"Creation's Holiday": On Silence and Monsters in Australian Poetry

Allow me for a moment, O Lord,
To begin to become a little bit like someone else.
 — Anna Akhmatova, tr. by Judith Hemschemeyer

I keep telling people that if they want to start their lives over again, go over to Australia to do it.
 — David Bowie


In 1965, during the seventy-sixth and final summer of her life, Anna Akhmatova encountered the work of Judith Wright, an Australian poet twenty-six years her junior, living more than eight thousand miles from Saint Petersburg amid the subtropical rainforest of Tamborine Mountain, in the state of Queensland. The experience, we are told by Anatoly Naiman, moved the Russian poet to compose a fragment, one of her last:

Let the Australian sit down, invisible, among us,
And let her speak words that will make us feel luminous,
As if she shook our hand and smoothed our wrinkles,
As if she forgave, finally, the unforgivable evil.
And let everything recommence — time independent of us again
And once more space and even silence.
 — Tr. by Judith Hemschemeyer

Read the full essay on the Poetry Foundation website.