Dear readers,

As the festive lights turn on, we’re looking back over our 2021 program and contemplating the many competing narratives of Australian literature that thread through it. One such narrative emerges from Staring Back, Jeanine Leane’s review of Evelyn Araluen’s debut collection Drop Bear. Leane frames the collection as a ‘radical affront to settler sensibilities’, setting it alongside new work by First Nations poets such as Alison Whittaker, Natalie Harkin, Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ellen van Neerven. Poets, activists, scholars all, the work of these writers, in Leane’s words, leaves ‘no colonial tropes or settler platitudes unchallenged or unscathed.’ Araluen’s line, ‘We are relearning this place through poetry,’ reverberates throughout Jazz Money’s short essay Radical Joy: ‘poetry allows us to hold the pain of the colony and the joy of Blak existence simultaneously on the page.’

This is our last newsletter for 2021. Thank you for your attention this year. We send good wishes to all of our readers for rest and rejuvenation over the break. We encourage you to explore the SRB Archive if you’re in need of summer reading. Our Topics page lets you browse our essays and reviews by category. Alternatively, you can survey the hundreds of Australian critics and essayists who’ve written for the SRB via our Writers page.

In a last piece of news for 2021, we’re happy to announce that in 2022 Eda Gunaydin will join our team as a contributing editor. She’ll be curating a series of essays on new Australian non-fiction. We’re grateful to the Copyright Agency for supporting this role. Longtime SRB readers will know Eda’s critical writing and essays, including Can’t Complain, a crackling recent review of Sara Ahmed’s Complaint! We’re looking forward to getting started.

Warm wishes,
Catriona and the SRB team

Books of the year

Although the SRB has never presented a books of the year list, we know readers are interested in the books that have won major literary awards and prizes. Last week we brought together SRB reviews of fiction prizewinners, this week we turn our attention to poetry and non-fiction. Jeanine Leane wrote about Throat by Ellen van Neerven, which won the Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry and Book of the Year at the NSW Premier’s Awards; Jumana Bayeh wrote about The Lost Arabs by Omar Sakr, which won the 2020 Prime Minister’s Prize for Poetry; Jeff Sparrow wrote about The Warrior, The Voyager and The Artist by Kate Fullagar, which won the Douglas Stewart Prize at the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards; Michael Winkler wrote about Amnesia Road by Luke Stegemann, which won the University of Queensland Non-Fiction Book Award at the Queensland Literary Awards

Getting around

Cities and the way we live in them have long been a preoccupation of SRB writers. This year we slowly started to published a series of new pieces on commuting, and it has been the cyclists who have led the way. Anthony Macris wrote a stunning essay, The Path, about cycling with his son, an essay about parental love and the long rhythms of family life. The relationship between father and son is also at the heart of Dallas Rogers’ cycling memoir, Vélo Culture, which travels from Blacktown to Kakadu to Lhasa and eventually back to Sydney. In the disjointed months of lockdown Dave Drayton let poets lead him around the city in How to Read the Road. We found our way back to some classic city writing from our archive: Vanessa Berry on St Peters (2016); Anwen Crawford on Penrith (2016); Suneeta Peres da Costa on Annandale (2016); Alison Whittaker on Redfern (2016); Ross Gibson on Alexandria (2018) and Gail Jones on Glebe (2018).

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