- blue lechenaultia, red and green

paws
and
some ultimately national golden
kangaroo
wattle. She shades her blue eyes from the sunny
air as she gazes into the distance, into a sublime
lian wildllowers

and promising somewhere-upahead. Who is this
adventurous girl? Is she to grow up to become
'Rapunzel in Suburbia' or'Alice in Wormland'?
This is a big book; fifty-five years and four hundred pages ol poetic production. It begins with a
series of adolescent poems recovered lrom a school
magazine, an autograph book, a student newspa-

per and so on. These early poems are typical oI
poetry written by the young - they lurch and fumble through various modes like pubescent teenagers trying new things; sometimes rhyming,
sometimes free. Alliteration is always one of every
inchoate poet's lirst techniques and also Dorothy
Hewett's "the laded lrumped-up lorm/ oI a mistress
teaching French". But these poems do reveal a kind
o[ deeper, complicated sexual yearning probably

not experienced by the lresh, lorward-looking
youngster, the purely romantic and asexual golden
correr girl. They lunction to lasten the collection to
its autobiography.
Dorothy Hewett is, supremely and ineluctably,
an autobiographer, and she holds a firm beliel in
the role autobiography has for a lemale writer's
development. She said, in 1992: 'For the woman
writer it is essential to work from the centre ol the
sell to begin to know who you are and what your
ftmction is in the world besides being a wile or a
mother or a lover or whatever. Not that those [unctions aren't important, but there are others."r She
lr a romantic poet whose touchstone has always
beco sell-orpression, olten contextualized by topical etrents and by nature, and whose lile's quest has

bccn lor heterosexual satisfaction and equality.
These poems chronicle her life from the student to
theyoung mother singing to her baby in 'Sweet Song

Cover Girl

lor l(atie' to the old woman lamenting the loss of
her womb in 'The Last Peninsula'.

PAM BROWN

Collatd
ilg.gfl.

Dorothy Hewett: Dorothy Hewett:
@remantle Arts Centre Press,

Pre

or Dorothy Hewett's Collc:td
ol a robust
\-, golden-haired, bronzed Aussie girl in a
golden dress clutching a bunch oI lVest Austra

ftu BooK BEctNs, FoR ME, twenty pages in, with
I the clearly modernist poem imagined as a painting by the pioneer abstractionist Franz Marc:

N THE covER

Women,likered horses,

Poems is a postcard painting

You see the shadow of them

Waiting lor trams.

Menwinceat

Overland

l4Hr997 ll 73

The line of their heels,
The squeal
Of their brake nerves
In traffic iams.
They are not the women who marry,
Women like red horses.

Just about everything in this collection is sexualized.

piece can be interpreted as a reversal oI the fall
from Eden where the animus, the male, ruins everything. However, later sequences suggest that
Adamson is the inspiration for 'Nim', the male
muse, and it becomes, more literally, an allusive
tribute to their heady poetic friendship. She describes incidents around a poetry reading in Tasmania:

She breaks from autobiography

to take up socialist heroism, as a member of the Communist
Party of Australia, writing folksongs like 'The Ballad of Norman Brown': "There was a man called
Norman Brown/ The murderin' bosses shot him
down /" which is nowhere near as successful as the
more famous 'Where I Grew To Be A Man' (known

by its later title 'Weevils In The Flour'): 'For dole

bread is bitter bread,/ Black bread and sour,/
There's grief in the taste of it,/ There's weevils in
the flour./" She returns to autobiography, recounting her second trip to the USSR in 'The Hidden Jourtrey', a long poem written in a mid-sixties song-style
which echoes Bob Dylan's witness-song 'Masters
of War': *. . . in the year of Stalin, I came to Russia/
And saw flowers growing out of the blinkers on my
eyes, /Saw the statues in the squares with their
heads blown off . . . Saw the wedding cake skyscrap
ers toppling like ice-cream cones . . . Saw a dumb
cracked girl in Stalino who would not speak. . . Saw
a blind man standing on a village corner . . . Saw a
ragged child who ran begging by the train in win-

ter,/ While the commissars pulled their pale lur
coats to their ears./'
Perhaps Dorothy Hewett's fairytale fables, in
which she invents personae for herself, are her best
known poems. The book Rapunzel in Suburbra originally included 'The Uninvited Guest' with its hor-

rendously vitriolic first stanza describing her

ex-husband's new wife. The poem caused Hewett
to be sued for libel and brought her a notoriety she

doesn't regret. (Attested in the same 1992 interview.) The poem isn't in this book - it's banned in

Western Australia.

In Sydney in the seventies Dorothy Hewett
would appear at events as Rapunzel the Darlinghurst bohemian, her long hair flowing onto her fulllength blue velvet dress. She was often accompanied by her close friend and publisher, the poet
Robert Adamson. 'Alice in Wormland' revisits the
author's life from her beginnings in Western Australia, follows on until the 1980s, and the entire
74 ll Overland l4Ll997

Nim raged
a groupie
Alice betrayed him
with the last Tasmanian poet
her nipples bitten

with

her feet pricked
by the bonsai wattle

shethought about a threesome
he said he'd rather watch
with the wardrobe doors
halfopen
Devils mated

extinct tigers howled
in Burnie's sulphurous air
the poet buggered her
his wife in a flannel dressinggown
waited for a kiss
Nim's wife dressed up
in cowboy boots
&stetson hat
kissed Alice
full on the mouth
theywere all
as thick as thieves

It's wild stuff and it's sustained.
In the midst of life
We are in Perth

Harry Hooton
HILE THE poEMS,

2

notes, appendices and index

are closely edited by Bill Grono, there's a
problem with parts of his Introduction. It might be
my eastern attitude ('ve lived most of my adult life
in the Wormland known otherwise as Sydney and I
have never visited Western Australia) but to say
that Dorothy Hewett is a victim of 'neglect" seems
far-fetched. Dorothy Hewett hardly needs rescuing
Irom a potential consignment to oblivion. I'd say
she has enioyed, in the context of Australian po.

etry, a well-supported career. She has received
prizes, publicity, reviews, many grants, she has
given interviews on radio and television as well as
in print, she has made many public readings, has
had residencies hereand overseas, has been widely
published and anthologized and has been the
subiect of a documentary lilm. 'Neglect'? I don't
think so.
Bill Grono also says it's unlortunate lor Dorothy
Hewett's readers that she has been published by
"transient publishing houses in smdl print runs-.
Only recently did larger pHlshing houses start to
tack poetry titles, like aftertlrotghts to the novel
boom, on to their lists, and in the usual srnall print
runs. And even more recentty most have again
ceased publishing poetry. In Australia lnOepen+
ent press publications ol poetry are the norm- b il
somehow different in the west?
In the last section 'Recent Poerns (l9!)Llg6)'
the work is resolute, reminiscing, wry and theuliting takes a fresh direction in the almostpostmo&n
poem 'What I Do Now' - quoting Frank O'I{ara - 1
always wanted my life/to have some kind of lneiilF
ing"

-

and continuing:

I lie in bed reading
the 541 letters of Elizabeth Bishop
my daughter brought me from New Yorkwading
waist deep through snow
I get up at 6pm & shower
through the lonely window
the winter garden's

stripped of leaves
at night with the fire burning
sideways in the wind
I watch the news on SBS
a

foreign film subtitled

or a doco at midnight
stooped with cold I stagger
back to bed the wind howls
ripping my poems to shreds

the paper lantern whirls
I listen to the semis
changing gear to tackle the 40 bends
in the tapestry chair
the cat snores loudly
will I live to a great old age?
there are lots of old mad women
in these mountains
shut up in their houses dying.

And talking about the girl on the cover - "l said
'Fuck them, if they take it at face value, too bloody
bad.'"3 lt's just Dorothy Hewett sending herself up.
ENDNOTES

l.

Jenny Digby, 'Coming to Terms With the Ghosts',
A Woman's Voice (UQP, I 996).
Harry Hooton, Poet of the 21st Century(A& R, 1990).

2.
3. 'Dorothy Hewett in Conversation

...

'October'96,

Westerly,Spring 1996.
Pam Brown, a Sydney writer, has published eleven books ot
and prose includingThis World.This Place (IIQP, 1994)
and Little Droppings (Never-Never Books, I 994).

Wtry