Islands and Archipelagos

Southerly 72.3 cover
cover image by Sue Kneebone

In addition to being the planet’s sole island continent, Australia is comprised of many islands: 8,222 according to Geoscience Australia, as well as many others in its external territories. Islands have been at the forefront of heated public policy regarding asylum seekers and detention, and in relation to rising oceans. So, too, the man at the centre of the fight for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land rights, Eddie Mabo, came from Mer (Murray Island) in the Eastern Torres Strait.

Some Australian islands have been homelands for Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people for millennia, while colonial culture recognised the potential of islands as ideal prisons, lazarets and strategic bases, and exploited their romantic associations as perfect idylls. Artists such as Ian Fairweather, have sought seclusions on islands; despots have sought complete autonomy on islands; and Western scholars have viewed them as perfect laboratories.

This issue of Southerly is framed by a contemplation of island futures by Elaine Stratford, taken from her opening address at the inaugural Australian Small Island Forum held in May 2012. The literary essays focus on the interplay between island fantasies and realities Australian writing where the island is a powerful site in real and imaginary terms, and David Brooks revises the map of Modernism to include Papua New Guinea and the Trobriand Islands, in view of Bronislaw Malinowski’s deep engagement with these island territories.

In addition to these thoughtful works of analysis, the issue includes a wealth of fiction, poetry and reviews centred on islands, archipelagos, the experience of their materiality and their imaginative power, ranging from Terri Janke’s “Turtle Island” about the Torres Strait to Angela Rockel’s “Silvereye” in Tasmani’s Huon Valley.




Michelle Cahill, Taboo
Craig Powell, Breath Creatures
Kevin Hart, Slant
Cameron Lowe, The skin of it
Jennifer Maiden, Diary Poem: Uses of Ethiopia
Stuart Barnes, Icarus Dreams East
Rebecca Law, Pastoral
Anna Ryan-Punch, Spotlit
Michael Sharkey, First eleven
Petrina Barson, Amerigo the brave
Stephen Oliver, Road Notes


Elaine Stratford, “Ah! could I tell the wonders of an isle”… contemplating island futures
Brigid Rooney, Pathological Geomorphology and the Ecological Sublime: Andrew McGahan’s Wonders of a Godless World
David Brooks, Outcast of the Islands: Malinowski Amongst the Modernists
Fiona Richards, The islands of Randolph Stow (1935–2010)
Michael Jacklin, Islands of Multilingual Literature: Community Magazines and Australia’s Many Languages
Joseph Cummins, An Archipelago of Convicts and Outsiders: the Songs of The Drones and Gareth Liddiard


Angela Rockel, Silvereye – so far
Sandra Potter, “an empty ship in these latitudes is no joke”
Terri Janke, Turtle Island
Jane Downing, The Ego of Angus Maloney
Gretchen Shirm, Albatross
Rebekah Clarkson, Raising boys


Nicolette Stasko, “Every Contact Leaves a Trace” – Drusilla Modjeska, The Mountain


Bonny Cassidy on Collected Verse of John Shaw Neilson
Elizabeth McMahon on Robert Drewe, Montebello: A Memoir and M. L. Stedman, The Light between Oceans
Claire Nashar on Ali Cobby Eckermann, Love dreaming & other poems
Nicholas Birns on Gerald Murnane, A History of Books
Chris Wallace-Crabbe on Rhyll McMaster, Late Night Shopping and Aidan Coleman, Asymmetry
Tony Hughes-d’Aeth on John Kinsella, In the Shade of the Shady Tree: Stories of Wheatbelt Australia
Geoff Page on David McCooey, Outside and Lachlan Brown, Limited Cities
Kate Livett on Giramondo Shorts series

And in the Long Paddock…


Rebecca Law, Kalorama Park
Stuart Barnes, Conversation
Stephen Oliver, Rendezvous and Nocturne
Petrina Barson, Cacique Dos
Kate Middleton, A Reckoning
pony, Ankles


Demelza Hall, Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria


Luke Beesley on Kate Fagan
Andy Carruthers on Mez Breeze
Petra White on Bonny Cassidy and John Watson
Sarah Holland-Batt on Anthony Lawrence and Ali Cobby Eckermann

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