An Editor Out of Hiding.

Firstly, welcome to the Southerly blog, and a Southerly that is going from strength to strength.  Thanks to our on-line component, The Long Paddock, we are publishing more material than ever. Despite the Global Financial Crisis, which has hit publishing badly and literary magazines very badly indeed, our subscription list is growing. And our social network is thriving. Our Facebook friends list has gone from zero to over two thousand in a matter of weeks. We are now accepting emailed submissions. We are now, thanks to Facebook, able to let our friends know in advance the themes of forthcoming issues. And, in a particularly exciting development, we are entering negotiations that should see the entire backlist of Southerly available on line, perhaps as early as 2013.

The first issue of Southerly to appear in 2011 will be volume 70, number 3, the third issue for 2010.  This is our India/Australia issue, and it has been delayed by circumstances beyond our control. We are hoping that it can be released by mid March. Meanwhile some of the Long Paddock material for this issue will be made available on line in advance, to whet readers’ appetites. The next (71.1) will be on Australian Diasporic writing, and since this will be edited by Elizabeth McMahon and she will be writing the next blog post, I will leave it to her to give it a brief introduction. The issue after that, 71.2, will have an indigenous focus and be guest edited by Lionel Fogarty and Ali Cobby Eckermann. Early indications are that this will be quite extraordinary indeed. The third official issue for 2011 has the provisional title of ‘The End of Everything’ and will be looking at major changes and challenges facing literature and the publishing industry. Are we looking at the end of the book as we know it? Are we facing the end of print journals? What impacts are developments in on-line publishing having on the attitudes and practices of writers and readers? and so on.

The new Southerly website has been running for three months now and it may seem strange that so far neither co-editor has made an appearance. It’s not that Elizabeth McMahon and I are shy or aloof, far from it, but there are our day jobs, and since those day jobs are full-time university teaching they are also our night jobs, weekend jobs, public holiday jobs… Southerly‘s editors are neither full-time, nor are they paid. The positions are honorary, and the people who hold them hold them to a large extent because they are also involved in many other ways in the creation, discussion and promotion of Australian writing. Southerly in fact has only two paid staff, our editorial assistant Tessa Lunney (one day per week), and our recently-appointed webmaster Justin Skinner (one half day per week).

The bottom line is that we have a vast amount of work to get through and scant resources – hours in the day, mainly – to help us get through it. We have two very fine readers assisting us – Kate Lilley, our Poetry Editor, and Alan Gold, our Fiction Reader – but they are in much the same situation as the Co-Editors. So we thank you for your patience and understanding – it’s you, as readers and contributors, who continue to make Southerly such a vibrant forum for literature.

This blog post is intended as the first of a continuing series. For the first month, Elizabeth and I will be writing, in order to convey some basic material about the journal and our immediate plans. From February, however, we are hoping to have a series of guest bloggers, each of whom has been invited to talk about their current enthusiasms, whatever they may be. Amongst these monthly guests will be some of Australia’s finest writers and critics. It is hoped that we will be able to announce a full list shortly.

One last piece of information. The introduction of The Long Paddock has given us more flexibility in the way we shape our issues and the means to publish more material than we have been able to publish so far. However, it also means that we may not know what material will be in the print issue and what material will be in the on-line component until the later stages of design. Contributors should be aware of this, and that submission of material is taken as a tacit understanding that, if accepted, it may appear in either component. Once the Southerly digitalisation process has been confirmed, we will be drawing up contributors’ contracts which will formalise this understanding. And yes, the digitalisation will include The Long Paddock – indeed, we have just determined that The Long Paddock will also  be lodged in hard copy in our principal holding libraries.

But enough. Tessa, who is teaching me how to blog, says I need photographs, of anything, she says, to do with myself – a glimpse into the co-editors’ interests, as she puts it – or with Southerly. At Southerly, as I have indicated, we have been too busy to take photographs of what we have been doing, although perhaps we should. But, as well as a poet and editor, I am also a photographer. Here are four favourites:

One of the ways of accounting for some of the mystery of poetry is that, whatever meaning they face one with, words in a poem always have their backs on darkness. Similarly a photograph can bring out – almost seek – a kind of darkness within things. Every now and again a photograph almost swallows one.

The poet R.F.Brissenden (1928-1991) was a university lecturer of mine. Later he became a mentor, and eventually a dear friend. He taught me how to review books. He wrote wonderful poetry. A house he built almost entirely with his own hands, beside the rainforest on the south coast of N.S.W., became one of my sacred places. One afternoon in the summer of 1989/90, when I had been out photographing something of which I have no memory at all, I stopped by his house in Yarralumla. He’d been mowing the lawn and had his shirt off. He poured us a beer and I took this portrait, which has always seemed to me both to catch something central to his personality and to be shadowed by a fragility brought on by the Parkinson’s Disease from which he was then suffering, and which contributed to his death soon after.

This third photograph is of a mob of sheep I drove by in April 2010 on the Hay Plain, near where I once worked briefly as a jackaroo. I am pretty sure the mob was on agistment – i.e. that, having run out of feed on their home station, they had been taken out to graze the roadside. The idiomatic expression for this is to take one’s animals out onto the long paddock. I include it firstly because it gives an idea of what is behind the name of our on-line component, and secondly because it enables me to reflect upon how complicated some photographs – even of simple, archetypal things (the long paddock, after all, is deep in our rural folklore) – can be. These sheep, when one thinks about them (but we are conditioned not to), live in appalling conditions. In all likelihood, for example, they’ve been subjected to the cruel and barbaric practice of mulesing. If this photograph had been taken in a different state, it’s also likely they would be on the first stage of their journey in our similarly barbaric live export trade. We touched upon these matters in our ‘Animal’ issue. Humans contend for ownership of this country. That we share its guardianship with so many others rarely seems to trouble our thought.

But I don’t want to end on a downward note. Here, to rescue things, is a pair of feet:

Wishing you all the best for 2011 – our seventy-second year of publication! We at Southerly will certainly be doing all we can to provide you with as much fascinating material as we can, through the print journal, The Long Paddock, and now here on the website. Happy reading!

David Brooks,


3 thoughts on “An Editor Out of Hiding.

  1. I think that publishing the inner-workings that combine to form the editorial processes are unnecessary. There is a tendency to broadcast the woes behind obtaining grants and funding and these efforts are categorically categorized in print. This information would make for better dissemination behind closed doors or browsers. Editors seems compelled to crunch the numbers for public consumption.

    What I want is what most artists want: the painter wants canvas and paint. The gallery shows will work themselves out. The musician a sax and the gigs will come, talent contingent. The writer, submit and get published. I’d like to see more of an editor’s personality, more of his or her’s style of writing. Leave the money game, and it is a game, to Wall Street.

  2. David,

    you forgot to mention that you are also a damn fine poet, novelist and short story writer as well, to add to your accomplishments and demands. I have had the pleasure of reviewing your poetry, and the inestimable pleasure of becoming a collector of your books. So they’re worth discussion as well.

    I’m still waiting on poetry for Melaleuca. 🙂

  3. Must say, I don’t mind hearing about the editing process. A reality check never hurts anyone.The photograph of Brissenden captures a curious and vulnerable mood.
    Go Southerly–looking forward to more.

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