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Personal Choice 82

Max Harris was without qualification the most important supporter of my early poetry and we shared a correspondence where he encouraged and praised my work. He also gave me advice and he was a stern and uncompromising critic. My writing seemed after each note or letter from him to leap into new heights and dimensions. I owe him and later his daughter Samela a huge debt for their belief, confidence, regard and published praise for my work.

On the Death of Ms Adele Koh

She died young. Maybe she dazzled eyes.

Mine she blinded, for she died young.

And the young dying I cannot bear among

The millions still long living but no more wise

Than she. Or they.

I didn’t know her. She was that familiar - hearsay,

Yet I mourn her. For she died young,

And I cannot bear the dying of the young.

The eyes must be averted. They deserve better.

Padman. Pfeiffer. Kerr.

These died, idiot children in an idiot war.

They died beautiful and foolish. Still loved

From many years ago. She died bitter,

I believe, which is better. And wiser.

Using mind and tongue.

To protest division of the house, the ringing of bells,

Which legislates who breathes when and how and why,

Who shall live or die, the private or the public hells,

When youth shall be old, and the old may gloat.

Death has lost my vote.

Max Harris

Don Dunstan (former Premier of South Australia) married Adele Koh the Malaysian-born former researcher in 1976 but she contracted lung cancer and died two years later. His love for Adele Koh was not in doubt although they lived separately; he in Norwood, she in Maylands.

Max Harris (1921 - 1995) journalist, poet and bookseller - helped shift Australian tastes in literature and art towards modernism. In 1940, he created a literary journal Angry Penguins that published progressive writers such as Dylan Thomas and later the works of artists such as Albert Tucker, Sidney Nolan, Joy Hester and Arthur Boyd. Harris had fierce critics amongst the establishment arts scene, two of whom conspired to set Harris up in a famous literary hoax. Harris later founded and co-edited the Australian Book Review and founded Sun Books. As a columnist in The Australian and Adelaide newspapers, he campaigned against censorship and was an early supporter of the Australian Republican movement.


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