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Kate Llewellyn (1936 – )

Kate Llewellyn was born Katherine Jill Sky Brinkworth at Tumby Bay (on the eastern coast of the Eyre Peninsula, South Australia) in 1936, the eldest of four children of Ivy Brinkworth (née Shemmald) and her husband Ron, a stock and station agent. She was educated in bush schools and at Minlaton High School, and from 1954 trained as a nurse, first at Gawler District Hospital, transferring to Royal Adelaide Hospital in 1958. In 1960 she married Richard Llewellyn, and had two children: Hugh (born 1962) and Caroline (1965). The Llewellyns became involved in the arts and literary scene in the 1960s, opening an art gallery in Adelaide, and later became involved in political activism, joining the protest movement against the Vietnam war. The couple divorced in 1972, and Llewellyn returned to study, enrolling in a Bachelor of Arts Degree at the University of Adelaide and graduating in 1978.

Llewellyn began writing prolifically while an undergraduate at the University of Adelaide, and her collection of poems Teeth and Other Verses won the university’s Bundey Prize in 1975. During this time she helped found the Adelaide-based Friendly Street poetry society, and in 1981 became national secretary of the Poets Union. A selection of her poems entitled ‘Just a Minute’ was included in the anthology Sisters Poets, 1 (1979), and her first published collection Trader Kate and the Elephants appeared in 1982—it was joint winner of the FAW Anne Elder prize (with Peter Goldsworthy’s Readings from Ecclesiastes). Llewellyn published six further poetry collections in the 1980s and 1990s, including a volume of Selected Poems (1992), and, with Susan Hampton, she edited the Penguin Book of Australian Women Poets (1986), which sought to redress the omission of women from other Australian poetry anthologies of the 1970s and 1980s. In 1983 she moved to Sydney, and shortly afterwards to Leura, in the Blue Mountains, where she wrote a trilogy of autobiographical novels—The Waterlily (1987), Dear You (1988) and The Mountain (1989)—commonly referred to as the ‘Blue Mountains trilogy.’ She has also written an autobiographical account of her early life, The Dressmaker’s Daughter (2008), and a gardening memoir, Playing with Water (2005), which includes poems alongside recipes, letters and diary entries. Like her prose, Llewellyn’s poetry often involves an autobiographical dimension, and the natural world has become an increasingly important subject in her work.

Poetry Collections
  • Just a Minute[in] Sisters Poets, 1 (Carlton South, Vic: Sisters Publishing, 1979).
  • Trader Kate and the Elephants (Unley, SA: Friendly Street Poets, 1982).
  • Luxury (Sydney: Women’s Redress Press, 1985).
  • Honey: poems (Hawthorn, Vic: Hudson Publishing, 1988).
  • Figs: poems (Hawthorn, Vic: Hudson Publishing, 1990).
  • Selected Poems (Hawthorn, Vic: Hudson Publishing, 1992).
  • Crosshatched (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1994).
  • Sofala: and other poems (Kew, Vic: Hudson Publishing, 1999).
  • Playing with Water (Pymble, NSW: HarperCollins, 2005).
Suggested Further Reading
  • Anne Brewster, ‘Four Women Poets,’ in John Kinsella, ed., The Bird Catcher’s Song: A Salt Anthology of Contemporary Poetry (Applecross, WA: Salt Publishing, [1992?], pp. 242–47.
  • Anne Collett, ‘The Extraordinary in the Ordinary: Kate Llewellyn’s Self-Portrait of a Lemon,’ Antipodes 22.2 (2008), pp. 111–15.
  • Anne Gunter, ‘Mapping the Unpredictable: The Art of Kate Llewellyn,’ Overland no.127 (1992), pp. 63–68.
  • Dorothy Jones, ‘Kate Llewellyn (1936- ),’ in Selina Samuels, ed., Australian Writers 1975-2000 (Detroit, USA: Gale Research, 2006), pp. 202–07.
  • Kate Llewellyn, The Dressmaker’s Daughter (Pymble, NSW: Fourth Estate, 2008).
  • Kate Llewellyn, ‘Learning to Read,’ in John Kinsella, ed., School Days (Fremantle, WA: Fremantle Press, 2006).
  • Kate Llewellyn, ‘Statements: Kate Llewellyn,’ in David Brooks and Brenda Walker, eds., Poetry and Gender: Statements and Essays in Australian Women’s Poetry and Poetics (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1989), pp. 52–53.
  • Jennifer Maiden, ‘A Poignant Process,’ Australian Book Review no.217 (1999), pp. 38–39.
  • Philip Martin, ‘Anne Elder and Kate Llewellyn,’ in David Brooks and Brenda Walker, eds., Poetry and Gender: Statements and Essays in Australian Women’s Poetry and Poetics (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1989), pp. 221–29.