Australian women writers and the Stella Prize at the State Library of New South Wales – and Peter Minter & Rebecca Giggs discuss New Nature Writing at the EWF Roadshow 2012

Last Saturday I was at the brilliant Emerging Writers’ Festival Roadshow at the New South Wales Writers’ Centre, which was sold out, thronging with writers emerging and otherwise. It’s the second time this Melbourne-born and raised event has been held in Sydney, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

The session I was most keen to see was ‘New Nature Writing’, partly because it relates to my PhD but also because of the calibre of the two speakers – poet and scholar Peter Minter, and writer and academic Rebecca Giggs. The session was masterminded by Sam Twyford-Moore (who moved to Melbourne on Monday to become the new director of the Emerging Writers’ Festival, replacing Lisa Dempster, who’s the new director of the Melbourne Writers’ Festival – dynamos both).

For anyone interested in ecopoetics, nature writing new and/or old, Australian literature and ‘landscape’ (a contested term), the ecological crisis, or smart talk about poetry and ideas, this conversation and the ensuing discussion is a must-listen: the podcast is here New Nature Writing.

To whet your appetite, here’s some of what Minter and Giggs touched on:

Minter said he’s been thinking about the idea of post-nation, especially following ‘Frankenstorm’ and its association with climate change, a planetary issue beyond the national. (Minter prefers ‘planetary’ to ‘global’, a word he associates with the Euclidean attempt to divide up space.) He’s also been thinking about land in relation to ecopoetics and the obsession with land in Australian poetry, wondering what it might mean to take the land/landscape out of Australian poetry, which would mean rethinking what these words – land, landscape (Australia?) – mean. For him this relates more broadly to the idea of removing the nation from the way we think, ‘a decolonisation of our discourse in Australian writing, especially of our discourse about nature, about the land’.

Where Minter mused and ruminated (he led the conversation with Giggs acting more as interlocutor), Giggs made compact, thought-provoking statements such as ‘every act of designating ecology is an act of making the unknown known’ and ‘it’s not the nature we have left to speak of, but the way we speak of nature that’s important to thinking about the ecological crisis today’.

In other bookish news, literary critic and author Geordie Williamson and I will be talking about Australian women’s writing at 6-7pm on Wednesday 5 December at the Metcalfe Auditorium at the State Library of New South Wales. The event – Sleeping Beauties: Reviving Australia’s Forgotten Women Writers – is organised by the Stella Prize, which I’ve written about here before.

I’m very excited about this event – and have lined up some of my favourite, overlooked (and sleeping) Australian women writers to talk about. I’ll write more about it closer to the date.

In the meantime, looking over my ‘notes from books’ – in this case from Proust’s Swann’s Way – and expecting to be seized by one of its many passages on the power of books and reading, I was instead stopped in my tracks by this:

‘And Swann felt a very cordial sympathy with that Mahomet II whose portrait by Bellini he admired, who, on finding that he had fallen madly in love with one of his wives, stabbed her, in order, as his Venetian biographer artlessly relates, to recover his spiritual freedom.’

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4 Responses to Australian women writers and the Stella Prize at the State Library of New South Wales – and Peter Minter & Rebecca Giggs discuss New Nature Writing at the EWF Roadshow 2012

  1. pixelrites says:

    I was at the NSW Writers Centre, but sadly missed out on this talk. Look forward to the talk at State Library. Thank you

  2. Oh so you’re doing that talk … if I were in Sydney I’d be there like a flash. I did some reading a few years ago of older Australian women writers – Cambridge and Praed in particular – and loved reading them. I look forward to your posts on that.

    Meanwhile, I’ll try to listen to the podcast as this topic is fascinating too though the terminology is a bit abstruse for we ordinary readers!

    Land is a major issue for Aussies … we can’t escape its presence in our consciousness I reckon, particularly those of us who have travelled out of the cities. It’s pretty much a “being” for us as against, I suspect, a backdrop for writers of many other countries?

  3. Look forward to seeing you there pixelrites.
    And thanks for your thoughts whisperinggums … shame you’re not in Sydney then. I should be back and posting soon about the Australian women writers, have been busy with PhD and UNSW postgrad conference (hope to blog about that too). I agree that land is a major issue for Australians and we can’t escape its presence, especially if we’ve travelled out of the cities. As I have, a lot. Interesting you describe it as a ‘being’ – that might almost sum up my PhD.

  4. Pingback: On being devastated, F Scott Fitzgerald’s heart and national narratives | bookish girl

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