Letters Lifted into Poetry

The National Library of Australia’s latest publication Letters Lifted into Poetry: Selected Correspondence between David Campbell and Douglas Stewart, 1946–1979 is a quiet achiever.

It showcases more than 40 years’ correspondence between two of Australia’s greatest poets: David Campbell and Douglas Stewart, and how parts of this correspondence have been transposed into their poetry.

The writers’ original documents, held in the National Library’s Manuscripts Collection, have been brought to life for the first time in this revealing publication by editor Jonathan Persse.

The letters passing back and forth between the two men talk of life, poetry, publishing, friends and professional acquaintances—including Judith Wright, Norman Lindsay, R.D. Fitzgerald, A.D. Hope, Rosemary Dobson and Francis Webb—as well as the men’s shared love of fishing.

In Douglas Stewart’s last letter to his dying friend David Campbell (dated June 1979), he recalled their correspondence, commenting that: ‘Whatever happened to be outside [your] window, or seen in a morning’s walk...lifted a letter into poetry.’

Letters Lifted into Poetry movingly documents a great Australian literary friendship and provides a lively window into both men’s writing at a time when letter writing was a regular form of communication.

NOTE:
All Images are in high resolution JPEG format approximately A4 @ 300dpi.

David and Bonnie Campbell with children Raina and John, 1945
National Library of Australia

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David Campbell with Raina and Andrew, c. 1966
National Library of Australia

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Douglas Stewart at his desk, 1970s Photo by Michael Elton
National Library of Australia

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David Campbell by Norman Lindsay, 1952
National Library of Australia

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Douglas Stewart by Norman Lindsay, 1952
National Library of Australia

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Margaret Coen’s Kosciuszko fishing map, C.1960
National Library of Australia

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Margaret Coen’s painting, ‘Kosciusko Bush for Meg’, 1978
National Library of Australia

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Cover photo shows David Campbell (left) and Douglas Stewart, with Meg Stewart, on a fishing trip at Countegany, 1951
Background photograph by Jacek Frey
National Library of Australia

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