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Barry Hill

Barry Hill

Barry Hill has won Premier’s Awards for poetry, non-fiction, and the essay. He has been writing full-time since 1976, when Penguin published his first book, The Schools. Prior to that he worked as a educational psychologist and journalist in Melbourne and London. His short fiction was widely anthologised. In recent years he has been writing history and fiction. For fifteen years he was Radio Critic for The Age; for ten years the Poetry Editor for The Australian. He is possibly best known for his two major works, Broken Song: TGH Strehlow and Aboriginal possession, and Peacemongers, a study of Rabindranath Tagore and the history of bombing. Recent works include Eagerly We Burn: Selected poems and Reason and Lovelessness: Essays, 1980–2017.

Barry Hill reviews ‘Left Right Left: Political Essays 1977–2005’ by Robert Manne

June–July 2005, no. 272 01 June 2005
There are at least three reasons why we left-leaning, right-thinking, middle-class readers value Robert Manne’s essays. Over the last twenty years, he has – in books, as editor of Quadrant from 1988 to 1997, as a newspaper columnist – been writing with an uncommon intellectual lucidity. He is that rare combination of good scholar and good journalist. His style is transparently reasonable: hi ... (read more)

Barry Hill reviews 'Waiting for the Owl: Poems and songs from ancient China' translated by Ian Johnston

May 2010, no. 321 01 May 2010
Chinese poetry has long been lost in translation. You only have to look at a line in an ancient Chinese poem and its inscrutability is plain to see: four or five characters across the page, each with several venerable meanings and without markers of tense, speaker, conjunctions or prepositions. Every translator becomes an adventurer, one who can only haul the poem onto the shores of difference. T ... (read more)

Barry Hill reviews 'Last Looks, Last Books: Stevens, Plath, Lowell, Bishop, Merrill' by Helen Vendler

July–August 2010, no. 323 01 July 2010
Helen Vendler, a supreme partridge among American critics of poetry, has written a third shining book on style – which she has made her métier, rather after Theodor Adorno, the philosopher-critic of music and the aesthetic high road. In her first, The Breaking of Style (1995), about Hopkins, Heaney, and Graham, she revealed how poets ‘can cast off an earlier style to perform an act of violenc ... (read more)

Barry Hill reviews 'Working Temple' by Caroline Caddy

September 1997, no. 194 01 September 1997
This is Caroline Caddy’s sixth collection of poetry. It comes to us after her well-received Antarctica, which the publicists mention in terms of her interest in ‘hinterlands and extreme land­scapes’. Working Temple is not so much about that, it seems to me, as the sensual encounter one might have with exotic puzzles and puzzlement. It is a collection that almost advances a notion of expe ... (read more)

Barry Hill reviews 'My Dear Spencer: The letters of F. J. Gillen to Baldwin Spencer' edited by John Mulvaney, Howard Morphy, and Alison Petch

December 1997–January 1998, no. 197 01 December 1997
When Baldwin Spencer, the eminent Professor of Biology at Melbourne University, arrived in Alice Springs in 1894 as a member of the Horn party, the first scientific expedition to Central Australia, he knew very little anthropology. Edward Stirling, South Australia’s Museum Director who would write their chapter on anthropology, was not much better off. The man who was in the know was the man on ... (read more)

Barry Hill reviews 'Headlands' by Bruce Beaver

May 1986, no. 80 01 May 1986
The jacket painting on Bruce Beaver’s highly wrought little book of prose poems is Lloyd Rees’ ‘The Coast near Klama’. It’s an elevated view of virgin green and dun coloured headland, the ochres rising through. Sea swirls into an oysterish bay. There is one distant figure looking down on another distant figure in a rock pool below. The sky, as with so many Rees skies, is egg-shelly yello ... (read more)

Barry Hill reviews 'Return to Uluru: A killing, a hidden history, a story that goes to the heart of the nation' by Mark McKenna

April 2021, no. 430 23 March 2021
The distinguished historian Mark McKenna has written an elegant and hungry book about the pull of Uluru, that place of mysterious significance to Australians, black and white. Of course, in recent times, the Uluru Statement from the Heart – the heart that had a stake driven through it the moment it was entrusted to the most powerful whites in Canberra – is a complicated domain of passion and p ... (read more)

Barry Hill reviews 'The Australian Year: The chronicle of our seasons and celebrations' by Les A. Murray

July 1986, no. 82 01 July 1986
The Australian Year looks like the dreaded coffee table book, yet another gloss on the national ‘identity’, backed by Esso, and fit for export only. Certainly, the cover picture of parroty water gives that impression, as do many familiar ones inside, though the main photographer, Peter Solness, does turn in some good homely details as well. Generally, the photographs stand like an avenue of pl ... (read more)

Barry Hill reviews 'The 1967 Referendum, or When the Aborigines Didn’t Get the Vote' by Bain Attwood and Andrew Markus with Dale Edwards and Kath Schilling

November 1997, no. 196 01 November 1997
This eccentric, laborious book is designed to correct what most of us think about the 1967 Referendum. The popular belief – the authors call it a myth – is that the Australian people then voted to acknowledge citizenship by giving Aborigines the vote, and that this was a Commonwealth thrust towards, crucial, deeper involvement in Aboriginal affairs. ‘Surely 27 May should be Australia’s na ... (read more)
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