There is a light that never goes out

It’s enough to make a girl’s heart sing, isn’t it.

Here is the man who sets my writing bar, collecting the Inaugural Poetry Prize, in this years Prime Minister’s Literary Awards.

I’d vote for Prime Minister Gillard for this alone.

Look at the look on her face, I think she might love Isabelle more than I do. Not that it’s possible.

But I didn’t know Luke was sick. Had been sick. And I hate that like so many other writers he is scrambling to keep his nose above water.

It’s enough to break a girl’s heart, isn’t it?

Why doesn’t this country love it’s artists, like it loves it’s athletes?

Where is the street parade for Luke, and for Gillian Mears, Mark McKenna, Bill Gammage, Robert Newton, Frances Watts and Judy Watson? Where is their corporate sponsorship? ‘Just do it’ is as applicable to writers as it is to swimmers and if you don’t believe me, then sit down and try and write a novel. Discipline, fortitude, perserverence, guts and bloody hard work are not the sole preserve of the athlete.

In a month or so, there will be parades in every city for our Olympians. And that’s ok. They worked hard, they deserve it.

But I never learned anything about life by watching someone swim really fast. Nor did watching anyone pole vault, or hurdle, play hockey or kick a ball ever teach me something about who I am and how I move through the world. But I learn something new about myself, or the world around me, every time I read a book, flick through a newspaper, or lose myself in the darkness of the cinema. Watching sport does not make me smarter. But looking at art in all its forms, does. Every single time.

I love this country, I truly do. We are the Lucky Country and I know that because I’ve lived in Unlucky Countries. Hand on my heart there is nowhere else I would rather be – not even you, New York, could make me leave Home for long. But Australia’s shortsightedness when it comes to our intellectual and creative strengths really frustrates me. Our reluctance to celebrate what intellectually elevates us, infuriates me. Our inability to take the smart, the creative and the innovative as seriously as we take the athletic is one of this countries biggest failings. And I wish we’d grow the hell up, pull our heads out of our sporting backsides and get over it.

Now you can argue that I have a bias; although I don’t make a living putting words together, I plan to. And I’d like it to be a lovely living, thank you very much. But  it frustrates me that writers in this country struggle financially, and I’m not just referring to novelists, or poets. I include the whole kit and caboodle; screenwriters, musicians, playwrights. That someone with Luke’s talent for putting one word in front of another, is “chronically broke” is chronically criminal.

So. If you read this blog (thank you) and love words, and writers, as passionately as I do, please pop out and buy a book by an Australian writer. Ideally from an independent bookseller. Perhaps even a book of poetry. Which is what I’m off to do. After I’m done celebrating, that is.