Archive for the ‘poets’ Category

A Lyrical Afternoon in celebration of the life and work of Norman Talbot, Dorothy Hewett and Merv Lilley was held at Varuna, The Writers’ House in Katoomba,  on the 15th September 2012.

The first part of the afternoon was dedicated to honouring the life and work of Norman Talbot. Presenters included Dr Jean Talbot, Don Cohen,  President of Catchfire Press, Dr Christopher Pollnitz, Jo Tregellis and Zeny Giles.

Original running order for the segment was as follows :

The Work of Norman Talbot

Introduction by Don Cohen
Jean Talbot gives biographical details then reads the following poems:
First Hen Sonnet (photo)
Mum in a Photograph (photo)
Nine Tailors (photo)
Parachutes in the Second World War (photo)
Bell Pullers
At Aunt Ivy’s Christmas 1944

Followed by Christopher Pollnitz reading the following poems:
The Cactus
The Wrath of Tibrogargan
Birdsong at the Double Locks
The bat, Gunnedah
Listening to Little Wobby: Poetry Class
Followed by Zeny Giles reading from the unpublished novel Sulphurcrest

Followed by Don Cohen reading the following poems:
The Mystic Boiler Maker
The Birds of Lake Macquarie

Followed by Jean Talbot and Don Cohen reading The Pinkerton Haiku.

In addition to the Tribute, the Newcastle Poets also presented readings from recent works as part of the Event. Running order for this segment was Jo Tregellis, Dr Christopher Pollnitz, Zeny Giles, Don Cohen and Dr Jean Talbot.

The second part was dedicated to honouring the life and work of Merv Lilley. Presenters included Rozanna (Rose) Lilley, Marilla North, Tom Flood, Joe Flood and Adele Flood.

The original running order of the Merv Lilley segment (plus one Dorothy poem):

A: Poems (Rose and Marilla): approx. 15 mins
1. [from Git Away Back (1983)] Legend: 1 min

Rose : From What About the People?
2. Lucky Gem (p.14, 1.30)
3. When Freedom Cannot Marry (p.28, 2 mins)
4. The Canecutters Comeback (p.51, 45 secs)

Then Marilla does :
Go Down Red Roses (5 mins)

5. Where Sailor’s Belong (p.54, 1 min)
6. Nostalgia (p.61, 1.35)

Then Marilla does :
Husband of the Poet (2 mins)

B: Merv songs : Tom, Joe, Adele: approx. 15 mins
Anti-Fouling Roll
Cane Killed Abel
Pick-up Shed (2.5 mins)
Birchgrove Park
Possibly a 5th Merv song (shorter than D’s)

C: Poems from Cautious Birds (1973): Rose: approx. 7 mins
To A Sleeping Bird (1 min)
On Holiday (1 min)
God’s Fool (1 min)
The Lesson (1 min)
Through Every Grey Dawn (1 min)
River Road (2 mins)

D: Prose/ Pom reads from Gatton Man (approx. 5 mins)

E: Merv on death: Rose (approx. 3 mins)
From Sandgropers (1973)
Lucy (p.17, 1 min) [about the death of his mother]

Poems Merv wrote late in life
Swift (ms, 1.30) [about the death of his mother/Dorothy]
Request (ms 40 sec)
[this last poem is about Dorothy’s grave, so that segues nicely into the
DH section]

The third and final part of the afternoon was dedicated to honouring the life and work of Dorothy Hewett. Presenters included Rozanna (Rose) Lilley, Rosie Scott, Tom Flood, Joe Flood and Adele Flood.

The original running order of the Dorothy segment is as follows:

A: Dorothy songs: Tom, Joe , Adele [15 mins]
Norman Brown (Tom)
Sailor Home From the Sea (Adele)
Sweet Song for Katie (Adele)
Black Strike (Clancy & Dooley)

B: Rose reads
Once I Rode with Clancy (3 mins)
Living Dangerously

C: Rosie Scott: 10 mins
Halfway Up the Mountain
In Wind and Rain

D: Rose reads from Wild Card (Last Summer) 5 mins

This segment finishes with ‘You’ve said enough’, snaps the ghost of my
grandmother, ‘so hold your tongue.’

Reminiscences (Joe Flood)
End of the Town
Dorothy on Death
Last Rites

Final Song: Weevils in the Flour

At the end of the day was heard the most beautiful Australian song ever written. A poem by Dorothy Hewett in 1963, set to music by Mike Leyden in 1965. Based upon the reminiscences of the Great Depression by our own local treasure Vera Deacon. The “island in the river” is Moscheto Island that once stood in the Hunter River, the BHP was own BHP, the Humpies were those on Platt’s Estate.

A classic Australian song based from memories of Newcastle.

Weevills in the Flour (Click for a larger image)

UPDATED Weevils in the Flour: A short history of a song by Mark Gregory (1.1MB PDF File)

Please read Weevils in the Flour: A short history of a song by musicologist Mark Gregory. Also included is a note about the new setting of Black Strike (Clancy & Dooley & Don McLeod) relating to the first strike . Mark Gregory, in conversation with Marilla North, has referred us to the eminent  Julian Croft’s (of University of New England) paper he did back in 1999 – “A Sense of Industrial Place” published in ANTIPODES Vol 13 No 1, June 1999. Croft  nominates Newcastle as “the world’s first industrial city” and asserts that it was “atypical of the usual construction of Australian place”. He further asserts that proper parallels for the shaping of Newcastle should be made with Stuttgart, Birmingham and Pittsburgh.  One of Mark’s discovered heroes is “Frank the Poet” who has his own link:  who actually was a convict sited in Newcastle over 1837/1840 and who wrote four poems in or near Newcastle c 1838.

Marilla North, who conceived and organised this event contact Vera Deacon, who unfortunately could not make it. She did send her apologies which included the following reply:

I’d love to be there with Malcolm to remember Dorothy and Norman. One of the great joys of my life in the Sydney Realist Writers meetings was to her Doffy, as our little children called her, say her poems in that wonderful, melodious voice…”Have you heard the children singing…” and “Hiroshima, Hiroshima.” Our fifties generation of young mothers was haunted by fear of the atom bomb tests and our children developing leukemia; a fear powerfully real for Dorothy who had lost her little boy to leukemia. The RWG National Council published Merv Lilley and Dorothy’s collection What About the People. Denis Kevans and I sold that precious collection in the Sydney Domain, when we were invited to recite the poems from various stumps. I treasure a photo of myself, taken in 1964 by an old man, as I spoke from the stump. You can clearly see a copy of What About the People in my hand.

It’s seven years since Denis Kevans, Australia’s ‘Poet Lorikeet’, died in August 2005. Ten years since Doffy left us to sleep in that lovely Springwood bushland place. Eight years since I sat with many others, in silent homage to the moving quaker celebration of Norman Talbot’s life. A few years since I heard Merv Lilley and Jean Talbot perform the “Swan River Love Poem” at a hamilton poets’ night. Our memories, our lives are richer for having known them. Now I have kate Lilley’s selection of Dorothy’s poems and so the music of her life and work lives on.

Please give Merv and Jean a BIG HUG and greet the members of the Performance Celebration for me.

Cheers! Love and Big Hugs for you!!


Introduction to the Josiah Cocking Papers
by Tony Laffan

Josiah Cocking (1867-1960) could probably lay claim to have been the most published Newcastle poet to date. As well as being a coal miner and socialist autodidact, for over 30 years Cocking contributed poetry and letters to a wide variety of socialist and union newspapers. Cocking wrote under names such as Daisy, Dandelion (Dan Deleon), K. N. Pepper, Violet, Taraxacum, Capsicum, Billy Khan and Edward Kelly as well as several varieties of Soshalistic Kove when writing in the C.J. Dennis style. His material was published in such papers as The People, International Socialist, Newcastle Argus, Newcastle Morning Herald, The Toiler, The Industrialist, OBU Herald, Revolutionary Socialist, Common Cause, Tribune and War Cry. Cocking was a member of the Australian Socialist league from 1893 and was an advocate of industrial unionism and the Industrial Workers of the World from 1907. He was a consistent anti-militarist and did regular knee drill at the local Salvation Army hall.

He also kept a diary and copies of his writings. His papers have been put into a coherent order by a grandson and deposited with the University of Newcastle Archives. These papers include an unpublished anti-war novel. Unfortunately Cocking did not always maintain his diaries but when he did we get valuable insights into the history of the labour movement as well insights on the intellectual development of this fascinating autodidact. The period 1893 to 1896 is written up and is important as it describes what the Australian Socialist league did at Wallsend. The period from 1899 to 1904 is also covered but from then until 1920 the papers are mainly copies of published letters, poems and articles from the International Socialist During 1920 Cocking resumed his diary, which then continues for most of the next four decades. These papers are a valuable resource and the diary portion is available as a CD-ROM from the Archives. The call numbers are A7748 to A7754, inclusive. They will repay research.

Tony Laffan
(Published in The Hummer. Publication of the Sydney Branch Australian Society for the Study of Labour History. Vol. 3 No. 7 Summer 2001-2002. )

Biographical Note
Josiah Cocking was born on the 11th May 1867 at Kadina in South Australia and died on the 27th July 1960 aged 93 at Mayfield, New South Wales. Mr Cocking was a miner and part of the early socialist and free-thought movement of Newcastle. He lived for a time in Wallsend and Mayfield, and wrote much verse for the local papers of the time under such pseudonyms as “Dandelion” and “Capsicum”. For a greater insight on the life and character of Josiah Cocking please view his biography in typescript (1.73Mb PDF file) or (496kB OCR PDF file) written by his son, Mr Arthur James Cocking (1916 – 1989).

The diaries and notebook papers of Mr Josiah Cocking were deposited in the Archives, Rare Books and Special Collections Unit (now Cultural Collections) of the University of Newcastle in November 1999 by Mr Keith Cocking. The shelf listing was completed on the 3rd March 2000 by Gionni di Gravio.


The notebook diaries of Josiah Cocking:

A. 14 November 1884 – 18 May 1893,  f.1 – 174.

B. 18 May 1893 – 7 April 1894, f.175 – 274.

C. 8 April 1894 – 11 April 1899, f.275 – 444.

D. 17 March 1899 – 15 January 1910, f.445 – 646.

E. 4 December 1909 – 17 May 1920, f.647 – 878.

F. 21 May 1920 – 20 December 1921, f.879 – 1088.

G. 4 October 1921 – 16 March 1923, f.1089 – 1268.

H. 19 March 1923 – 19 February 1926, f.1269 – 1524.

I. 4 September 1926 – 22 June 1928, f.1525 – 1654.

J. 15 June 1928 – 13 November 1929, f.1655 – 1758.

K. 13 November 1929 – 25 April 1931, f.1759 – 1856.

L. 5 June 1931 – 17 August 1932, f.1857 – 2012.

M. 18 August 1932 – 10 August 1933, f.2013 – 2112.

N. 21 August 1933 – 26 April 1934, f.2113 – 2248.


The notebook diaries of Josiah Cocking:

O. 27 April 1934 – 29 January 1935, f.2249 – 2368.

P. 31 January 1935 – 15 October 1935, f.2369 – 2502.

Q. 16 October 1935 – 31 July 1937, f.2503 – 2750.

R. 28 July 1937 – 28 June 1938, f.2751 – 2892.

S. 1 July 1938 – 13 December 1938, f.2893 – 2976.

T. 15 December 1938 – 14 September 1939, f.2977 – 3064.

V. 12 June 1940 – 15 January 1943, f.3185 – 3328.

W. 15 January 1943 – 1 January 1944, f.3329 – 3438.

X. 6 January 1944 – 12 January 1945, f.3439 – 3599.

Y. 7 February 1945 – 3 March 1946, f.3591 – 3742 and 10 March 1946 – 7 August 1947, f.3743 – 3864.

Z. 13 August 1947 – 5 August 1949, f.3865 – 4018 and 13 August 1949 – 26 July 1952, f.4019 – 4144.

ZZA2. 9 August 1952 – 28 July 1954, f.4145 – 4254 and 30 August 1954 – 13 January 1956, f.4255 – 4360.


ZZB2. 20 January 1956 – 7 June 1957, f.4361 – 4434 and 12 June 1957 – 21 November 1958, f.4435 – 4510.

ZZC2. 22 November 1958 – 11 March 1960, f.4511 – 4620.