climate delightful. In Australia "the atmosphere is dry champagne." If atmospheric champagne produces ministrelsy, this colony should rival "all   the angels singing out of heaven." But the British climate is less like dry champagne   than like the beverage known to some in our land as "heavy wet." In fact, Australian and English conditions of climate are the reverse of each other. In both countries, however, the Bard is thought of as "a poor poet of a fellow," to use the Irish expression; as "a soft headed one," to steal a phrase from the Zulus.

Mr Henry Kendall is regarded as quite the greatest Australitn poet, especially if we do not reckon Adam Lindsay Gordon, who was of English (or Scotch) birth. We are informed, however, that "Henry Kendall, apart from his genius for wutiug lyrical verse, was what the Scotch call a 'feckless' person." Poets often are. Mr. Kendall was accustomed to weep like anything when he read his own verses aloud. If conscious of this weakness (which he used to exhibit in the office of the Sydney Punch), Mr Kendall would have done wisely in abstaining from elocution. His extraction gave promise of extreme sensibility. He was a twin, and his mother was "a lady of lush extraction named Melinda M'Nalty," who married Kendall père on one day's acquaintance. Mr. Henry Kendall began his career, like Sir Walter Scott, in a lawyer's office. But Sir Walter's chief was not a poet, and Mr Kendall's was. A lawyer and a lawyer's clerk, both of them poets, could hardly be prosperous or the cause of prosperity in others. His life was, not unnaturally, one of struggle and sorrow, for he was a most sensitive and unpractical man, with no gift but that of minstrelsy. His poems, it seems, are now household words in the land of his birth. It is not easy for a distant critic to estimate their value. For example, take this one brick from the building--

   Softer than seasons of sleep;
      Dearer than life at its best.
   Give her a ballad to keep,
      Wove of the passionate West.
   Give it and say of the hours--
      "Haunted and hallowed of thee,
   Flower-like woman of flowers,
      What shall the end of them be?"

What, indeed! But surely we may say that, whatever the poet's meaning, his manner is a manner learned from Mr. Swinburne. Indeed, Mr. Swinburne has been the bane of antipodean poets. Their lines are often the very false gallop of verse, for who can keep pace and stride with the Swinburnian anapaests? Even Gordon, who was a poet in his way, and, as it were a Border ballad minstrel born out of due time -- even Adam Gordon was lost "in a false following" of Mr. Swinburne. Lord Tennyson and Mr. Browning the Australians imitate but rarely, if at all. Mr. Bret Harte is a more frequent model. It would be very unfair to let it be thought that Mr. Kendall was always only a mocking-bird. When he wrote of Australian scenes and manners he wrote very well. His poem on the Australian months, those converse seasons, is charming, full of pictures, and music. Here again is a telling description of an Australian drought

   Where the Barwan cuts a rotten land
   Or lies unshaken like a great blind creek,
   Between hot mouldering banks, it came to this,
   All in a time of hot and thirsty sighs,
   That thirty rainless months had left the pools
   And grass as dry as ashes.

It is natural to regret Mr. Kendall, and the difficulties which beset a weak nature, a delicate talent like his, a nature and a talent unsupported by complete education and unfostered by sympathy. The Australian critic says that "no English poet has appeared since 1860 who is Kendall's superior, Rossetti and Swinburne, and Arnold and Morris are indulgently treated if, in deference to the enthusiasm of their admirers, we allow them an equal measure of poetic feeling with Henry Kendall."

This is the way in which countrymen of a new country are apt to write. Nobody can tell how much poetic feeling any one has, but it is easy to tell whether he expresses it more or less perfectly. To compare the performances of Mr. Kendall with those of Mr. Matthew Arnold is futile. The two poets are not comparable. Doubtless a danger for Australian poetry lies in this direction. The Australians must beware of patriotic over-estimates. They must beware of too great and too empty fluency. No human mind can foresee the future of the great island, whether she is to be an historic home of United Empire or a federation of friendly States, or whether she will break into as many nations as Greece had city republics. The future of her political life must more or less control the future of her poetry. With the examples of American literature before us we can hardly venture to predict for Australia a sudden apparition of great poets. The colonies of Greece, for some reason not easy to explain, were never fruitful in singers of the highest rank, despite all their advantages of scenery, climate, prosperity, and freedom. Is what occurred on that tiny scale, in a corner of Europe, to happen on the large scale of the round world ? Are the ancient lands to be the chief lands of song?   These are all quite unanswerable questions. In the meantime it is enough that the love of poetry, that patriotic spirit, that energy, ardour, and sentiment abound in Australian literature. Any day the colony may give us a successor to Lord Tennyson and Mr. Browning. We can live in hope.

Published in The Brisbane Courier, 11 January 1889

Note: this piece was published with an indication that it had first appeared in the Daily News, which seems to have been a UK paper of the time.

The anthology edited by Douglas Sladen, mentioned at the start of this piece, is probably A Century of Australian Song which was published in London in 1888.

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

2011 Australian/Vogel Award

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roving_party.jpg    The winner of this year's Australian/Vogel Award has been anounced as The Roving Party by Rohan Wilson. In a major change from previous year's the book has been published to coincide with the announcement rarther than the usual year later. This is a good move in my view. Slightly risky, in that the book may win the award and yet still need a lot of work, but it's a good way of imprinting the work on the reading public and is to be commended.

The Commonwealth Government has decided to purchase for the National Library at Canberra the original manuscripts of most of Henry Kendall's poetry, now in the possession of his daughter, Miss Evelyn Kendall, of Artarmon.

There is an enormous fascination in reading poetry so well known as Kendall's in the very handwriting of the poet himself. Moreover, these particular manuscripts are very personal and revealing. Poets less modest than he have a habit of tearing up their very early drafts and leaving for posterity something so correct and neatly written that the unsophisticated believe they sat down and wrote the piece straight off, without blots and with commas and full stops complete.

These original manuscripts, left by a man who had no presumptious estimate of his work and never thought for a moment that the Government of Australia would be demanding them for its National Library, bear all his corrections, more demonstrative to the understanding and sympathetic eye of poets who come after him, and wish to see how he laboured than a whole library of very learned theses could be.

They are graced, moreover, by the annotations of his vandal young. The scribblings and the drawings he permitted his sons and daughters to make on his papers tell of a more than human patience and forbearance.

Most of the manuscripts were written about 50 years ago, but they are perfectly preserved, thanks to the care of his wife, who died about two years ago, and his family, five of whom -- Miss Evelyn Kendall, of Artarmon, Mrs John Burch, of Seacombe, England, Messrs. F. Kendall, Artarmon; A. Kendall, Artarmon, and Fred. Kendall, Chatswood -- survive.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 25 April 1927

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]


Unreliable Memoirs by Clive James, 1980
Picador edition 1981

2011 Hugo Award Nominations

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The nominations for the 2011 Hugo Awards have been released.  These are designed to honour the best in the science fiction and fantasy in the previous year.  Unlike most other awards in the sf&f field, these awards are nominated and voted for by members of the World Science Ficton Convention, there is no jury for these awards.  There are a number of Australians nominated this year in several categories as follows:

Best Novellette
"Eight Miles" by Sean McMullen

Best Dramatic Presentation - Short
The Lost Thing produced by Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann

Best Professional Editor Short Form
Jonathan Strahan

Best Professional Artist
Shaun Tan

The awards will be presented in a ceremony to be held at Renovation, the 69th World Science Fiction Convention in Reno, Nevada, USA, from August 17 to 21.

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