Vale Tim Thorne – Poet and activist.

Rochford Street Review was saddened to learn of the death of poet Tim Thorne on the 16 September in Launceston. Tim was one of Australia’s leading poets, a lifelong socialist activist, a former President of TAP into a Better Tasmania (formerly Tasmanians Against a Pulp Mill) and a former President of the SEARCH Foundation.

Tim Thorne was born in 1944 in Launceston, Tasmania, and lived there most of his life, apart from short periods in Sydney, NSW and Palo Alto, California. He married Stephanie Lyne in 1969 and they have two daughters and two granddaughters.

Tim began writing poetry at an early age and published 15 collections of poetry, the first in 1969 and the last one, Running Out of Entropy (Walleah Press) in 2018. His other books included: Tense Mood and Voice (Lyre-Bird Writers, 1969), A Nickel in My Mouth (Robin Hill Books, 1979), Red Dirt (Paper Bark Press, 1990), The Streets Aren’t for Dreamers (Shoestring Press, 1995), Taking Queen Victoria to Inveresk (QVM&AG, 1997), A Letter to Egon Kisch (Cornford Press, 2007); and I Con: New and Selected Poems (Salt, 2008).

While he was often loosely associated with the so-called Generation of 68 poets, Tims’ work transcended the often-rigid sectarianism of Australian poetry and he was one of those rare poets whose work was read widely among readers who normally wouldn’t read poetry. His poems appeared in most major Australian literary journals as well as many international ones. 

In 1985, Tim inaugurated the Tasmanian Poetry Festival, which he directed until 2001 and which incorporates his invention, the Launceston Poetry Cup, a performance poetry concept now imitated all over Australia and internationally. He was writer-in-residence with several organisations, including the Miscellaneous Workers Union (now the UWU) and the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, and he also worked as a poet in schools, universities and prisons.

Tim was awarded numerous prizes including the Stanford Writing Scholarship, 1971; New Poetry Award, 1973; Marten Bequest Travelling Scholarship for poetry, 1978; and the Gleebooks Poetry Sprint, 1995. He won the Launceston Poetry Cup in 2006 and 2008 and was a finalist in the Australian National Poetry Slam in 2009 and 2010. He was awarded the William Baylebridge award for A Letter to Egon Kisch in 2007, the Christopher Brennan Award in 2013 and the Gwen Harwood Poetry Prize in 2014. He also received grants and fellowships from the Australia Council, Arts Tasmania and the Eleanor Dark Foundation.

Tim was also active throughout his life in many campaigns and movements for social justice, peace, and environmental conservation and sustainability. In the late 1960s and early 1970s he was a leading activist in the movement to end conscription and Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War, establishing the Vietnam Moratorium movement in Launceston in 1969. Later he helped establish the Northern Tasmanian Unemployed Workers’ Union (1978), Now We the People (Tasmania) in 2000, and the Campaign for a Clean Tamar Valley in 2006.

Tim was a member of the Labor Party until he resigned in 1980, and twice was a Tasmanian delegate to the ALP national conference. From 2001, he was the main organiser of the Tasmanian ‘Now We the People’ group that included leading labour movement and Greens activists. He helped to organise NWTP Tasmania’s ‘A Future for Life’ in February 2007, a weekend seminar focussing on the effects of global warming, and including uranium and nuclear issues. In 2014 he was elected President of TAP into a Better Tasmania (formerly Tasmanians Against a Pulp Mill). Tim was elected to the SEARCH Committee in 2008 and later became Vice President and then President (2014).

A major selection of Tim’s poetry can be found on-line at The Australian Poetry Library: https://www.poetrylibrary.edu.au/poets/thorne-tim

The image of Tim Thorne is by Stephanie Thorne.

This tribute is based on a tribute written for The Search Foundation, by Brian Aarons, with contributions by Mark Roberts