Susan Lever reviews 'Ink in Her Veins: The troubled life of Aileen Palmer' by Sylvia Martin

Susan Lever reviews 'Ink in Her Veins: The troubled life of Aileen Palmer' by Sylvia Martin

ink in Her Veins: The troubled life of Aileen Palmer

by Sylvia Martin

UWA Publishing $29.99 pb, 350 pp, 9781742588254

In her new biography, Sylvia Martin tells us that Aileen Palmer wanted to be remembered as a poet. Until now, she has been best known as the elder daughter of Vance and Nettie Palmer, those beacons of Australian literature who devoted their lives to developing our literary culture. Aileen, with her sister Helen, carefully preserved the legacy of her parents, ensuring that their papers were deposited in the National Library of Australia. These papers, with their voluminous correspondence with other Australian writers, have proved an invaluable source for any scholar working on Australian literary history, particularly biographers. Aileen also left her own unpublished manuscripts, her fragments of autobiography, her diaries and poems in her parents' archives. Perhaps she hoped that a biographer like Martin would come along to make a narrative from them.

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Susan Lever

Susan Lever

Susan Lever is the author of David Foster: The Satirist of Australia (Cambria Press, 2008) and general editor of Cambria Press’s Australian Literature Series. She has published widely on Australian literary history and contemporary Australian fiction, and is currently conducting interviews with Australian television writers for the Australian Writers’ Foundation Oral History project. She is completing a book on Australian television dramatists. Susan Lever’s interviews with Australian screenwriters are accessible through the National Film and Sound Archive, samples can be found here.

Comments (1)

  • Leave a comment Sylvia Martin

    Repeating the fate of Miles Franklin's original punctuation for My Brilliant Career, this review of Aileen Palmer's book of poetry and translations, World Without Strangers?, omits its question mark. It is also a little ironical that, after more than three hundred pages of my attempting to show that Aileen was more than the woman dubbed by David Martin as 'the tragic daughter' of the Palmers, Susan Lever again reduces her to that with her final sentence: '[Sylvia] Martin has not retrieved a poet, only a suffering woman'. While my biography does not seek to reclaim Aileen Palmer as a significant Australian poet, it does reveal a brilliant and resilient woman. And David Martin, poet and contemporary of the Palmers, concludes his pen portrait of the family with the statement: 'Aileen was the poet.' (My Strange Friend: an autobiography, Pan Macmillan 1991, p.269.)

    Tuesday, 14 June 2016 11:35 posted by  Sylvia Martin

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