Vale Judith Rodríguez

Rochford Street Press was saddened to learn of the death of Judith Rodríguez on 22 November 2018. Judith was one of the Australian poets I grew up reading and discovering Mudcrab at Gambaro (UQP 1980s) was one of those poetic memories that has always stayed with me. Rochford Street Press expresses our deepest condolences to Judith’s family and many friends and colleagues.

The following is a tribute to Judith published by PEN International (In memory of Judith Rodríguez (1936-2018)).

 – Mark Roberts


A Farewell to Judith Rodríguez 

Judith Rodríguez died today, November 22, 2018. A beloved friend to many of us, Judith was a distinguished Australian poet and human rights advocate. She served the PEN community for many years in many roles, both locally and internationally.

Born Judith Catherine Green in Perth, Western Australia, on 13 February 1936, she grew up in Brisbane and attended Queensland University. From there she went to Cambridge for an MA, where she met her first husband, Fabio Rodríguez. They were married in 1965.

Professionally, she combined poetry, university teaching, publishing, and printmaking. She sometimes illustrated her poetry with woodcuts and had exhibitions of her prints in Australia and Paris. In 1979-82 she was the poetry editor of the literary journal Meanjin while teaching at La Trobe University (1969-85). From 1988 until 1997 Rodriguez was poetry editor with Penguin Australia but was back in academe at Deakin University from 1998 until 2003. Along the way nine collections of her poetry were published, and a play and an opera were performed. Her work has been rewarded with numerous prizes and fellowships.

Judith joined PEN Melbourne in 1984 and was a leading member of the center’s committee for three decades. She was President of PEN Melbourne during 1990-91, edited The Melbourne PEN newsletter from 1991 to 1995, and was Vice-President of PEN Melbourne for over 15 years.

In 1986 while she was Resident Fellow at Rollins College in Florida, Judith attended her first PEN International Congress in New York. From the 1995 PEN International Congress in Australia, Judith was PEN Melbourne’s Congress delegate and reported on the following:1995 Fremantle; 1996 Guadalajara, Mexico; 1997 Edinburgh; 1999 Warsaw; 2001 London; 2002 Macedonia; 2003 Mexico City; 2004 Tromsø; 2005 Bled; 2006 Berlin; 2007 Dakar; 2008 Bogotá; 2009 Linz; 2010 Tokyo; 2011 Belgrade; 2012 Gyeongju, South Korea; 2013 Reykjavik; 2014 Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan; 2015 Québec City; 2016 Ourense, Galicia; and 2017 Lviv, Ukraine.

Judith Rodriguez was elected a Member-at-Large of the PEN International Board 2001-2004, 2004-2006; a member of the Search Committee from 2006, and its Chair 2008-2009, re-elected and Chair 2009-2012. In 2017 she was elected an International Vice-President of PEN.

Judith was much loved in Australian and international writing communities as a writer, mentor, teacher, and supporter of emerging writers. She taught at universities on four continents and read her poetry in Europe, North America and India.

In 1994 she was made a Member of the Order of Australia, for services to literature, and she is also a recipient of the FAW Christopher Brennan Award. Her poetry collection Mudcrab at Gambaro’s (1980) received the PEN International prize for poetry. Who’s Who in Contemporary Women’s Writing, comments: ‘Her poetry constructs strong female voices which insist on justice, clearly perceiving the intricacies of the personal and the relational. They are not confessional, but draw deeply on experience.’

Judith was a fierce campaigner for social justice, a lover of the written word, an inspiring poet, and a true internationalist who has lived a life of commitment and service both within and beyond many borders. This great woman will be very much missed.

She is survived by her four children: Sibila, Ensor, Rebeca, and Zoë Rodríguez and her second husband, Tom Shapcott, whom she married in 1982.


Vale John Upton

John Upton at the 2015 Puncher & Wattmann Sydney Christmas Party.Photograph John Tranter

John Upton at the 2015 Puncher & Wattmann Sydney Christmas Party.Photograph John Tranter

Rochford Street Review was saddened to learn of the recent death of poet and playwright John Upton. John was a professional playwright and had written for more that 20 Australian television series as well as having five stage plays produced. His political comedy MACHIAVELLI, MACHIAVELLI won the Australian Writers Guild award for Best New Play.

His poetry collection, Embracing the Razor, was published by Puncher & Wattmann in 2014 ( books/book/embracing-the-razor) and his poetry has bee widely published in magazines and journals including The Sydney Morning Herald, The Canberra Times, Cordite, Quadrant and many other magazines and anthologies.

Poet Les Wicks wrote of Embracing the Razor: “This vibrant first book of poetry from John Upton starts with a palpable grief, ranges across a spectrum of characters and moments towards a delightfully deft travelogue followed by playful rhymes. Every poem illuminates, creates a moment in time flawlessly preserved.





Vale Billy Marshall-Stoneking

Billy Marshall Stoneking reading at the launch of The Selected Your Friendly Fascist (Rochford Stret Press) 21st October 2012 at the Friend in Hand Hotel Glebe

Billy Marshall Stoneking reading at the launch of The Selected Your Friendly Fascist (Rochford Stret Press) 21st October 2012 at the Friend in Hand Hotel Glebe (Photograph Joseph Chetcuti).

It was with shock and sadness that I learnt of the death of Billy Marshall-Stoneking late last week. I first meet Billy sometime in the late 1970s when I was just starting out in poetry. At the time he was living and working in the Papunya Aboriginal settlement in the Northern Territory, where he worked with local Pintupi and Luritja people to try and retain and expand the use of their local language. From memory he was reading at the Art Gallery of NSW during a short trip to the “big smoke” and he read some of his own work together with the work of some of the Aboriginal people he was working with. I remember being impressed with the scope and importance of the work he was doing, along with a sense of frustation that it took an American to bring such important Australian work to our attention. As I found out more about him, however, I realised he was more “Australian” than most of us, he had an intense respect for country and a understanding of what it means to live here.

In 1982 Billy undertook a screenwriting program at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School in Sydney and has pursued a career as a a playwright and scriptwriter and editor, stage, film and radio producer, and teacher and mentor. I reconnected with him in 2012 when I worked with Rae Desmond-Jones to publish The Selected Your Friendly Facist which contained work by Billy and we have since had a number of lengthly discussions about writing, film and performance.

Rochford Street Review would like to express its sympathy and condolences to Billy’s partner, Christina Conrad, his family and his many friends.

A detailed biography, together with samples of Billy’s work, is available at the Australian Poetry Library

 – Mark Roberts



Vale Dimitris Tsaloumas

Dimitris Tsaloumas | Image by Helen Nickas,. From Nickas' Cordite article - A Diasporic Journey: Greek-Australian Poetry in Bilingual and English Publications

Dimitris Tsaloumas | Image by Helen Nickas,. From Nickas’ Cordite article – A Diasporic Journey: Greek-Australian Poetry in Bilingual and English Publications

SBS is reporting that Greek-Australian poet Dimitris Tsaloumas has died, aged 94, in Greece where he spent most of his time in recent years greek/en/content/rip-dimitris-tsaloumas-poet

The following biographical detail comes from the Auslit Database and the Australian Poetry Library:

Dimitris Tsaloumas was born in Greece, he was educated in the Italian language, as the Dodecanese islands belonged to Italy between 1912 and 1947. Later, he attended a school on Rhodes, where he also studied violin. By the time he left Greece in 1951, he had published two collections of poetry. One of these collections was printed with the help of English writer Lawrence Durrell who met Tsaloumas on Rhodes and, impressed with the manuscript, arranged the printing at the expense of the British Information Office where Durrell worked at the time.

Tsaloumas left Greece for political reasons, hoping to return as soon as circumstances allowed. He stayed in Australia, however, gaining a BA in English and French in 1959 from Melbourne University and working as a secondary school teacher of English and modern languages in Melbourne until his retirement in 1982. Six of his poetry volumes were published in Greece. A selection from them was published as The Observatory, which won the National Book Council Award in 1983. His work has appeared in a number of journals, including Helix, Antipodes, Chroniko,Meanjin, and Island Magazine.

In 1980 he was awarded a General Writing Grant and, in 1983, a Fellowship from the Literature Board of the Australia Council. In Tsaloumas’ work Hellenic traditions are reflected in highly structured and formal poetry ranging from the elegiac to the sardonic. While regarded as the paradigmatic voice of the poet in exile, more precisely of the Greek diaspora, Tsaloumas perceives himself rather as an Australian-Greek writer. He reflects a classical poetic tradition, presenting a medley of voices, a cast of commentators on modern society. His work transcends the personal and the political and is quite distinct from accounts of migrant experiences which catalogue the minutiae of the struggle for survival.

In 2006, Tsaloumas wrote the text in Japanese haiku for the limited edition artist’s book, Notes Towards a Story of Love, which comprises etchings by Michael Winters and screenprinting by Douglas Kirwan. He has travelled between Melbourne and Leros since his retirement in 1982.

Many of Tsaloumas’ poems can be found at the Australian Poetry Library

In Memoriam: Ron Pretty remembers Ken Taylor

AfricaAs a Sydney-sider, I had not really been aware of Ken Taylor until the manuscript of Africa landed on my desk. I opened it expecting to read about encounters with elephants, survival of the fittest, post-colonial wars etc. (John Olsen must have expected the same, for the cover image he produced for the book shows a tourist on safari, complete with binoculars and solar topee.)

What I got, though, was very different: a series of delicately-constructed lyrics that delighted me as they shattered the misconceptions the title had created. I decided immediately that this was a book I wanted to publish, and when I rang Ken to tell him, he invited me down to his property, Tanah Merah at Mt Macedon, to meet him. It was the beginning of a friendship that lasted until his death last week. Partly, this friendship was built on my appreciation of the book (which won the NSW Premier’s Prize in 2000), but partly also on his generosity and the richness of his life and life stories.

On my first visit, as well as meeting Ken I also met Sarah, the woman who had inspired many of the poems in his new collection – the first he had written since At Valentines twenty-five years before (This book – At Valentines – has now been re-released as part of the Picaro Press Art Box Series). I had driven up from Melbourne to meet them and on that first trip I struggled to find the entrance to his five hectare property near the top of the mountain, but I can still remember my astonishment at the beauty of the place. It was dominated by a series of huge sweet acorn trees, there was a sculpture garden on one of the terraces, and rhododendrons, azaleas and Japanese maples were everywhere.

The house and the nearby tower were of untreated timber. It had been rebuilt, Ken told me, after the bushfires of 1983 had destroyed the original dwelling, along with most of his archives. With them went his plans for writing a memoir of his years as at the ABC working as a film maker in the natural history department. Yet he did write, but never published, a wonderful account of the southern shores of Victoria, of filming trips to the bird-rich marshes around Port Phillip Bay, and of trips in fishing boats to the Bass Strait Islands. He worked on that book over a number of years, and I read several drafts of it, each richer and more impressive than the last.

His failure to get a publisher interested in it was one of his continuing regrets. Another was his parting from Sarah; he had decided that the age difference was just too great, and that, to have a fulfilled life, she needed to marry and have children, which she later did. But I know how much he missed her, how he regretted his decision even though he always believed it had been the right thing to do.

He was a man of great generosity and many enthusiasms. After the fire of ’83, he taught himself to paint, and the walls at Tanah Merah are covered with many of his beautiful watercolours – of the natural world and its creatures, as well as friends, especially Sarah. In his large studio there were dozens, probably hundreds more works, mostly water colours.

He had friends all over the world – the poets A.A. Ammons ( a very influential figure in his own writing), Harold Stewart in Japan (whence Stewart had fled after the Ern Malley affair), friends he had made in France during his early days walking around Europe. He had worked with John Olsen on some of his natural history films, especially those in the outback and they had remained friends and as I mentioned earlier, John Olsen painted the cover image for Africa.

Ken was a keen sailor. When I first met him, he had a trailor-sailor parked in his drive. He sold that later, but became a very keen member of the Albert Park Yacht Club, travelling down there most weekends; when he became too frail to manage by himself, there was always someone to take him out. One of his late ambitions was to buy a boat big enough to live on for considerable periods, but his health failed before that ambition could be achieved.

He was an omnivorous reader. The fire of ‘83 had destroyed his original library, but when I met him in 1999, he was steadily acquiring a new one. Whenever I visited, he usually had two or three new books to show me. The second world war poet Keith Douglas was an especial favourite, as was Basho’s Journey to the Deep North (a title recently borrowed by Richard Flanagan).

He loved the space and tranquility of Mt Macedon, but towards the end he found the winters there rather trying – cold and often foggy – so he tried to go north, or overseas, once the days began to close in.

Beside his poetry, the thing I will remember most is his generosity. He loved friends to come and stay in the tower at Tanah Merah, a tall wooden structure that looked out over the acorn trees and a deep forested valley. He cooked in a kitchen cluttered with utensils, with books, with bottle of wine, with notebooks and sketches. While he was well we talked – and drank – late into the night. He had a rich fund of stories from his travels and his film-making and his painting trips that kept me entertained on our evenings together.

On that day I met him for the first time, I had a good example of his kindness. I was heading north, home to Wollongong, when we parted. To make sure I didn’t get lost, as I followed them, he and Sarah drove the fairly complicated route to the nearest junction with the Hume Highway at Broadford, more than an hour away from Macedon. It was typical of the man, and part of the reason I so much valued his friendship.

– Ron Pretty

Vale Matthew John Davies

Photo from Facebook

It was with a sense of shock that I heard of the tragic death of Brisbane poet Matthew John Davies last Thursday night. Like many who are expressing their shock and sorry today I never meet Matthew in person but we had corresponded extensively online discussing poetry, film (The Thin Man was a mutual favourite) and music. I had asked him for material for P76 and Social Alternatives and was looking forward to publishing him.

Matthew had been published in Page Seventeen, Skive Magazine, Rabbit, Regime and a number of other online and print magazines and journals.

A slection of his work can be found on his blog The Mystery I Cannot Change Right Now. There is also recordings of Matthew reading a number of his poems (along with recordings of Francis Webb who was one his favourite poets) on his Sound Cloud page:

Rochford Street Review expresses our sincere condolences to Matthew’s family and friends.

– Mark Roberts