Interview with the Australian poet in the Ceylon Today
“Having returned to Australia after two decades to complete a creative writing Ph.D, I now see that identity and adoption of other cultural influences have been concerns of mine from an early age. They led me away from Australia to seek a more integral understanding of myself in the light of Eastern philosophy, and other traditional life and culture.
“There would seem little in my background to have foreshadowed an interest in Asia as a source of resonant interests: coming from Irish immigrant stock on my father’s side and Scottish-English working class ancestry on my mother’s. Born in 1956, I did, however, grow up in a multi-cultural suburb in Canberra. My neighbours were Eastern and Southern Europeans, one or two migrated English families and a minority of ‘Australian-born’ families. I was brought up in a cul-de-sac melting pot of different cooking odours, languages and varying concepts of gardening from the ornamental to the practical – especially when the front grass and flower beds were uprooted in favour of more growing space for anything from red onions to wine-grapes. Nevertheless, we all lived in the same sized rectangular weatherboard houses with corrugated roofs. What affected me was the depth of cultural inheritance that each of my childhood friends possessed – coming from distinct traditional ways of European life, albeit transferred from their parent’s respective countries. My family on the other hand could only claim three generations of settlement from pre and post Federation Australia, yet with no cultural roots leading back to Ireland, Scotland or England. Thus, I had the distinct feeling that although Australian-born, my sense of tradition and cultural origins was vague. Being born in the planned suburban havens of Canberra also did not produce inside me strong feelings of local attachment either. My suburb had streets named after Australian native flora, yet were planted with maples, beeches and ornamental plum trees.”