Martin Harrison’s death last Saturday quickly resonated around social media with personal tributes from friends, students and fellow poets flowing thick and fast. While undoubtedly one of Australia’s finest poets, it quickly became clear that a considerable part of his importance to Australian poetry was also that of a leading mentor to a younger generation of writers. His devotion to teaching, through his position as Senior Lecturer at the University of Technology, Sydney, will provide an ongoing legacy through the work produced both by those lucky enough to have been taught by him, but also by those who have been influenced by his work.
According to Susan Wyndham’s obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald (http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/philosopherpoet-martin-harrison-spread-happiness-until-the-end-20140908-10dxhi.html) Martin was driving home from UTS to his home at Wollembi in the Hunter Valley when he suffered a heart attack. When he failed to arrive the alarm was sounded by a number of his PhD students who set out from Sydney and found him in his car near the road at Brooklyn.
Martin Harrison was born in Yorkshire, England, in 1949. He studied at the University of Cambridge, where he attained a Master of Arts, and started publishing his poems in London in the mid-70s. After living for three years in New Zealand, he settled in Sydney in 1978. He worked for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for a number of years, and has been a leading ABC radio producer and broadcaster associated equally with drama, poetry and criticism on radio and with the promotion of innovative forms of sound-feature and sound-work.
Harrison’s first poetry collection, Leisure, was published in England in 1978. He has since published a number of further collections, including a volume of new and selected poems, Wild Bees (2008). He has also written widely as a reviewer and critic, mainly on contemporary Australian literature. A collection of essays mainly about contemporary poetry, Who Wants to Create Australia (2004), was selected as one of the Times Literary Supplement’s ‘International Books of the Year’ for 2004.
Martin was a Senior Lecturer, Creative Writing Program and Core Member, Creative Practice and Cultural Economy at the University of Technology, Sydney. He held a
MA (Cantab.) University of Cambridge and Ph.D from UTS.
A service for Martin Harrison will this take place this Saturday 13th September at 11am St John’s Anglican Church Wollembi. Contact Juno Gemes. to RSVP.
A Sydney memorial gathering for Martin will be held on Sunday 14 September at the NSW Writers Centre Rozelle, from 1pm to 4pm. All welcome, please byo drinks and a plate.
Information of this obituary has been taken from the Australian Poetry Library (http://www.poetrylibrary.edu.au/poets/harrison-martin) and Susan Wyndham’s obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald (http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/philosopherpoet-martin-harrison-spread-happiness-until-the-end-20140908-10dxhi.html).
Mark Roberts review of The Distribution of Voice has been published here as a tribute to Martin.
Examples of Martin’s poetry can be found at:
- Australian Poetry Library – http://www.poetrylibrary.edu.au/poets/harrison-martin
- Poem Hunter 21 Poems – http://www.poemhunter.com/i/ebook/pdf/martin_harrison_2012_5.pdf
- On the Road (Part 1): Samuel Wagan Watson and Martin Harrison http://www.abc.net.au/rn/legacy/features/pod/poets/harrisonwatson1.htm
- On the Road (Part 2): Samuel Wagan Watson and Martin Harrison http://www.abc.net.au/rn/legacy/features/pod/poets/harrisonwatson2.htm