The Away-Bound Train: writers on place

The curious title of this Writers Week event comes from a poem by Les Murray, one of the speakers at the session.  I say ‘speaker’ but could just as easily have said ‘reader’, as each of the four authors (Caryl Phillips, Alan Hollinghurst and Dionne Brand as well as Murray) began by reading from their own work. Australian author Peter Goldsworthy hosted this panel of novelists and poets as they revealed the importance of ‘place’ in their writing.

The contrast in these writers’ chosen settings was intense. Murray spoke of the Australian countryside, of ‘horse-dung roads’, upland farms and wind-blown paddocks; Alan Hollinghurst read from The Swimming Pool Library, describing ‘broad Georgian streets’ and market squares in a small Dorsetshire town.  Caryl Phillips chose to read one of his non-fiction pieces, a disturbing account of the ‘communal trauma’ of the days following 9/11, as New Yorkers dealt with their shock and grief in the face of ‘that huge gap’ in the city skyline. Dionne Brand read from her book-length poem Ossuaries, a work of extraordinarily rich vocabulary that I can’t wait to read in full.

Definitely a good evening! and the work of all of these authors is available in the Barr Smith Library. What would we do without libraries?

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