I was going to write a tribute to the late poet, Jordie Albiston, who died earlier this week, but in truth it just makes me too sad. I met her when we were both at the beginning of our writing careers and she – and her work – remained dear to me, even though I rarely saw her in the last decade or so. I think the last time was at a Collected Works Bookshop benefit – too many years ago. Her last book (it pains me to write that) Fifteeners has just won the John Bray Poetry Award. My heart goes out to her family.
What do you do with dogged sadness? I buried myself in Helen Garner’s diaries. I read the first one last week and followed that, licketty split with the final volume, How to End a Story. This is an extraordinary piece of work – I couldn’t put it down – it was like reading a fictional account of a marriage savagely and stubbornly dissolving. An unexpected internet outage gifted me with a free day and I found the middle diary, One Day I’ll Remember This unexpectedly at one of our local library branches. It was an odd experience knowing the end of the marriage break-up before seeing the relationship take off. I found myself whisper-shrieking as I read, ‘Don’t do it! It’s going to end in tears!’. And, later, ‘Never marry a man who eats the food you’ve prepared without thanks or relish – this is not going to be good for you.’
Now that I’ve finished the diaries and my indignation has subsided, the sadness has crept back in. I’m grieving for myself as well. I’m so isolated from the world I once occupied. When I ran La Mama Poetica, I was in touch with the poetry scene and played a significant role. I gave that up years ago, of course. I’d done it for a decade – it was time to hand it on. But when I moved to the Hills, the Word Tree was a vital connection to the world of poetry. Collected Works still existed. There were points of contact. They’ve gone, replaced with two and a half years of moving house, care-giving and COVID. I’m still hunkered down. It’s not uncomfortable, but it is lonely.