Prize Life, Praise Life
(FIrst published as the introduction to Award-Winning Australian Writing 2012)
Praise life with broken words
—Robert Adamson, “Via Negativa”
1. THE WELL-READ LIFE
Happiness is not all it’s cracked up to be.
A happy life would be good, of course, but a vivid, big, useful life, would be better, if you knew where to start: a life with range and scope, a life made handsome and honest by doubt and imagination, a life elevated and humbled at the same time by questioning everything, by…
Getting Over Your Self
(First published as the introduction to Sparks, an anthology of creative writing from Masters students at the University of Sydney, 2012)
I HARDLY MEET a person who doesn’t think they have a book in them—who doesn’t want, or think they ought to want, to write their life story, or someone’s life story, a novel, a poem or two, a film script.
The desire to write is close to universal.
And so I said on radio on the morning of the day in Newcastle, when…
A peaceable revolution: the republic we have to have
(First published in Project Republic, ed Benjamin Jones and Mark McKenna, 2013)
We seem to me a people more than ready to leave home. To take full imaginative possession of our selves. Time to draw the world’s longest national dress rehearsal to a close. Time, you’d have thought, to let our adolescence slide. To get on with it.
You have to leave home to find home. And a republic is the step, so long deferred, we have to…
THE COOL WEB
Empathy and emptiness, prosody and place, in the poetry of Judith Beveridge
A critical meditation on Storm and Honey
There’s a cool web of language winds us in.
Retreat from too much joy or too much fear:
We grow sea-green at last and coldly die
In brininess and volubility
—Robert Graves, “The Cool Web”
Delancey had told me
that the creek wasn’t the place to get
answers, but that it would give me…
The lyric stance
The lyric essay and how it may bring us home to who and where we are.
(First published in Island 126, 2011)
Teaching the stones to talk
In an author note at the start of her collection of luminous and quirky essays Teaching a Stone to Talk, Annie Dillard writes “this is not a collection of occasional pieces, such as a writer brings out to supplement his real work; instead this is my real work, such as it is.” I have always loved that—the insistence…