My trip to Australia: 2007

From August 21st until September 20th, I was in Australia. Any trip to Oz is full of drama and excitement even if I’m not specially trying to promote my books. There’s my family, sisters, brother and nieces and nephews, and my friends. And so much to catch up on.

Family and Friends

I spent my first two weeks around Bendigo and Geelong on an easy schedule that included two visits to talk to students at my old Bendigo school, St, Mary’s, now co-ed. and metamorphosed into Catholic College. I was also checking out old haunts and bookshops.
Next, Melbourne. On September 1st, I was one of twelve poets who took turns to spend time writing and talking to members of the public in a Poet’s House installation, set up by the new Australian Poetry Centre as part of the Melbourne Writers’ Festival. Fascinating. And we all managed to write poems on the walls and doors of the House.


My first reading was on September 8th, 2 – 5 p.m. at a splendid venue in Geelong: The Old Bush Inn - compered and organised by Janine McGuinness and Brendan Ryan. This was a ‘relax and listen’ afternoon, with readings from guest poets mixed with those of readers from the floor, and songs, on this occasion from Susan Russell. Diane Fahey, Nathan Curnow, and myself were the guest readers. Perfect spring weather and a most enjoyably-paced event.

"Welcome back" at Catholic College

Next came the “Welcome back” at Catholic College , Bendigo, 2.30 p.m. on Sunday, September 9, an event organised by the school’s alumni officer, Barbara Lomas. Sixty family, friends, ex-students and staff came together to hear poems from Circus-Apprentice and my other books. The ambience was fantastic and it was lovely to read in the school hall among photographs and other memorabilia. Nostalgia, nostalgia. As for the room itself, it has scarcely changed since those days. Katherine and the book

La Trobe University

Later in the week, there were two events at La Trobe University, arranged by poet, literary critic and playwright, Susan Bradley Smith.. On the 11th September, I gave a lecture to first year students for their semester programme Poetry and Desire exploring the relationship between poetry and autobiography, and linked to aspects of poetry-writing technique. After considerable discussion, the lecture ended with a reading by Susan and myself of my poem "Nettie Palmer to Frank Wilmot ('Furnley Maurice')". Next day, there was a seminar discussion with students on Australian women writers and the London cosmopolis.

The Australian Poetry Centre

My final events were at the Australian Poetry Centre, ‘Glenfern’. 417 Inkerman Street, East St. Kilda, Melbourne on September 16th. This was also the launch of Poetry Salon: readings and conversation at ‘Glenfern’. Glenfern is a former home of the Boyd family and is a delightfully kept 19th century period house, resonant with artistic carryover.

The idea behind the Salon reverberates: ’Following Horace’s definition of the aims of poetry “to please and educate”, the reading and discussion will be accompanied by champagne and cake.’

The programme was:
1. Poetry Workshop with Katherine Gallagher (12.30- 3.30 pm)
2. Poetry Reading and Discussion with Katherine Gallagher and Alex Skovron (4 – 5.30 pm) with questions from the audience.
3. Book Launch of Mike Ladd’s new collection, Transit.

Our Reading event and Mike Ladd’s Book Launch were chaired with great panache by poet Robyn Rowland, (Deputy Chair of the Australian Poetry Centre).

Approximately 70 or 80 people attended these events and the A.P.C. was brimming with poets and poetry-lovers enjoying poetry, champagne, wine and cake.

Indeed, it was a great honour to be reading at this new Australian Poetry Centre and I am most grateful to Teresa Bell (Director), Robyn Rowland (Deputy Chair) and Bridie McCarthy (Office Manager) for making it happen. I gather this new series of Salon readings is intended to be a regular event every fourth Sunday of the month. They will be featuring a Victorian poet and a national or international poet at each reading, unless they are having themed, special events. All an omen for the future. Bravo.

Finally, many thanks to everyone who organised and helped with the readings. It was a very special time for me.