Last night on Facebook Kenneth Smeaton announced that poet and activist Venie Holmgren had passed peacefully away surrounded by her family..
Writing in the Guardian in March 2015 (http://www.theguardian.com/books/australia-books-blog/2015/mar/25/in-praise-of-venie-holmgren-at-92-still-an-activist-adventurer-and-a-poet), Kevin Childs said of her:
At 92, the writer and poet can look back on a life of activism, adventure and enterprise. And that life is far from over as she works on what she sees as a neglected history: the story of the anti-Vietnam war movement in her native Western Australia.
As she wrote in her most recent book, Tea House Poems, she is often “snuggling down/ down deep/ into bed/ when suddenly/ a poem limps in/ needing attention”. In a soft, clear voice, Holmgren presents her poems from memory. That same voice has been heard at anti-war and anti-logging rallies, in pubs and prisons, on river ferries and demos, and in universities from Austin to Heidelberg, Germany, and on to Calcutta.
Twice arrested in forests, she writes of the experience in Peasant in January: “you look in the eyes of a mild mannered cop as he utters the words/ and leads you away…/ and you point at the soil at your feet/ and you say to him see/ so erodible here/ and he mournfully answers you/ yes, you’re right, it will all finish up/in the creek down below…”. Not only did she decline to pay a $470 fine, she distributed a leaflet, Why I Refuse to Pay My Fine.
Her poems are praised for their colloquial idiom and lyricism. She writes of being poor, family struggles, loss and exclusion.
The following video, one of the amazing collection of poets reading their work assembled by Shelton Lea over the years, shows Venie reading at the Inaugural Radical Poets reading in Melbourne in 1989
- Peter O’Mara launches Venie’s last collection, The Tea House Poems, in 2013 http://venieholmgren.jimdo.com/