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Georgie Arnott

A Momentary Stay by William C. Clarke & Sand by Connie Barber

April 2003, no. 250

William C. Clarke cuts an interesting figure. An anthropologist who has concentrated on Pacific populations, Clarke combined this discipline with an interest in poetry in his 2000 lecture ‘Pacific Voices, Pacific Views: Poets as Commentators on the Contemporary Pacific’. Clarke used his poetry as a vehicle for considering issues such as land tenure, corruption, and tourism. It is angry, astute poetry; this is not the tranquil Hawaii and Fiji of tourist literature. Such poetry is undoubtedly moving, despite Clarke’s echo of W.H. Auden’s assertion that ‘poetry makes nothing happen’.

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Griffith Review 18 edited by Julianne Schultz & JASAL 2007 Special Edition edited by Tanya Dalziell and Paul Genoni

April 2008, no. 300

'I had fully expected to find Karoline and her family living in difficult circumstances but in their home I am confronted and embarrassed by the extent of their poverty.’ In his stand-out piece of reportage, Peter Mares relates how Karoline and Jone came to Australia from Fiji to pick fruit, pluck chickens and make their families’ lives back home more bearable. They stay illegally, ‘enmeshed in a complex web of opportunity and obligation’. This refugee story details the global reasons for, and effects of, such journeys, as well as the daily hardship of poverty. The shock of reality, the yearning to make a positive difference, the allure of an ‘authentic’ experience, the realisation of its impossibility, and the weary cynicism of disappointment: these themes persist as Australians write about their Asian neighbourhood.

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University of Western Australia Press should be commended for recognising a significant gap in Australian literary scholarship: a book-length study on the work of Tim Winton. Aside from Tim Winton: A Celebration (1999; not a critical work), and Michael McGirr’s Tim Winton: The Writer and His Work (1999), written for young readers, there have been no major studies of his work and little critical commentary. Is Peter Craven’s response to Dirt Music (2001) – which he called a ‘profoundly vulgar book’ that ‘bellyflops into a sort of inflated populism’ – widely shared? Is Winton on the nose because he is popular? Certainly, there is nothing sexy about Winton’s work; it embodies wholesome and worthy values, without shying away from stories where these values are absent. But he is a damn good writer – a difficult thing to measure, I know. His work resonates for many people. Whether they adore it or hate it (think Cloudstreet [1991]), people who have read Winton have an opinion on him. Winton’s work, particularly The Turning (2004), prompts interesting questions about contemporary Australian life.

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