Barry Hill has won Premier’s Awards for poetry, non-fiction and the essay. He is a former poetry editor for the Australian and a post-doctoral fellow from the University of Melbourne, but he has been writing full-time since 1975. His short fiction, and his poetry have been widely anthologised. He is possibly best known for his Broken Song; TGH Strehlow and Aboriginal Possession (Knopf 2002), described by John Mulvaney as ‘one of the great Australian books.’ More recently he has produced Peacemongers (UQP 2014) a major study of Rabindranath Tagore, and the poetry collection Naked Clay: Drawing from Lucian Freud (2012, Shearsman) which was short-listed for the UK 2013 Forward Prize. ‘Dogs and Grog’ is from Reason and Lovelessness: Essays, Encounters and Reviews 1985—2017, which Monash University will release in March 2018.
All essays by Barry Hill
Dogs and Grog: New Writing in Alice Springs
When Petrina said she was being treated like a dog she was using the figure of speech that is common to our cultures. It’s the slight on dogs that almost any one of us can carelessly slip into. We say it when we feel as low as a dog might seem to be, when we are utterly demoralised as dogs can appear to be. When we are as low as some drinkers can get. When we are a lowly camp dog, as distinct from a frisky and free dingo, for instance, a species that comes from the north Asian wolf. Being treated like a dog might also mean being treated with less respect than even camp dogs get. Some dogs have been made kin but they are also bad dogs – disobedient, disruptive, ungrateful, feral, even self-destructive in their reckless ways. They seem to beg for the kicks they get. Dogs that deserve their punishment because they flout the rules of sociability. Outcast dogs, dogs who turned on themselves and others. Drunken dogs, you might say, but dogs that are still kin. Dogs that create a hell of a lot of grief all round.