This letter to Judith Wright’s daughter, Meredith McKinney, was written from ‘Edge’, Wright’s property near Mongarlowe in southern New South Wales. Within a year Wright would be 70. Two years later she would donate ‘Edge’, and 40 acres of bushland surrounding it, to the Australian National University for environmental research.
This letter published in Judith Wright: Selected Writings shows moving was on her mind and suggests it may have been complicated by her relationship with Nugget Coombs. In this letter she also refers to her friend, fellow poet Rosemary Dobson.
To Meredith McKinney ‘EDGE’
Everyone but me has had awful bronchitis it seems, tho so far not Coombs. It’s the weather which refuses to get warm. The swallows have shifted their nest to above the shower-room window to get more sun I expect. They simply went away for a week, and when they came back were very uncertain about the whole family idea; but sitting on the lavatory seat I was able to observe the moment of final decision about the new nest. Two swallows, which was which I don’t know, sat arguing at the tops of their voices on the rafter outside.
She (or he) said now or never we decide and this is where I want it. He (or she) shrugged and looked uncertain and lethargic. She (or he) turned round and went down and picked up a piece of grass and stuck it illustratively into a piece of mud on the wall and said now you. He sat there (or she) and said nothing. She (or he) shouted at the top of its voice without making any impression, then made a dive at the other one which quite knocked him off his perch. Within five minutes both of them were hard at work. Decision over.
The phone rang this morning. Caller verified it was me, introduced himself as the Australian Jockey Club. I said Ha, now tell me who you really are. But it was indeed a representative of the AJC, charged with finding an Australian poetess willing to have a new handicap race named after her and having been given by the Society of Authors a choice between Zora Cross (long dead but he didn’t know that) and Rosemary and me.
Since the racing game is not in v. good odour at the moment – ring-ins and crook bets and drug connections and what all – and in any case I was too taken aback to say anything useful, I gave him Rosemary’s number and rang to warn her. The upshot is that we both strongly recommend the Zora Cross Handicap if anything. With the Judith Wright Handicap I would be a dead ringer (to use the idiom) to have a major scandal blow up over horse-pulling or doping or something and it’s not a connection I want to have made.
But it has given me and Rosemary quite a good giggle for the time being. It’s lucky Zora Cross can’t object, and since nobody remembers the poor woman, the good name of poetry can’t be involved.
Love and in haste,