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Rodney Hall (1935 – )

Rodney Hall was born in 1935 at Solihull, in Warwickshire, England, the youngest of three children of Percy Edgar Hall and his wife Doris Emma (née Buckland). His father died when he was still an infant, and after World War Two the family emigrated to Australia, moving to Brisbane where his mother had relatives. He was educated at Brisbane Boys’ College, leaving at the age of sixteen and finding employment in junior clerical positions. Keenly interested in music, Hall befriended the musician, writer and folklorist John Manifold, who introduced him to a variety of new literary, cultural, and political influences, as well as to a number of leading Australian writers, including Kath Walker [Oodgeroo Noonuccal], through whom he became involved in the struggle for Aboriginal rights. In the 1960s Hall combined activism and journalism for the Federal Council for Aboriginal Advancement with freelance acting and scriptwriting work for the ABC, and also undertook an Arts degree (majoring in music) at the University of Queensland. At university he met Judith Wright, the two forming a lasting friendship based on their common interests in Aboriginal rights, environmental issues, and poetry.

Hall began submitting poems to literary journals in the late 1950s, and published his first poetry collection, Penniless till Doomsday, in 1962. He has published twelve further poetry collections, including A Soapbox Omnibus, which won the Grace Leven Poetry Prize in 1973. His poetry reveals his interest in and knowledge of myth, from Western, Asian, and indigenous Australian traditions, and he has written a number of poetic cycles in a sequence form he terms ‘Progressions’. From 1967 until the late 1970s he was poetry editor for The Australian newspaper, and from 1972 to 1975 an adviser to publishers Angus and Robertson, for whom he edited a number of poetry anthologies. From 1990 to 1994, he served as chair of the Literature Board of the Australia Council. He is also the author of more than a dozen novels, as well as books of criticism and biography. He was made a Member of the Order of Australia for services to literature in 1990, and in 2003 received an honourary Doctor of Literature from the University of Queensland.

Poetry Collections
  • Penniless Till Doomsday (Walton-on-Thames, UK: Outpost Publications, 1962).
  • Statues & Lovers in Four Poets [with David Malouf, Don Maynard, and Judith Rodriguez] (Melbourne: Cheshire, 1962), pp. [64–82].
  • Poems ([Adelaide]: [Australian Letters], 1963).
  • Forty Beads on a Hangman’s Rope (Launceston, Tas: Wattle Grove Press, 1963).
  • Eyewitness: Poems (Sydney: South Head Press, 1967).
  • The Law of Karma: A Progression of Poems (Canberra: Australian National University, 1968).
  • The Autobiography of a Gorgon and other poems (Melbourne: Cheshire, 1968).
  • Heaven, in a Way (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1970).
  • Romulus and Remus (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1970).
  • A Soapbox Omnibus (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1973).
  • Selected Poems (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1975).
  • Black Bagatelles (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1978).
  • The Most Beautiful World: Fictions and Sermons (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1981).
  • The Owner of My Face: New and Selected Poems (St Leonards, NSW: Paper Bark Press, 2002).
Suggested Further Reading
  • Veronica Brady, ‘Rodney Hall,’ in Selina Samuels, ed., Australian Writers 1950–1975 (Detroit, USA: Gale Research), pp. 87–96.
  • N. J. McLeod and Martin Duwell, ‘The End of a Beginning: An Interview with Rodney Hall,’ Makar 10.1 (1974), pp. 1–13.
  • Geoff Page, ‘Rodney Hall,’ A Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Australian Poetry (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1995), pp. 96–99.
  • Felecity Plunkett, ‘All Those Layered and Clotted Images: An Interview with Rodney Hall,’ Australian and New Zealand Studies in Canada 11 (1994): pp. 1–12.
  • Barbara Williams, ‘An Interview with Rodney Hall,’ Descant 66/67 20.3-4 (1989): pp. 11–23.