POEMSThis is the cover of our high school poetry text. It was edited by John Palmer and published by William Brooks & Co.  This particular copy was decorated and annotated by my good self, age 17 or thereabouts and is a survivor of the odd book cull over the years.

With its paste-on characters, doodles, glossy pages, worn corners and a broken spine, it’s showing its age, but still provides pleasure in the gleaning.

For readers who are not familiar with any Australian poetry, today’s offering is from the late Judith Wright, poet, environmentalist and Aboriginal land rights activist.

The poem is The Company of Lovers. The scribbles are my high school notes. A clean copy is provided below for easier reading.

Judith Wright - The Company of Lovers


We meet and part now over all the world,

We, the lost company,

take hands together in the night, forget

the night in our brief happiness, silently.

We who sought many things, throw all away

for this one thing, one only,

remembering that in the narrow grave

we shall be lonely.

Death marshals up his armies round us now,

Their footsteps crowd too near.

Lock your warm hand above the chilling heart

and for a time I live without my fear.

Grope in the night to find me and embrace,

for the dark preludes of the drum begin,

and round us, round the company of lovers,

Death draws his cordons in.

Back in my first days at university, I took a lot of English Literature subjects for someone who was also working towards graduating with a Geography major. In the end, I suspect the number of English classes surpassed the Geography ones.

It was the seventies. Unsurprisingly, I guess, Women’s Studies was on offer. One of my lecturers was the most radical woman I’d ever met at that stage of my life. Her classes were politicised, her clothes, her hair, her very presence in the academic halls were statements amidst the men’s tie and shirt brigade. I loved how what she taught was on the edge of the usual course fare. You could not ignore her. You could not get away with being in one of her classes and not thinking.

She is now Head of School at the same university. This was one of the texts for the course.  It’s been well dipped into over the years. The collection includes Denise Levertov, Gwendolyn Brooks, Anne Sexton, Adrienne Rich, Sylvia Plath (of course) and Margaret Atwood, better known today for her impressive body of work as a novelist.

“After All You Are Quite” was written circa 1965-1972.

Margaret Atwood - After All You are QuiteMargaret Atwood - After All You are Quite

More in the ‘see what jumps out of the anthology at you’ series.  Again, from the Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry.

Josephine Miles was born in 1911 in Chicago. The link will take you to her biography. Her academic and writing career is more impressive given that Miles suffered debilitating arthritis for most of her life, making it impossible for her to use a typewriter. Her poems were committed to paper using a pen, in movements that were “slow and painfully deliberate” according to an oral history recorded by Ruth Teiser and Catherine Harroun. They conducted interviews with Miles in the late seventies under the title Poetry, Teaching and Scholarship.

This poem – On Inhabiting an Orange – was written in 1935 when she was 24 years old. She died in 1985.

On Inhabiting an Orange - Josephine Miles

Nearly a decade ago, Tim Winton published a collection of 17 short stories under the banner title, The Turning. Some of the stories feature the same character or characters. Each one has its own story arc.

Film director Robert Connolly came to Winton with the audacious idea of making a film of The Turning. Seventeen short stories. Seventeen different directors, and a different cast for each of the stories.

Watching the film draws you in and asks you to unpick a puzzle that does not place the characters in any chronological order. It is a beautiful film (or series of films), showcasing talented actors, stunning light and landscapes, dancers (yes dancers) and Winton’s words. Each allocated story is a fresh interpretation.

It’s three hours long. I decided early not to work too hard in the watching. Afterwards, I remembered we had a paperback copy somewhere in the house and scrambled to find it. Now that I’ve dipped into the stories again, I want to revisit the film.

Tim Winton - The Turning

The thing that I like best about the story of making the film is that Tim Winton said yes and then, stepped away from what he thought was a bold idea. And I’m wondering about the sensation that artists and writers get when they inspire others to create new visions from something they birthed.