Powerful themes surface in Susan’s new poetry anthology

Published 20 July 2006

Madness, suicide, infidelity, race relations, motherhood, employment, abortion and the search for – and loss of – love and home, are just some of the themes reflected in a collection of poems being released by Southern Cross University writing lecturer, Susan Bradley Smith, in the lead-up to the Byron Bay Writers Festival.

Dr Bradley Smith's book, Marmalade Exile (Southern Cross University Press), features 42 contemporary poems.

It will be launched by renowned novelist and academic, Dr Janette Turner Hospital, on Saturday, July 29, at the Byron at Byron Beach Resort.

Southern Cross University has sponsored Dr Turner Hospital's visit to Australia to participate in the festival, which runs from August 3 to 6, the Taking Heart: A New Quest for Medical Humanities conference, which runs from July 27 to 30 and to give a public reading at the University on Wednesday, August 2.

Poet, playwright, theatre historian and academic, Dr Bradley Smith's poetry collection roams across intellectual and geographical landscapes as diverse as the 242 bus traversing East London, London's charmed Bloomsbury and its dark academic underbelly and the unspeakably beautiful yet somehow bleak horizons of regional and coastal Australia, including the Northern Rivers.

"The main voice of this collection is a feminist one, variously in love and at war with men, family, money, revenge, the beach, sex, politics, fighting, and even love itself," Dr Bradley Smith said.

"The poems have a naturalistic style, but are possessing of technical possibilities that slip in and out of realism as they try to grapple with the very real problems that exercise day-to-day life.

"They are written almost as an echo of the way blood makes noise as it travels around the body, chasing its own decision."

In this work, Dr Bradley Smith, who has been described by Australian poet Julian Croft as a 'muscular writer' devotes her creative energies to patrolling the troubled waters in which men and women find themselves in contemporary life.

Acclaimed poet and novelist John Kinsella says of Bradley Smith's work: "This is a book in which feminism is called upon to make up ground in real terms ... Plath is mentioned, but these poems are Plath unleashed. The poems can be brutal. Sensuality becomes 'pornographic'. Images are wrought from impossible juxtapositions. Irony anchors elation. These poems range from one extreme to another in the space of a few lines: from Skeltonian doggerel to highly wrought figurative language that has few equals. They don't want to be consistently neat; they don't want to play the poetry game. And they don't."

Australian poet Katherine Gallagher writes: "Between the metropolis and the beach, between the confessional mode and the surreal – with nods along the way to Sylvia Plath and Sharon Olds, Susan Bradley Smith's Marmalade Exile is fiery, earthed, bittersweet and sensual and above all, moving. It makes distinctive and resonant claims on the reader.

"Bradley Smith daringly explores her inner geographies, the public and personal elements of her life, with a highly-charged immediacy that is 'slant' but searingly honest, and that sings through a fractured sensibility, the contradictions of head and heart, the dislocations between cultures, and the quest for identity and new landscapes."

Susan Bradley Smith was born in Australia in 1963. An historian by training, she has taught literature, drama and creative writing, as well as history, in UK and Australian universities and published widely in these areas.

Having lived much of her adult life in England, she now lives at Lennox Head with her husband and three children and teaches at Southern Cross University.

Marmalade Exile will be launched during the Taking Heart conference. The conference, co-hosted by North Coast GP Training in collaboration with Southern Cross University and the University of Sydney, will focus on exploring the role of the humanities in addressing the needs of health professionals so that they, in turn, can address the health needs of the community.

Dr Janette Turner Hospital will give a public reading at the Lismore campus Co-Op Bookshop, Goodman Plaza, on Wednesday, August 2, between 3pm and 5pm.

Caption: Dr Susan Bradley Smith

Media photo opportunity: Marmalade Exile will be launched at the Byron at Byron Beach Resort at 10.30am on Saturday, July 29.

Media contact: Zoe Satherley, media officer 6620 3144, 0439 132 095.