Z is for Fay Zwicky

Picnic by Fay Zwicky

Poetry is an interesting creation. It’s something I have issues with but also great admiration for anyone who can write it. Fay Zwicky has spent more than 60 years writing poetry and in 2005 the committee of the Patrick White Award decided her efforts had not been recognised appropriately. When they rang Zwicky thought it was a hoax, she doesn’t expect recognition.

One of her most famous works is called Kaddish. It was written as an elegy for her father who drowned without having had Kaddish recited for him. The Kaddish (prayer, not poem) is a very beautiful prayer which is recited when someone dies and then at various points in the mourning process. It’s not Hebrew but Aramaic and rather than talking about the deceased it actually talks about the living, I’m not sure why it generally has me in tears. One day I’ll find Zwicky’s poem and read that to see if it has the same effect on me there.

As Zwicky is fourth generation Australian and born in Melbourne I’m prepared to bet she knows my family. Having said that she has lived in Perth for many years and I’m sure would be absolutely horrified to find I’ve used her in this series. She seems to be a quiet lady who just ‘gets things done’ and doesn’t expect anything else.

She’s been writing during an interesting phase in Australian Jewish writing and has made some pertinent observations about the ways Jewish female writers are marginalised in Australian literature in her book The Lyre in the Pawnshop. I would have linked to that for you to look at but I can’t find it available for sale as a new book.

I’d like to meet her.