Katherine Gallagher has published four full-length collections of poetry, a book of poetry translations from French, two chapbooks and two pamphlets, as well as a book of haiku. She was born in Maldon, Victoria, September 1935 and grew up on a 600-acre wheat and sheep farm at Eastville ten miles away. Gallagher started writing poetry in Australia in the 1960s before moving to Europe, living first in Paris and then in London where she still lives. Discussing her early forays into poetry, Gallagher noted, “Growing up at Eastville, I had the landscape — knew every stick and stone in some places. But now, almost suddenly, poetry became my life, my way of seeing. . .”
Elsewhere, Gallagher continues: “My life has been greatly affected by growing up on a farm in central Victoria at Eastville, a small place consisting of an Anglican church, a post office and a one-teacher-13-pupil-school. I was second in a fourth generation Irish-Australian family of 8 children, and my Irish heritage is very important to me. Eastville, with its grassy paddocks, classic eucalypts, undulating hills and stretching skies, gave me a lasting sense of sky and landscape. Beyond the house paddocks were Maldon, my birthplace, and Mt. Tarrengower, settled into the blue-haze. This childhood was “the quiet life” par excellence — ‘All that silence, as if nothing’s/happening under the sky.’”
Gallagher’s poetry offers insights into Australian identity from the vantage point of the expatriate, forming and inhabiting landscapes that are often liminal, some part recollection, some part abandonment to the sense of the world’s and experience’s heterogeneity. She writes in ‘Hybrid’ that she has “swallowed a country”, that it — the Australia she left for Europe — remains “my reference-point/for other landscapes/that, after thirty years,/ have multiplied my skies.” She writes back to Australia from an ‘Australia’ that is experienced through the long distance of time and separation, “grown more vivid with absence”. Her poetry is in someways one of homecoming, of a return to the world and experience, and their origin in the plainly spoken ‘I’ constantly being formed and reformed, open to:
the storm of arriving —
past distances, faces
that I have assembled
among words, puzzles stretched to
new meanings over lost times
spaces I can't name, never could.
It is a poetry of tenderness, “a caring, an awe before one’s experience, an attempt to present a voice behind the poem, a ‘singing’ voice – quiet, inward, meditative.” It is not a poetry of possession, it does not make grand claims but writes its way between cultures with simplicity and clarity, making room for the human and the individual, the emotional and the lived.
The Eye’s Circle, Rigmarole, Melbourne, 1974.
Tributaries of the Love-Song, Angus & Robertson, 1978.
Passengers to the City, Hale & Iremonger, Sydney, 1985.
Fish-rings on Water, Forest Books, London, 1989.
Finding the Prince, Hearing Eye, London, 1993
The Sleepwalker with Eyes of Clay: a translation of Jean-Jacques Celly’s ‘Le somnambule aux yeux d'argile.’ Forest Books, London, 1994.
Tigers on the Silk Road, Arc Publications, Lancashire, 2000.
After Kandinsky, Vagabond Press, Sydney, 2005.
Circus-Apprentice, Arc Publications, Lancashire, 2006.
Carnival Edge: New & Selected Poems, Arc Publications, Lancashire, 2010
Katherine Gallagher’s homepage:
Interview with Professor Lidia Vianu, Bucharest University
Katherine Gallagher Poetry Kit Interview with Ted Slade:
Poetry p f profile of Katherine Gallagher: