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This review is taken from PN Review 31, Volume 9 Number 5, May - June 1983.

WITNESS Judith Wright, The Cry of the Dead (OUP Melbourne) £16
Judith Wright, Australian Bibliographies (OUP Melbourne) £11

Judith Wright has been known in this country and her own as an excellent Australian poet for twenty-five or thirty years; she has been famous and celebrated since the 1960s. She is now sixty-seven years old. Her bibliography reveals a very busy life: fifteen volumes of verse, many others of criticism, stories, children's books, biography, lectures and so on, and 381 poems. Writings about her take forty-five pages to catalogue, and six university libraries have holdings of her manuscript material. Not just to succeed, but even to survive as a professional writer, this is the farcical kind of thing a poet had to achieve in the middle and late twentieth century in our language. Lucky those writers who can always rely on a readership in Australia or Canada, or who are read for their politics or their religion or their ethnic group.

Judith Wright is a fine poet, and this bibliography seems to tell me I admired her work when it had hardly begun to be written about. How? By word of mouth I suppose. A reputation begins as a swift whisper like a meadow fire; people are far more thrilled and eager to welcome a new fresh poet than the poet can be hungry for fame. The readers love the poet more than the poet loves the readers, probably. But the habit of writing begets public expressions and public attitudes, however privately rooted. Let us hope in a poet's case the writer's public expressions will have ...


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