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News from ABR

June 2022, no. 443

News from ABR

June 2022, no. 443

Keepers of the flame

As in 2021, ABR readers won’t have to endure the winter with a double issue in June and July. We are delighted to present a discrete June edition.

Highlights include extensive coverage of Gwen Harwood’s life and work – and the complicated biographical project that Advances has followed with interest for some years. Harwood scholar Stephanie Trigg reviews Ann-Marie Priest’s biography, My Tongue Is My Own: A life of Gwen Harwood (La Trobe University Press).

Elsewhere, Gwen Harwood’s son and literary executor, John Harwood – a biographer himself – contributes a fascinating account of his management of this celebrated literary estate since the poet’s death in 1995. The article, ‘Gwen Harwood and the Perils of Reticence’, is an interesting addendum to Ian Hamilton’s seminal book Keepers of the Flame: Literary estates and the rise of biography (1992).

Harwood writes candidly about difficulties in his parents’ long marriage and about his resolve to obviate any hurt to his father: ‘I loved my parents equally and was determined that, so far as I had anything to do with it, nothing that might distress my father or his many old friends would find its way into print.’ He writes about the ‘collision course’ he was set on with one of his mother’s early proposed biographers, Gregory Kratzmann, who subsequently withdrew. Now, like Advances, Harwood welcomes Priest’s detailed and absorbing biography.

These two features are complemented by one of Gwen Harwood’s most withering poems, ‘Suburban Sonnet’.

Other highlights include Elizabeth Tynan on nuclear colonialism in the 1950s, typified by the Menzies government’s craven approval of British atomic tests at Emu Field in South Australia, which is the subject of her recent book, The Secret of Emu Field.

In coming months, the Supreme Court of the United States is expected to overturn Roe v. Wade, a landmark decision offering constitutional protection of a pregnant woman’s freedom to have an abortion. As American women contemplate the impact of this judgment – perhaps the apogee of conversative judicial activism in the United States – we are pleased to be able to publish an essay by Sydney obstetrician Linda Atkins. ‘Shouting Abortion’ was shortlisted for the 2022 Calibre Essay Prize.

Generous support from Matthew Sandblom and Wendy Beckett’s Blake Beckett Fund underpins this extra issue. We thank them both warmly.

Prize tentacles

Warm congratulations to critic and filmmaker Anne Rutherford, whose review of My Octopus Teacher for ABR (published online in February 2021 and also available as a podcast) has taken out the Australian Film Critics Association’s award for the best review of an international film. This is the tenth occasion on which the awards have been presented by AFCA, the leading body of film critics in Australia and an affiliate of FIPRESCI, the international association of film critics and journalists. Rutherford’s review, a subtle probing of both the ‘kinaesthetic pleasure of watching the octopus move’ and the ethics of anthropomorphism, was her début in ABR. We look forward to more from her in the future and, without resting on our laurels, we take it to be a promising sign that the magazine’s arts coverage is hitting the mark.

Prizes galore

When the ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize closed in early May, we had received 1,325 entries, from thirty-six different countries. Each year our three literary competitions – the Jolley, the Peter Porter Poetry Prize, the Calibre Essay Prize – generate thousands of new literary works that otherwise might never be written. It’s a fillip, an incentive, with a total of $12,500 in prize money to be dispersed. Judging is now underway. We look forward to publishing the three shortlisted stories in our August issue and then naming the winner towards the end of that month.

Meanwhile, the Porter Prize, now in its nineteenth year, will open on 11 July, with total prize money of $10,000.

Walking the walk on climate change

The season of electioneering and democracy sausages may be over, yet the issue of climate change remains acute, heedless of the political calendar. Most writers are by nature solitary creatures, and so heartening it is to see them band together for the Writers on Climate Action initiative. Led by Kate Grenville, the group wants climate to be at the forefront of voters’ minds each time they head to the polls. As Grenville writes in her ‘Book Talk’ feature:

We’ve got a lot of urgent issues swirling in our minds.  The cost of living, employment, refugees, taxes, corruption, defence, Indigenous justice ... They’re all important and they’ll all shape our future. But the writers who have come together believe that one issue underlies all the others: the need for a reliable climate.

This is not about politicking in the conventional sense of ‘pushing any particular candidate or party’; rather, it is about making action on climate change an indispensable part of any political platform.

On the road

Masks on and passports at the ready – ABR is delighted to be presenting several cultural tours with Academy Travel in 2022 and 2023 across Australia and – mirabile dictu – abroad.

First up is an eight-day tour (October 12–19) exploring some of Victoria’s most beautiful countryside, historic towns and cities, and superb regional galleries. A group of no more than sixteen will be led by ABR’s Development Consultant, Christopher Menz, through some of Australia’s oldest regional galleries as well as the wonderful modern and contemporary collections at Heide and TarraWarra.

See the ABR or Academy Travel websites for full details. Book now before it’s too late! 

New directions

As we go to press on 23 May, the status of the new Labor government – majority or minority – is undecided, but it’s clear that the Coalition government led by Scott Morrison has been defeated. He leaves a stain on our public life that may take years to eradicate. Only a national integrity commission – of the unfettered kind proposed by Labor and teal candidates during the campaign, and strongly advocated by some of our most distinguished jurists – will reveal the full extent of the profligacy and impropriety of the outgoing regime. It cannot come soon enough.

Next month we will invite a number of commentators to nominate one policy direction they would like Anthony Albanese’s government to pursue over the next three years.

At the top of my own desiderata would be a long-overdue investigation of Rupert Murdoch’s malign role in Australian politics, plus a more edifying style of campaigning, without puerile ‘gotcha’ moments and endless talk of election sausages. We must be able to do better than this. Ed.

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