Remembering Barry Lopez

On Christmas Day one of the global luminaries of literature, Barry Lopez, died.  His Arctic Dreams is surely one of the most extraordinary literary achievements of the twentieth century, and for many years excerpts from this remarkable book were on the syllabi of the units I taught at UTAS, along with his equally remarkable short fictional pieces.  ‘Drought’, published in River Notes in 1979, remains one of my handful of standout pieces of writing, both for the grace with which Barry wrote, and what it has to say.

And he deserves recognition on this site because, a self-declared ’writer who travels’, he was here in 1996, a guest at the last of the island’s sadly unsustainable blockbuster writers’ festivals.  He stayed on, and in that time we formed a friendship that post-dated his departure.  He was interested in evil as a phenomenon, and was keen to visit Port Arthur.  At first the sweetly manicured lawns and avenues of roses disappointed, but all this was to change once we entered the Model Prison with its chilling technologies of surveillance.  Now Barry felt the immediacy of all that is raw in the human psyche, and when we re-emerged onto the larger site he brought with him a different sensibility.

But this trip was remarkable for another reason.  While I took myself off for a slash Barry rested against a mustard-coloured Volvo with a surfboard on top in the Broad Arrow carpark.  Yes, Martin Bryant’s car, and yes, this was a mere week before Martin Bryant committed his deeds of infamy.  With his extraordinary powers of observation Barry was able to convince the investigative task force that Bryant had been on site that day (this wasn’t yet known).  Who knows, Bryant may have been planning to let fly that very day, only to opt, for some reason, for a brief postponement.

At the 2015 conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, held in Moscow, Idaho, I was privileged to sit on a panel dedicated to Barry’s legacy, and there I recounted the Port Arthur incident at length as the largest component within an account of Barry’s time in Tasmania, and of the impact that Tasmania had upon him.  He even published locally – a brilliant short essay, ‘Natural Grief’, was published in Famous Reporter in 1996.

Barry has suffered from prostate cancer for several years – even so, his death came as a shock.  Wildfires that tore through the Oregon woods in the last northern Fall destroyed his home and his treasured archive.  No doubt this tragedy hastened Barry’s end.  And here’s how ‘Natural Grief’ ends:

I want to say to the bear, They want your home, you know.  Hold out as long as you can.  Eat my table leavings if you must.  A lot of us will be going down the river with you.

The last unyielding days will be beautiful, I believe.  I do not think the bear will ever honor the request to dance.

Barry Lopez’s voice has been taken from us, and we need it.  I honour him.  I will dance.

Forgotten but not forgotten

Forgotten_Corners_Pete_Hay_CoverI’ve neglected you, dear friends, for an unpardonably long time. There’s a reason, though. I’ve been preparing a book of essays for publication and it’s primed and ready to go. The marvelous Ralph Wessman of Walleah Press has put it together, and as usual, he has done a brilliant job. Matt Newton, who features in my pages more than once, took the cover photo – that’s me in the window of the late and sorely missed ‘Joe’ (Jeff) King’s shanty at King’s Run on the Arthur Rive coast. Forgotten Corners is the main title of the collection, and its sub-title is Essays in Search of an Island’s Soul, which is more than a tad saccharine, but certainly conveys the sense of the book.

This is my first book-length publication since Physick: Catharsis and the Natural Things, and I want it to have just as much impact. It’s 17 years’ worth of published essays Continue reading “Forgotten but not forgotten”

A few more things that have happened/are happening

Back so soon? – well, the fact is I held a couple of items back in my post the other day.  It seemed to me that I’d already hit you with too many words, and I hold the view that, in this didgy world, the ‘too much’ limit is reached sooner rather than later.  So I cut it short.

Anyway, here follow the items I held back the other day. Continue reading “A few more things that have happened/are happening”

A few things have happened …

… since I last posted. There have been two more performances of Indignados!, one in the inner-Hobart Latin American cafe, Yambu, and the other in the very beautiful Eaglehawk Neck Community Hall. Each was a triumph, and in both cases we had a full house. As I’m about to go to Greece for a month Continue reading “A few things have happened …”

Talking Tasmanian Literature in the Faroe Islands

This is the paper I gave at The Tower at the End of the World Conference in Torshavn, Faroe Islands, in May 2017. It was exceedingly well received, though very many people couldn’t calibrate their aural senses to my north west coast twang! Among a conference full of exotic people, I was by far the most exotic – almost a Thylacine. Continue reading “Talking Tasmanian Literature in the Faroe Islands”

The Sea, the Sea, Always the Sea…

This paper, published in Island Studies Journal, extends, in important ways, some of the many themes discussed in my 2007 paper, ‘A Phenomenology of Islands’. The paper crucially considers the role of the sea in the construction of a collective island psyche. I think this is a superior paper Continue reading “The Sea, the Sea, Always the Sea…”

When a Poet Rips Himself to Shreds

My collaboration with my artist friend Tony Thorne, that culminated in Last Days of the Mill (a finalist in the 2013 Tasmanian Book Prize), left me with profound ethical misgivings on one particular score. In this 2017 paper, I face that demon down. Continue reading “When a Poet Rips Himself to Shreds”

Girl Reading Lorca at the Mirador San Nicolas

A poem by Pete Hay

Published in ‘Girl Reading Lorca’ (2014)


Granada, Lorca writes,
draws to its ancient walls and waters
those of a temper
melancholic, contemplative.

At the Mirador San Nicolas
the coral white of the tower
unbearably focuses the day’s high heat
on the brown body of a woman
who sits reading Lorca. Continue reading “Girl Reading Lorca at the Mirador San Nicolas”