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Kate Jennings (1948 – )

Kate Jennings, Sydney, 2002, photographer unknown Kate Jennings, Sydney, 2002, photographer unknown

Kate Jennings was born in Temora, in the Riverina district of New South Wales, in 1948. She grew up on a farm near Griffith, and attended Griffith High School. In the late 1960s Jennings left her family home for Sydney, where she attended the University of Sydney, eventually graduating with a Bachelor of Arts with Honours. In Sydney she quickly established herself as an activist and a prominent participant in the burgeoning feminist movement of the 1970s. In 1975, she published her first collection of poems Come to Me My Melancholy Baby, and same year edited the first major anthology of Australian feminist poetry, Mother I’m Rooted. Jennings has since written about her personal struggles with alcoholism and mental illness in these years.

In 1979 Jennings left Australia for New York, where she has lived ever since. After giving up drinking she entered a more settled phase of life, and began writing essays and opinion pieces for the newspaper and magazine press. She published a second poetry collection, Cats, Dogs and Pitchforks, in 1993, after which Jennings became poetry editor for the Bulletin magazine for a period. In 1994 her husband Bob Cato was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, which led to a difficult period for Jennings, and saw her begin a new career as a corporate speechwriter for a Wall Street Investment bank. Jenning’s publications have included a book of autobiographical essays, Save Me Joe Louis (1988), short story and prose collections: Women Falling Down in the Street (1990) and Bad Manners (1993), novels: Snake (1996) and Moral Hazard (2002), and the memoir Stanley and Sophie (2008).

Poetry Collections
  • Come to Me My Melancholy Baby (Fitzroy, Vic: Outback Press, 1975).
  • Cats, Dogs and Pitchforks (Port Melbourne, Vic: Heinemann, 1993).
Suggested Further Reading
  • Robert Adamson, ‘Strange Connections,’ Island no.57 (1993): pp. 61–63.
  • Anna Couani, ‘Women in the Literary Small Press,’ in Sneja Gunew and Anna Couani, eds., Telling Ways: Australian Women’s Experimental Writing (Adelaide: Australian Feminist Studies, 1988), pp. 9–14.
  • Kate Jennings, ‘What a Summer That Was,’ Island no.57 (1993): pp. 64–65.
  • Drusilla Modjeska, ‘The Emergence of Women Writers Since 1975,’ Macmillan Anthology of Australian Literature (South Melbourne, Vic: Macmillan, 1990), pp. 360–65.
  • Ann Vickery, ‘The Rise of “Women’s Poetry” in the 1970s,’ Australian Feminist Studies 22.53 (2007): pp. 265–85.