samedi 30 juin 2012

Vale Rosemary Dobson (1920-2012)

Vale Rosemary Dobson

The renowned Australian poet, Rosemary Dobson, died this week in a nursing home in Canberra at the age of ninety-two.  Her literary career was as distinguished as it was long.  Her first collection of poems, In a Convex Mirror, appeared in 1944.  Her last book, Rosemary Dobson: Collected, was published by the University of Queensland Press last month.  Rosemary belonged to that generation of mid-century poets which included A.D. Hope, James McAuley, and Judith Wright.  She, however, always stood apart to some extent, and by the time of the ‘poetry wars’ in the 1970s, her poetry was quietly singular at a time of noise and fashion.  Her last full-length collection, Untold Lives and Later Poems (2000), was published when she was eighty years old.  It won The Age Book of the Year Award in 2001, one of the few poetry books ever to do so.

After a brief spell at teaching, in the late 1930s Rosemary studied literature (not for a degree) at the University of Sydney and drawing with Thea Proctor.  In the early 1940s she joined Angus & Robertson, working with the legendary editor Beatrice Davis, as well as key literary figures of the day such as Douglas Stewart.  At Angus & Robertson she met Alec Bolton. The two married in 1951 and had three children. In 1971 they moved to Canberra when Alec, who died in 1996, became the first Director of Publications at the National Library of Australia.

Rosemary spent the rest of her life in Canberra, where she cared for her family, wrote, and was active in the city’s literary culture.  She was also an active presence in Australian literary culture more generally, but she always maintained a creative distance, and her reticence and integrity made her a model for all writers.  Her poetry has always been praised by her peers, and her services to Australian literature have been notable, as her numerous awards suggest.  But her greatest service was to write her poetry, which is notable for the way it marries great clarity with the mysterious.

In person, and as a correspondent, Rosemary was gracious, and memorably polite.  But where some use good manners as a way to introduce distance with other people, Rosemary’s were the basis for real warmth and generosity of spirit.  She will be much missed, though her poetry will continue to add immeasurably to our appreciation of life.

David McCooey
Deakin University

The funeral service for Rosemary Dobson will be held at St Paul's Anglican Church, at the corner of Canberra Avenue and Captain Cook Crescent, Manuka, ACT, on Wednesday 4 July 2012, commencing at 11.30 am.

A private cremation will follow.

Bernadette Brennan

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