1985 Macquarie University Residency

John Tranter  — Senior Fellowship,
1985 Macquarie
University Residence
16 September to 15 November
Tranter’s Journal

Items in [square brackets] are
later interpolations, from 2017. J.T.

Paragraph One follows: 1:

I attended Macquarie University as their writer-in-residence from 16 September to 15 November 1985.


I attended the university and made myself available for discussion with staff and students three days a week from about 10 am to 2.30 pm.


At Mark McLeod’s suggestion, I ran a poetry-writing workshop for an hour at lunchtime each week from Tuesday 1 September for seven weeks. Maximum enrolment was twelve, with an average of six to eight, tailing off as the end of semester and yearly examinations neared. I encouraged the participants to talk about each other’s work and kept to the background as much as possible.


Bruce Williams, one of the participants in the workshop, interviewed me, and the recording was later broadcast on 2SER-FM.


I met often with Joan Kirkby and Mark McLeod, and we had some enjoyable discussions. Mark and I have decided to work towards a book of joint interviews with a dozen or so Australian writers, and we will have a detailed outline to present to a publisher within a few months. [This failed to occur –J.T. 2017]


I gave a number of readings of my own poetry, with discussion, to a number of classes: on Thursday 10 October and twice on Thursday 31 October in the morning and in the evening. I sat in on a literature class to discuss my work (my Selected Poems was a set text that semester) on two occasions: Wednesday 2 September and Wednesday 30 October.


Perhaps my most visible contribution to the intellectual life of the university was a talk I gave on Thursday 3 September titled ‘What’s New About the New Australian Poetry?’ [I enclose a relevant poster, and the draft script for the talk.][Not attached here–J.T. 2017] It was well attended by both staff and students, and a very brisk and enjoyable session of questions followed.


For five and a half weeks of the time I was attending Macquarie, my wife Lyn was managing a tour of Australian poets in America, and I had to look after the housework, take care of our two children and manage my wife’s typesetting business while she was away. This sometimes meant that I had to cut corners a little with the residency, but I managed to get done most of the things I had planned. I even found time to get some writing of my own done, which is after all one of the purposes of the residency scheme.


I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Head of School, Associate Professor Colin Yallop, for his kindness in having me at Macquarie and for his many helpful courtesies while I was there. Professor Tony Gibbs and Professor Howard Felperin also went out of their way to make my time there enjoyable and intellectually rewarding, and staff members such as Joan Kirkby, Mark McLeod, Yasmine Gooneratne and Alex Craig made me feel at home.


All in all, I found my time as writer-in-residence at Macquarie a very invigorating and worthwhile experience. I feel that writers and teachers both have a lot to gain from this kind of relationship, which I believe helps to break down false barriers and misunderstandings between them.

(John Tranter)
Sydney, 20 January, 1986