Thursday, December 8, 2011

On why I feel like a literary detective...

When I interviewed Alan Wearne earlier in the year he mentioned a researcher named Erica Travers who did her PhD in the late 1980s/ early 1990s on Australian poets and interviewed a number of generation of 68 poets, Alan Wearne included. I went in search of her PhD and found it at the Fryer Library at the University of Queensland. It turns out that she had interviewed some 16 poets and produced hundreds of pages of transcripts, but the Fryer library didn’t have any copies. I searched in vain for where the interviews may have been donated.

I was thinking that the interviews would be a great resource for a number of reasons. Most obviously because I am interviewing many of the same poets, but mainly because the only other collection of interviews with these poets is Martin Duwell’s A Possible Contemporary Poetry (1982) which contains interviews from the 1970s with thirteen of the poets included in John Tranter’s The New Australian Poetry (1989) anthology. There are great interviews by Hazel deBerg also done in the 1970s with some of the poets (i.e. Tranter, Forbes, Duggan and Adamson) that are held at the National Library (that don’t seem to have ever been published) and a number of interviews conducted over the years with the poets spread between various journals and websites. But to find a pile of unpublished interviews from the late 1980s/early 1990s was a really exciting prospect. Only thing was, I couldn’t find them.

Then while I was leafing through Alan Wearne’s papers in the Fryer library I came across a note from John Tranter to Wearne about the “Bell Collection” at the Sydney University. The Erica Bell collection. Hmmm... Five minutes on the internet and I had tracked down the illusive Erica Travers interviews that have been collected under her maiden name, Bell. I sent an email immediately. It has been a week and I hadn’t heard back and so today I did the everyday ordinary thing and rang them. The poor librarian I emailed has been away sick, but the lovely lady on the phone told me I could request copies of the interview transcripts through the University of Queensland library’s inter-library loan service. So I have. After all the hunting, it seems a little too easy, but I am not complaining. I am sure there must have been one hundred ways to find where the collection of interviews were, I just hadn’t found one of them! But it did make me feel like a literary detective, just for a little while, and I wonder what happen to Mrs Erica Travers (nee Bell), PhD.


  1. Look forward to hearing more about the interviews Fiona!

  2. Very impressive detective work (Sam Spade would have been proud)


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