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ABR Arts

Book of the Week

The Asking: New and Selected Poems

The Asking: New and Selected Poems by Jane Hirshfield

Jane Hirshfield writes a poem on the first day of each year. ‘Counting, New Year’s Morning, What Powers Yet Remain to Me’ is one of the new poems in The Asking, along with poems selected from nine collections published since 1982. It begins with a question the world asks (‘as it asks daily’): ‘And what can you make, can you do, to change my deep-broken, fractured?

From the Archive

May 2010, no. 321

Diggers and Greeks: The Australian campaigns in Greece and Crete by Maria Hill

Late in 1944 Richard Turner was at last able to come home. A Sydney taxi driver, he had been captured in Greece in June 1941. Like 2,000 other Australians, he missed the last boats to leave. Though captured by the Germans, he soon escaped to join the andartes – partisans fighting the Germans in Greece’s rugged interior. With the Germans pulling out, British officers managed to contact Richard and he was finally able to leave for home after nearly five years. On 17 December 1944 the lorry taking Richard to Athens airport accidentally drove into one of the first firefights of the Greek civil war. Richard now lies in the beautiful war cemetery at Phalereon, an oasis of peace amid the traffic that chokes Athens.

From the Archive

September 2006, no. 284

How wrong they were

The subject of fear and politics has often captured the attention of the political left. Indeed, I am immediately reminded of two wonderful books: In Place of Fear (1952), by the British Labour politician Nye Bevan; and The Fear of Freedom (1941), by the post-Freudian and socialist Erich Fromm. Whilst Fromm set out to understand the roots of fear in the human condition, Bevan sought practical solutions to the most obvious manifestations of fear in a world that had been shaken to its foundations by economic depression, fascism and war. Both were democratic socialists who believed that the insecurities which led to fear could be tackled through political, social and economic change.

For a brief moment following the collapse of communism, it appeared that such a solution might be within our grasp. Some even talked of ‘the end of history’. How wrong they were, as we witness the rebirth of insecurity associated with global warming, international terrorism and nuclear proliferation.

From the Archive

December 2006–January 2007, no. 287

Days Like These by Michael Gurr

Michael Gurr was Victorian Premier Steve Bracks’s first senior speechwriter. I am his latest. Gurr worked for Victorian Treasurer John Brumby when he was leader of the state opposition in the mid-1990s. So did I. Gurr wrote the launch speeches for Steve Bracks’s successful 1999 and 2002 state election campaigns. As I type this review, I am also, coincidentally, in the midst of ballpointing my way to the summit of my first draft of the launch speech for the 2006 campaign (a campaign that I cannot know the result of as I type, but you will already know as you read this). The coincidences do not end there.

Gurr’s speech for the 1999 campaign – one made famous by the unexpected defeat of Premier Jeff Kennett – was launched in Ballarat. The 2006 campaign will be launched in Ballarat. Gurr is known in Labor circles as a ‘creative type’ (read: prolific, award-winning playwright of works such as Jerusalem and Sex Diary of an Infidel). I am also known as a ‘creative type’ (novelist and poet). And yet, despite all these coincidences and intersecting lines, not to mention the backbench of associates we have in common, Gurr and I had never met when a speech request landed on my desk a while back with the title ‘Michael Gurr book launch’. Of course, I knew of Gurr. Sort of.