By Susan Bradley SmithPoetryFive Islands Press

Beds For All Who Come

In this inventive collection, Susan Bradley Smith projects herself into the lives of selected famous mothers and daughters: Clementine Churchill and Lady Sarah Audley, Sylvia Plath and Frieda Hughes, Ulrike Meinhof and Bettina Rohl. And in a prologue and coda, she takes Germaine Greer as her subject.

These mother-daughter pairs address each other, intimately, in three separate acts — sharing their inner lives and losses, their experiences with and without each other. The daughters are branded by the toxic personal legacies of their parents, who are all remembered for their central political or cultural significance to the twentieth century.

‘In the verve, charge and spark of these poems, Susan Bradley Smith traces the syllables of lost voices into dramatic spaces of invention,’ says Felicity Plunkett. ‘In their crossings and illuminations they are vibrant and wild in every direction.’

Portrait of Susan Bradley Smith

Susan Bradley Smith

Susan has an Honours degree in History and a PhD in English and is an award-winning writer and essayist, specialising in cultural history, creative nonfiction and poetry. Since beginning her professional writing life as a rock journalist in Sydney and London she has worked as an academic and teacher in both Australia and the UK, publishing extensively as a literary and theatre historian, and creative writer. A regular media commentator, she was the media spokesperson for the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies at the University of London, where she taught Australian History and Literature.

Former host of Literary Links at the London Australian High Commission, she is also a seasoned conference host of large international events, and has extensive board and committee experience. Her most recent books are the poetry collections Beds For All Who Come and supermodernprayerbook and a memoir of writing and wellbeing, Friday Forever, with her next collection, The Screaming Middle being completed on her Australia Council Fellowship in Rome.

Susan also works as a bibliotherapist, and is the founder of ‘Milkwood Bibliotherapy', devoted to reading, writing and wellbeing. She has particular interests in mentoring women and emerging writers, and at-risk youth (recently acting as Artistic Director of Alia College’s 2014 Poetry Festival).

Susan lives in Melbourne and London and is a research associate in English at La Trobe University.

Judges’ report

In Beds For All Who Come, Susan Bradley-Smith places a strong and compelling cast of female players on her apocalyptic stage, creating powerful poems and dramatic monologues around their lives and perceptions.

In four acts, Bradley-Smith poetically inhabits women from Baroness Spencer-Churchill to Germaine Greer, and bravely takes on poet Frieda Hughes in the first moments after her mother Sylvia Plath’s mythologised death. Ambitious and compelling, these bold imagined histories will leave readers intrigued.

Extract

The Hitler in you, the Hitler in me

“Who is this East-obsessed 26-year-old brat, who can rule out

her own liability and divide the Germans into the good and the

bad?“ Bettina Röhl asks herself, referring to the article entitled,

“Hitler in You”, which her mother Ulrike Meinhof published in 1961.

Mama—

your mouthpiece was made

of communist concrete: they

funded your magazine, this

we all now know. We know also

that you refused their offer of

refuge come to us come to the

GDR and be our superstar. But

what if you had gone? Imagine

this: you are still alive. The

wall never fell because

you fucked the Stasi stupid,

then sensible, then saved

communism the world

over. Now that would be

the better way to kill the

capitalist bastards. Yes or no?

If you had said no to the Red

Army—the cell that delivered

you a cell that delivered you

to god on the end of a rope—then

all of this would be real. Was.

The good. The bad. Once,

you were all I had. I wish

you’d said yes, no matter

what, to anything else. Most

of all, to me.

The Premier’s 21 Shortlist