Ivor Indyk on Fay Zwicky and the Limits of Scorn

Ivor Indyk

Abstract: Fay Zwicky, who died recently, had one of the most powerful voices in Australian poetry, and could be merciless in her criticism and conversation too. Scorn, and the authority conferred by scorn, was an essential part of her power. In a memorable essay in her collection The Lyre in the Pawnshop, Zwicky excoriated Les Murray as ‘a colonial stoic with messianic intent’, whose vatic self-inflation was sustained in reaction to 'the degeneration, weakness and cynicism of his society’. Scorn against scorn: one recognises this stance in Zwicky’s poetry too! What does this tell us about the authority available to poets in a culture which generally denies they have any?

Ivor Indyk is the publisher of the award-winning literary imprint Giramondo Publishing, and Whitlam Professor in the Writing and Society Research Centre at Western Sydney University.

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