On Sunday 6 October 2019, special guest Karen Throssell (grand-daughter of Katharine and Hugo), Wild Weeds Press and the KSP Writers' Centre launched 'Kaleidoscope' at the Colours of KSP 50th anniversary commemoration event.
The list of winners and Karen's launch speech is published below.
About Kaleidoscope: 'Fifty years after her passing, the KSP Writers’ Centre community have banded together to reflect on the life and legacy of noted Australian author Katharine Susannah Prichard. Whether it be the conjuring of fictional fancies, poetic reminiscences, re-treading of footsteps long gone or fond recollections of 11 Old York Road in Greenmount, these pages are filled with evocative tales that bring Katharine back to life. This commemoration anthology is dedicated to her memory, her essence, her legacy: Katharine Susannah Prichard 1883-1969.'
Photos above: Karen Throssell
Judged by: Nathan Hobby
Category Winner & Overall Winner
Rosanne Dingli - 'Impatience of the Bold'
Jane Downing - 'Child of the Tide'
Joe Harrison - 'Shedding the Chrysalsis'
Tim Nelson - 'Windows'
Rachel Watts - 'Children of the Hurricane'
Judged by: Nathan Hobby
Melanie Hall - 'The Geraniums of 1967'
Shannon Coyle - 'Dear Katharine'
Denise Faithfull - 'On Literary Pilgrimages'
Sarah Nicholson - 'William, Katharine, and I'
Judged by: Shey Marque
Flora Smith - ‘Cross Purposes’
L. Ashby - ‘Your Letter’
Mardi May - ‘Contemplation’
Scott-Patrick Mitchell - ‘Ritual for Achieving Dreams’
Glen Phillips - ‘The Fire at Katharine’s Place’
Rose van Son - ‘Wild Nasturtiums’
Michelle Atkinson-de Garis
Graeme K. Butler
Above: Judge Nathan Hobby with Overall Winner Rosanne Dingli
Below: Poetry winners
Above: Short Fiction and Non-Fiction Winners
Launch Speech by Karen Throssell:
It is a great pleasure to be here in my grandmother’s house— looking roughly as I always remembered it, except for the built- in verandah and the relatively ‘tamed’ garden. And how many others get to have one of their favourite places preserved, as well as being frequently invited back there, for events like this one?
We have always been an extremely close family, notoriously defensive of Katharine and Hugo, and determined to safeguard their true legacy and even the mythology from the depredations of the establishment.
So initially I had to overcome not only this defensiveness, but also to stem the feeling of exposure and intrusion that comes from having members of your family as public property. I was initially quite anxious about reading all these stories detailing the life or the imagined life of someone I was so close to and loved so much, and about the house I was so attached to, that I live in my own version in the bush in the Yarra Valley…
But these feelings have been broken down over the years with the number of people approaching me to talk about their books, or research projects on KSP as they’ve usually been so reverential as well as fastidious about their research, I have grown to see public exposure in a more positive light. And I have learned new information about Katharine and aspects of her life (especially thanks to Nathan–who has taught me a great deal – for example about Hugo’s family making me understand the reason for the mutual antipathy between them and Katharine – They were the establishment she wanted overthrown! ) There were also details about her pre-Jim love-life I didn’t know. Not surprisingly, this was something neither she nor my father ever talked about…apart from the exotic name of her lover –her Preux Chevalier …
Stories in this anthology have also taught me other things –about the missing years between Katharine’s death and the opening of ‘Katharine’s Place’ and about the family who lived there. Whilst we were initially horrified about our beloved Greenmount being tarted up and ‘Englishified,’ I had no idea of the state the house was in when they bought it, nor how much work had to be done to make it liveable, nor about Katharine’s continued presence… It was great finding out about the family who owned it, especially the story about Patricia rescuing Thelma, the Kimberly woman from the side of the road and taking her in for months till she was well enough to travel home. I think Katharine would have really liked Patricia!
I also learned much from Denise Faithful’s detailed explorations of the settings of many of Katharine’s books.(Of course as well as enjoying her sojourns into many other literary lives – the Americans , the French and especially of James Joyce.)
Mel Hall’s story cleverly explores the intersection between memory , illusion, prophesy and ‘second sense’. Something that if you didn’t know, you would not naturally associate with the stern sceptic that was Katharine!
Amongst others, this story also raised memories of mine to add to the
Kaleidoscopes : For example the description of Mel’s psychic Gran’s last days in hospital foreseeing her diagnosis and death, reminded me of Katharine’s similar skill … She apparently knew to the minute when I was born, writing the time down as proof so when she was informed of the great event by a breathless Ric she answered I know. There was also the time she had a terrible sense of Dad being in mortal danger when in fact he was. It was when he was a soldier in PNG in WW2 when he was in a boat that was apparently fired on by his own men thinking he was Japanese. Again Katharine knew precisely the date and time this happened…
It gives all those ghost stories an extra dimension!
And the wonderful spectrum of Ghost stories…from the mere suggestion (a soothing hand for a fellow migraine sufferer, or a door locked from the outside, to lights flickering as if delivering a message.) to the full blown ethereal presence who parties with fellow ghosts, and summons characters from her books to see if they had changed their ways; or statues that come to life and then introduce you to riding – ghost horse and all. Full of imagination and humour but in many cases with much research, most still managing to describe a Katharine that I could recognise. In EJ Sun’s Points of view the conversation between the writer and Katharine when confronted with a royal wedding on social media is spot on Katharine!
‘How curious that one has an infinite web of knowledge at one’s fingertips, yet we still choose to numb our minds with idle gossip about dukes and duchesses,’ …
‘An imperialist feminist? Who’d have thought? Her wedding dress cost more than what most people earn in two or three years! I suppose extravagance is nothing new for the royals. You should read Veblen’s Conspicuous Consumption of the Leisure Class.’
Rachel Watt’s story about the migraine sufferer’s attempt to establish a community garden at Greenmount subtly explores both the private (migraine suffering) and the public Katharine wanting to establish something that was of genuinel help to the needy.( An important part of the kaleidoscope is pink for compassion) was that Katharine definitely lived her politics. Generous to a fault, she once spent an entire royalty cheque buying a set of teeth for the old bloke who helped her in the garden…
And sorry, spoiler alert…I also loved the symbolism of the storm destroying the garden, and how she dealt with it. To me it was about how she faced the setbacks in her life – personal and political… It’s all a learning experience . Just pick yourself up and start again…
Several stories referred to my grandfather’s suicide and as such were very hard to read, knowing suicide as I do. But being hard to read is in fact a testament to the power of the writing and in several cases to impressive literary skill. No-one can know what actually goes through the head of someone who successfully commits suicide, but Rosanne Dingli’s research into Jim’s life, both his social situation and his physical health and indeed her understanding of the psychology of suicide made it all too horrifically believable.
Shannon Coyle’s work, covering the same issue and bringing in her own family ‘black dog legacy’ also rang really true, as did her knowledge of and genuine fondness for Katharine…This section showed a real feel for the richness and reality of Katharine’s life:
There was your young friend David Helfgott playing Rachmaninov on the piano on Friday nights, nips of sherry with your husband in the shade of honeysuckle and a currant vine, the latest jazz playing on a wind-up gramophone, Ric and his school-pals dancing the Charleston on the verandah, writers dropping in for tea, lively discussions on Australian literature and socialism and horses and the pending bloom of your beloved wisteria, planted by Hugo. There was the eternal tapping of your Remington typewriter, the ladling of freshly made jam into small glass jars, stale bread torn and proffered to wandering magpies, wildflower walks with the cooling sea breeze of the Fremantle Doctor, loud devouring of juicy summer loquats, perhaps shared with parrots if feeling generous…
To the uninitiated, Katharine is not known as a poet (and yes I know I am a bit biased here) but it is great that this competition does acknowledge this part of her writing.
There was some fantastic poetry here, and for her selection and her cento I give my thanks to the poetry judge ‘my FB friend’ Shey Marque, who I look forward to meeting in person…
The lovely poem by Rose Von Son shows a poet’s eye for the importance of minutiae and a real understanding of the type of gardener Katharine was. She was not averse to what we call weeds –they just happen to be in the wrong place she would say. So in Rose’s poem, Katharine looks at the colours of soursobs and nasturtium together, not at the fact that one of them (at least) is considered a weed…Rose poignantly uses the word ‘soursob’ again at the end, making us wonder about the derivation of the word itself.
To me the magic of poetry is that it celebrates the power of the word, as opposed to the sentence or the paragraph…and many of the best poems did just this. Heather McKenzie’s As I once did alludes to Katharine’s politics, by her choice of words – a perfect example of ‘show not tell’ … for example: worker bees, the collective of my garden, and the flutter of red/gold flags… It was a poem about beliefs and ideals which looked like it was about gardens…
Similarly Glen Phillip’s poem is about fire – the potent symbol of passion, revolution, setting the world alight with words, but also the stark reality of living in the bush with that looming summer threat… Apparently the inspiration came from a real fire right in the hearth at Greenmount.
Finally to Cross Purposes by Flora Smith, a poem I loved for its simple power – its ability to convey strength and pathos in so few words. The triumph of less is more…It was especially touching to me as I knew and loved Annette Cameron, Katharine’s long term and relatively unsung comrade, and personal assistant….The poem shines with her quiet and unassuming devotion and conveys her incredible hard work and commitment both to the cause of communism and to Katharine.
The kaleidoscope did miss a few colours –Conspicuous to me by its absence was the colour of mother. Of course this is not really fair as I have privileged information about Katharine as an incredibly devoted mother and grandmother. She and dad adored one another and wrote every week for as long as I can remember, and after I had become close to her as an adolescent—we wrote to one another once a month. She, on her meagre income, would also pay for me to visit every year the last 8 or so years of her life.
I thought the best way for me to add the grandmother colour to the kaleidoscope (bright purple – no bloody lavender…) is to read one of my poems about Katharine My Fairy Godmother…
My Fairy Godmother
She made me a set of Cinderella dolls
although she said she couldn’t sew. Cinderella,
her two sisters, who weren’t all that ugly
and the Fairy Godmother.
As big as your hand, they had long velvet skirts
soft silky velvet – the real sort
with brocade bodices, lawn petticoats
and tiny lace knickers.
Such love sewn into their whimsical faces
and into each strand of their fine woollen hair.
A Prince Charming too – but he’s long disappeared,
if he ever really was there .
Best of all was the Fairy Godmother.
She wore a short black skirt
which showed her black legs, a great big smile,
and a red pointed hat.
I loved her, and I don’t ever remember wondering
where the gauzy dress and wings were.
Maybe I suspected that godmothers
were more likely to be witches.
This small collection sums her up.
They are her hard and soft –
the soft velvet and the strong message,
the deep thought
behind all she did.
The doting gran and the wild bohemian
who wore trousers and smoked
when it was definitely not done.
Lived alone in the hills,
entertained Russian sailors,
and had a pet magpie
who sang for his steak.
She definitely wasn’t your typical gran
Spent her time writing
and changing the world
and when the only child of her only child
arrived and was showered with love
and politics she was told proudly
that her gran was called
the Red Witch of the West.
As I line them up now
faces faded, arms missing
very little hair, except for our godmother
who never had any, just her red hat.
I see for the first time, that under her skirt
there’s no lawn or lace
but bright red knickers.
Like a message in a bottle.
I’m sorry I haven’t had time to mention all the fantastic work in this book, literature is such a subjective thing, the ones that leap out for me, may not be the ones that appeal to you. But they all deserve their place in this wonderful anthology …
I feel very privileged to be launching this book today and thank everyone involved in its organisation. It is a book to be very proud of, and I encourage everyone to buy one or three.
I will end with a quote from another fabulous entry by Tabetha Rogers-Beggs, 'Bespoke Folk':
There was something alluring about Katharine’s house, its imperfections, its ghosts. An anti-lighthouse, drawing folks with its darkness, feeding on the light of others to give it life.
So much sadness and yet such a beacon of resilience and hope.