Written in response to:
This morning as the bus passed the Tower Building I felt so pained by the loss. Martin Harrison was one of those unforgettable teachers who (like Glenda Adams another wonderful UTS luminary) gave so much to his students. His ability to speak to you as a poet and writer, even when you were just starting out, made poetry seem a legitimate vocation and part of a deep conversation that continued long after you had left university. I will never forget the passionate, mature and intelligent tone of his Poetry Craft class and how he encouraged me, a gauche if ambitious undergraduate. In one of those classes, we examined Sylvia Plath’s ‘The Arrival of the Bee Box’; under Martin’s tutelage we were able to scrutinise it as a marvellous example of sound patterning and imagery, decontextualised from all the horrible myths and cults of Plath’s personality. Erudite as he was, he seemed entirely divested of these cults or fashions.
Just the week before hearing of his death, I was clearing old records and found some of the poetry I had produced that semester; the careful, patient, attentive spirit of Martin’s comments was not something I could part with. And the awareness of, delight in and inscribing of the natural world that characterised his own lyrical gift feels irreplaceable. He genuinely cared for poetry, the quality and possibilities of thinking, and others. When I started teaching he always found time to stop in the corridors of Bon Marche to talk to me about the smallest and larger details of life and writing. And among those old letters recently, I also found a companionable letter from Martin to which I was treated while on residency in Rome at the B. R. Whiting Library. It caught me at a lonely moment, and simply said how he had thought of me there and ‘hoped things were going wonderfully’. He went on to give me encouragement, the contact details of a friend, and news of lamentable cuts to ABC audio arts, before saying I should not hesitate to get rid of the carpet which he had bought at the Porta Portese market during his own stint (he had been horrified to learn it was still there!). How much he and his art will be missed.
Suneeta Peres da Costa