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Les Thomas

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Verge 2023 launch speech by Peter Rose

Peter Rose

Peter Rose

I’m pleased to have an opportunity to speak at the launch of this welcome new publication from Monash University Publishing.

Australian Book Review is a partner of Monash University through its Faculty of Arts. It’s a partnership that has grown since its creation in 2016 – and one we take seriously – through publication of Monash staff and students (some included in this anthology), through talks and publishing masterclasses, and through an active internship program. So we’re attuned to what’s going on at Monash, and we follow publications from its press with interest.

I understand this is the seventeenth edition of Verge. That’s an impressive history for any publication. So Verge has been verging, as it were, for almost two decades. I’m all for verging and indeed divergence. Anything that showcases emerging and established artists is to be welcomed. Verge does this well. It’s somewhat unusual among publications of this type because of its integration of work by current students and of those with established publication records. That’s a journal and an anthology’s responsibility – to spotlight the established, the assured, but also to nurture the young, the emerging, the innovators.

This policy of integration a good thing. We know what a fillip it is for young writers to appear in journals and compilations along with writers they admire.

My poetry first appeared in 1985 in a magazine called Scripsi – conceived just around the corner at Ormond College. What a buzz it was to see my callow poems appearing alongside works by laurelled poets such as John Ashbery, Peter Porter, Laurie Duggan, August Kleinzahler (they were nearly all blokes in those days).

That buzz never really goes away whenever work appears in print, however many poems or books one has published. Last week I received my copy of the new Meanjin, which carries another of my Catullan satires. I felt the same kind of frisson I experienced back in 1985. I don’t think I’m alone. Publication in permanent print form has a unique cachet.

There’s a sense of connection – gratification that the work formerly so private, so vested, so precious yet so ambiguous and elusive, is finally making its own way, beyond one’s own fretting and possessiveness. Text transcends the author, as it should.

I indulge in this slightly confessional mode merely to highlight what I see as the primary role of this kind of publication – which is one of connection and inclusiveness. Authors are not necessarily very trusting or inclusive people. Publication may be the auction of the mind (as Emily Dickinson wrote) but it also bridges the gap between author and reader.

How vital these publications are in 2023 – and how laudable it is that Monash University Publishing goes on investing in and promulgating this ensemble publishing.

Works of this kind – like journals and magazines – are indispensable components of what we are sometimes encouraged to think of as the literary ecology. Right now – during the age of Covid and at a time when recession threatens – journals, like artists in general, are doing it particularly tough. We know how grim the past three years have been for writers and artists. The data about incomes and security are bleak – shaming too for such a wealthy and educated country.

This makes the federal government’s newly released national cultural policy even more critical. All eyes are on Revive, and I am sure we wish the federal government and the Australia Council as it seeks to shape the new Writers Australia. Much will depend on how much money is restored to the pitifully underfunded federal arts budget – one that actively discriminates against literature. I don’t need to remind this audience that Australia Council of literature has been bogged at $5 million dollars for three decades. Three decades! At the risk sounding like Gilbert and Sullivan – it would be hilarious if it weren’t so deleterious.

Now, government has a chance to redress this historical neglect. And here – to my mind – not just publishers and gatekeepers (if that’s what we are) – we all have an opportunity and a responsibility to lobby government and the Australia Council to ensure that past neglect of literature is overturned and that the journals and publishers that nurture young writers and pay them fairly are supported.

But we’re here of course to talk about Verge – not governments and financial exigencies.

Verge is edited by Samuel Bernard, Thomas Rock and Vera Yingzhi Gu. In their introduction they note:

Defiance is too often associated with rebellion, insurrection or revolution, though the act is exquisitely heterogeneous. For Verge’s 2023 issue, we challenged writers to ponder this timely and universal concept.

The results are promisingly multifarious. The contributors – all 31 of them – write about forms of resistance and defiance – from the domestic to the planetary. There are stories and poems about domestic challenges, gender issues, the perils of identity, and what Cameron Semmens in his poem ‘Exiting the Forest’ calls ‘the crawling fear of environmental apocalypse’.

But defiance takes many forms – some active, political – others moral, instinctual, epistemological.

While I have written in other forms (fiction, memoir, criticism), I have devoted much of the past forty years to poetry – without ever really stopping to consider why I actually write the stuff; what it is that motivates me; what it is I am trying to effect. Here, I am rather like Thom Gunn, who once wrote: ‘I am interested in individual poems, not in poetics.’

Only lately have I begun to reflect on the properties and dispensations of poetry.

Each poem, each donnée, each poetic state surely represents a kind of refusal – a retreat from conventional ways of perceiving life, family, nature, relationships, society, mortality.

What are we doing as poets when we succumb to a poem but seeking unique metaphors for reality – ones never shared, never conceived before, too weird for public circulation.

‘Étonné-moi’, the impresario Diaghilev famously exhorted Jean Cocteau – and that was a good century ago. Surely it’s the artist’s duty to astonish us – not to echo, not to reinforce, not to concur. There is far too much yea-saying in this country. This is such a conformist age, when politicians and admen and social media zealots and corporate masters exhort us to think and act in certain ways, not to rock the boat, to express ourselves along certain lines. What a betrayal of intellectual freedom and the artistic life.

I am in total agreement with W.H. Auden, who declared: ‘Alienation from the Collective is always a duty.’

Albert Camus once said, ‘The real passion of the twentieth century is servitude’. Sometimes I fear that even worse forms of subservience and intimidation are loose in the twenty-first century.

Another quote (I am very quotatious tonight!) – from Wallace Stevens, one of the great poets of the twentieth century. It comes from his collection of epigrams called Adagia – indispensable reading for any poet: ‘The imagination wishes to be indulged.’

So let’s indulge it – and celebrate it.

Angela Jones has a poem in Verge and it contains a wonderful refrain – ‘Oh, the places you won’t go’, she repeats. I suppose my small point is that there are no places where writers shouldn’t venture – however private, subversive, imaginary.

I will end with a quote from James Baldwin – boldest of social critics – most eloquent of twentieth-century American writers. He wrote:

‘All art is a kind of confession, more or less oblique. All artists, if they are to survive, are forced, at last, to tell the whole story, to vomit the anguish up.’

Telling the whole story, yes, vomiting it up – not just half of it either, and certainly not the savoury or orthodox bits – is a writers’ responsibility. It’s the promise of such that admirable publications like Verge enable writers and thus readers to explore.

I wish it every success, and I congratulate everyone associated with this edition.

Readings, Carlton, 21 March 2023

  • Verge 2023

    Samuel Bernard, Thomas Rock and Vera Yingzhi Gu
ABIA Shortlist 2022
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Monash University Publishing shortlisted for Small Publisher of the Year, ABIA Awards

The Monash University Publishing team has been shortlisted for Small Publisher of the Year in the Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIAs). This is the first time the press has been nominated for this award, which recognises the strength of a publisher’s list, the growth in sales and marketing and the degree of editorial care. The judging panel noted of the shortlist, ‘We were impressed by the commitment to diversity, environmental issues and promotion of Australian storytelling alongside innovative approaches to reaching new audiences and finding new voices.’

This wonderful news come in addition to Sam van der Plank being nominated for ABIA’s Rising Star of the Year. 

Sam van der Plank
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Publishing Officer Sam van der Plank Shortlisted for the 2022 ABIA Rising Star Award

Monash University Publishing is thrilled to announce that Publishing Officer Sam van der Plank has been shortlisted for the 2022 ABIA Rising Star award. The Rising Star award recognises emerging talent in the Australian book industry whose record reflects ongoing excellence and growth in contribution to their profession. They must be currently working in the Australian book industry, and have been part of the industry for no more than 10 years.

Sam occupies a broad but pivotal role within the Publishing team, working across sales, marketing, operations, production and acquisitions. He was recently the driving force behind Monash University Publishing’s onboarding onto BooksoniX, a title management and ONIX dissemination system.

The winner of the Rising Star award will be announced at the 2022 Australian Book Industry Awards night gala event in Sydney on Thursday 9 June.

‘While those with a talent for operations often remain behind the scenes, Sam is the very definition of a team player, and his intelligence, ingenuity and commitment to improve Monash Publishing is truly exceptional,’ says publisher Julia Carlomagno, who nominated van der Plank for the Rising Star Award.

Read Sam’s full interview courtesy of Books+Publishing.

What key things do you wish you’d known when you were starting out?

I wish I’d known when I first started that there was more to publishing than editorial and commissioning! Like many, I entered the publishing industry thinking that I might become an editor. By chance, my first entry-level role was focused more on the sales side of things. Since then this is the area I’ve progressed in, and now I love all things sales, stock and data.

What has been your biggest achievement/proudest professional moment?

Setting up Monash University Publishing’s entire backlist on a title management system was a big and rewarding project – don’t worry, bulk uploads were involved! Hitting send on our automated ONIX feeds for the first time was a great feeling.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned on the job?

It’s been hugely valuable to gain insights into how the ‘business’ of publishing works through my roles. Learning about the money side of the industry and my employers has been fascinating. Be it running costings on new titles, assessing a potential reprint, or analysing our sales data, I really appreciate the opportunities I’ve had to see what makes a particular book – and a company’s operations – financially viable.

What do you think this industry could do better?

Data! I think that historically many of us have shied away from looking too closely at metadata or thinking about what an ONIX file is, exactly. But these aspects of communicating our books to retailers and other partners are only going to become more important moving forward. Those publishers who recognise the importance of good metadata and ONIX practices – and who resource these areas accordingly – are likely to reap the rewards.

Where would you like to be in five (or 10, or 20) years’ time? And what do you hope the industry will look like then?

In a few years I would love to be in a role related to one or some of the areas that I’m currently involved in: sales, stock and data. Perhaps I would have greater responsibilities and have become more specialised in a particular direction.

For the industry, I would love it if it turns out in many years’ time that print books are still flourishing and that independent, physical bookshops continue to play a central role in our bookish culture. It would also be a wonderful development if in this future scenario we have an even greater multitude of successful Australian publishers, publishing a more diverse range of authors and employing a more diverse array of publishing people – who, as we all know, are the best people!



Suzanne Hampel, Rivke Margolis, Freda Freiberg (nee Fink), launcher Michael Gawenda and author Margaret Taft at the March 21 launch, Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation.
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Michael Gawenda launch speech for Leo and Mina Fink: For the Greater Good

IN NOVEMBER 1949, the passenger ship the Continental arrived at the docks in Port Melbourne. Among the 200 or so passengers on board, most of them Jews from the displaced persons (DP) camps in Austria and Germany, was my family. My mother, my father, my three older sisters and me. I was born in a DP camp in Linz, Austria, and lived there with my family for almost the first three years of my life.

Given my age when I was carried off the Continental by my oldest sister, who by then was married and pregnant with her first child, I have no memory of the moment I first touched the ground in Australia. Nor do I recall who was there to greet these Jews, most of them refugees and Holocaust survivors.

But my father and my sisters told me when I was old enough to listen, that some lovely Jewish people had been there on the dock to greet us. They did not, as far as I can recall, say that Mina or Leo Fink were among them.

But having now read Margaret Taft’s book, Leo and Mina Fink: For the Greater Good, having read about the way Leo and Mina had been there for virtually every ship arrival carrying Jewish refugees—how they had worked so tirelessly to get the Australian government to accept these Holocaust survivors, how they had been key players in establishing the refugee and welfare organisations that helped bring thousands of these broken traumatised people to Australia, I was pretty sure that either Leo or Mina Fink, or both of them, were there on the dock to greet us.

Read the full launch speech at

In the National Interest at Adelaide Writers Festival
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In The National Interest at the Adelaide Writers Festival

For this year’s Adelaide Writers Festival, head to the Gardens every day at 12pm for Writers’ Week’s In the National Interest series. We are delighted to partner with Monash University Publishing on their series of the same name to present some of Australia’s most incisive thinkers exploring the critical issues facing Australia today.

Writers’ Week speakers include Kevin Rudd, Malcolm Turnbull, Rachel Doyle, Michael Bradley, Saxon Mullins, Martin Parkinson, Mark Willacy, Samantha Crompvoets and Fiona McLeod on topics ranging from Leadership, Courage, Accountability, Law Reform and Military Culture. Drawing on experiences from their working and personal lives, our contributors interrogate current realities and propose pathways to a better future.


In the National Interest Program

Sat 5 Mar, 12pm / East Stage
How Fast Things Fall with Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull

Sun 6 Mar, 12pm / East Stage
Our Nation’s Shame with Samantha Crompvoets and Mark Willacy

Mon 7 Mar, 12pm / East Stage
Compounding Damage with Michael Bradley, Rachel Doyle and Saxon Mullins

Tue 8 Mar, 12pm / East Stage
Good International Citizenship: The Case For Decency with Gareth Evans

Wed 9 Mar, 12pm / West Stage
Policy Drift with John Daley and Martin Parkinson

Thu 10 Mar, 12pm / East Stage
Grift, Lies and Influence with Fiona McLeod and Michael West

  • Blood Lust, Trust & Blame

    Samantha Crompvoets
  • Good International Citizenship

    Gareth Evans


IWD 2022
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Monash University Publishing’s 10 Great International Women’s Day Books

Monash University Publishing is offering 10% off a range of titles that focus on women and their stories. Just use the code WOMEN2022 in our ecart upon purchasing. This offer expires at the end of March 2022.

  • Eve Langley and The Pea Pickers

    Helen Vines
  • The Shelf Life of Zora Cross

    Cathy Perkins
  • Respectable Radicals

    Marian Quartly and Judith Smart
  • Jean Blackburn

    Craig Campbell and Debra Hayes
  • Gender Violence in Australia

    Alana Piper and Ana Stevenson




Essential Pre-poll Reading
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Monash University Publishing’s Essential Pre-Poll Reading

In the lead-up to this federal election, Monash University Publishing has your reading list covered. From our In the National Interest Series:

In Who Dares Loses: Pariah Policies, Wayne Errington and Peter van Onselen explain the political constraints on policymakers and the ways in which they are changing.

In Challenging Politics, Scott Ryan discusses the loss in faith in politics.

In Easy Lies & Influence, Fiona McLeod tells us what corruption can do, and why it’s imperative that we address it.

In Tides that Bind, ALP Deputy Leader Richard Marles implores us to step up our support for Pacific nations threatened by climate change and under-development.

In Governing in the Internet Age, Communications Minister Paul Fletcher outlines the key challenges the internet has posed for governments.

In Fortune’s Fool, Satyajit Das dissects the pandemic, global trends, Australia’s narrow ‘house and holes’ economy and its dependency on China.

In Population Shock, Abul Rizvi asks: how will government chart our larger and older population’s economic future?

In Good International Citizenship, Gareth Evans argues that to be, and be seen to be, a good international citizen is both a moral imperative and a matter of hard-headed national interest.

In Burning Down the House, Jo Dyer looks at how Australian politics has gone awry and how a range of independents are determined to burn it all down and build something new.

In Big: The Role of the State in the Modern Economy, Richard Denniss makes the case for following the lead of the Nordic countries in the provision of great public health, education, housing and infrastructure.

In Now More than Ever, David Anderson gives us an insider’s insight into the ABC: a cultural powerhouse where Australian identity is celebrated, democracy is defended, and creativity is encouraged to flourish.

In Dismal Diplomacy, Disposable Sovereignty, Carrillo Gantner offers some modest suggestions for improving Australia’s relationship with China.

In Leadership, Don Russell reflects on politicians, the political process and the role of government, and explains why our political leaders are as they are.

In A Decade of Drift, Martin Parkinson outlines how the twists and turns in climate change policy over the past decade have contributed to the erosion of public trust in government in Australia.

Other important background reading for the election includes: Cathy Goes to Canberra by Cathy McGowan, the inspiring story of one of Australia’s most successful and influential independents; Long Half-life by Ian Lowe on Australia’s nuclear policies and energy and climate challenges; Class in Australia on Australia’s deepening social stratification; and Corporate Power in Australia by Lindy Edwards on how the ‘big end of town’ influences our politics.

  • Who Dares Loses

    Wayne Errington & Peter van Onselen
  • Governing in the Internet Age

    Paul Fletcher


  • Good International Citizenship

    Gareth Evans
  • Dismal Diplomacy, Disposable Sovereignty

    Carrillo Gantner


  • Class in Australia

    Steven Threadgold and Jessica Gerrard
  • Corporate Power in Australia

    Lindy Edwards
Authors at the Adelaide Wrtiers Festival
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Meet Monash University Publishing authors at the Adelaide Writers Festival

Some of Monash University Publishing’s leading authors will be appearing at this year’s Adelaide Writers Festival.

Wed 9 Mar, 9:30am / Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden

The Legend of Charmian Clift

With Tanya Dalziell, Paul Genoni and Polly Samson / Chaired by Sophie Cunningham

Mon 7 Mar, 12pm / East Stage
Australia’s War on Whistleblowers

With Bernard Collaery, David McBride and Jennifer Robinson / Chaired by Andrew Fowler

Tue 8 Mar, 10:45am / Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden

Bad Energy

With Ian Lowe and Jeremy Moss / Chaired by Natasha Mitchell

  • Half the Perfect World

    Paul Genoni and Tanya Dalziell
  • A Secret Australia

    Felicity Ruby and Peter Cronau
Julia Carlomagno
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Meet our new Publisher: Julia Carlomagno

Monash University Publishing is proud to welcome Julia Carlomagno, who commences in the new role of Publisher.

Julia joins Monash from a career in trade publishing, including roles at publishing houses Black Inc., Scribe and Penguin, and has won both Australia’s national editing awards (the Rosie Award for Editorial Excellence and the Barbara Ramsden Award). She has worked with award-winning researchers and writers such as Joëlle Gergis, John Keane, Jeff Sparrow, Alice Pung, Anna Krien and Margaret Simons, and was the deputy editor of the journal Australian Foreign Affairs. Julia’s appointment marks the continued reinvigoration of Monash’s list as it seeks to bring the best ideas and scholarship to a broad audience.

Monash Publishing Director Greg Bain says: “Monash Publishing is certainly gaining traction through the In the National Interest series, and having Julia build our nonfiction presence for a wider readership is a welcomed boost.”

Publisher Julia Carlomagno says: “It’s delightful – and dizzying – to be back on the Clayton campus after studying here many years ago. Monash, across campuses and countries, is home to many of the world’s best minds, producing ideas that change the future and shape the way we think. Our vibrant publishing team has the skills and rigour to work with authors to turn ideas into brilliant, agenda-setting books.”

Monash University Publishing is seeking book pitches and proposals from the Monash community and beyond, with a particular interest in the areas of sustainability and the environment, science, Indigenous affairs, politics, sociology, popular culture, economics, history and biography.

See our submission guidelines for further details.