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Fay Zwicky (1933 – 2017)

Faye Zwicky, photo courtesy University of Queensland Press Faye Zwicky, photo courtesy University of Queensland Press

Fay Zwicky was born in Melbourne on 4 July 1933, as Julia Fay Rosefield.   An accomplished pianist by the age of six, she performed as a soloist and, together with her sisters, as a member of the Rosefield Trio.  She was educated at Melbourne church schools and the University of Melbourne, where she began writing poetry, graduating with BA Honours in 1954. For a decade from 1955 she toured as a concert pianist, before settling in Perth with her Dutch husband and two children. In 1972 she was appointed to a lectureship in American and Comparative Literature at the University of Western Australia, where she taught until her retirement in 1987.

Zwicky's first collection of poems, Isaac Babel's Fiddle, was published in 1975. She has since published another seven collections, mostly since her retirement from the university. Her second collection, Kaddish and other poems (1982), won the New South Wales Premier's Poetry Award for that year. Its title poem, a lament on the death of her father, is also a vivid evocation of the life of an Australian Jewish family.  Zwicky also writes tellingly about the patriarchal silencing of the voices and experiences of women, as in the very funny 'Mrs Noah Speaks', part of the poetic sequence 'Ark Voices' from the same collection. Two of her later collections, Ask Me (1990) and The Gatekeeper's Wife (1997) received the Western Australian Premier's Poetry Award.  Many of her more recent poems have focused on such contemporary cultural and political concerns as the uses and abuses of power, the problems of refugees and violence, as well as continuing her probing of family and autobiographical themes.

Zwicky has also written short stories, collected in Hostages (1983), criticism and reviews, as well as editing anthologies. A collection of her essays, The Lyre in the Pawnshop: Essays on Literature and Survival 1974-1984 (1986), won the Non-Fiction Award in the Western Australian Premier's Book Awards.  In 2005 she won both the Patrick White Award and the FAW Christopher Brennan Award. In 2004 she was declared one of the Western Australian State's Living Treasures.

Fay Zwicky died in Perth, Western Australia on the 2nd of July, 2017.

Poetry Collections

Isaac Babel's Fiddle (Adelaide: Maximus Books, 1975).

Kaddish and other poems (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1982).

Ask Me (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1990).

A Touch of Ginger (Applecross, WA: Folio, 1992).

Poems 1970-1992 (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1993).

The Gatekeeper's Wife (Rose Bay, NSW: Brandl and Schlesinger, 1997).

Afloat and other poems (Warners Bay, NSW: Picaro Press, 2006).

Picnic (Artarmon, NSW: Giramondo Publishing, 2006).

The Collected Poems of Fay Zwicky (ed. L. Dougan and T. Dolan) (University of Western Australia Press, 2017) ISBN 9781742589329

Suggested Further Reading

Jenny Digby, ' Now and Again I Write a Poem,' A Woman's Voice: Conversations with Australian Poets (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 1996), pp. 86-107.

Marcelle Freiman, 'Fay Zwicky,' in Selina Samuels, ed., Australian Writers 1975-2000 (Detroit, USA: Gale Research Co., 2006), pp. 374-79.

Ivor Indyk, 'Fay Zwicky: The Poet as Moralist,' Southerly 54.3 (1994), pp. 33-50.

David Kerr, 'Writing in the Eighties: Fay Zwicky,' Westerly 29.3 (1984), pp. 59-64. http://purl.library.usyd.edu.au/setis/westerly/pdfs/103034

Joan Kirkby, 'Finding a Voice in "This Fiercely Fathered and Unmothered World": The Poetry of Fay Zwicky,' 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. 175-93).

Elsa Limguanti, 'On the Shifting Sands of Our Experience: Fay Zwicky's Poetry,' Southerly 54.3 (1994), pp. 51-64.

David McCooey, 'Just Very Basic: An Interview with Fay Zwicky,' Meanjin 55.4 (1996), pp. 674-687.

Barbara Williams, 'Fay Zwicky,' Descant 66/67 20.3-4 (1989), pp. 25-33.

Fay Zwicky, 'Border Crossings,' in Peter Craven, ed., The Best Australian Essays 2000 (Melbourne, Vic: Black Inc., 2000), pp. 225-38.

Fay Zwicky, 'Between Two Worlds,' Five Bells 13.4 (2006), pp. 15-21.