Portrait of Barry Hill

Barry Hill

Barry Hill is a multi-award winning writer of poetry, history, biography, fiction and reportage.

Reason and Lovelessness is his latest collection of essays variously published in Australia, India and London. It includes ‘satellites’ of his major works – such as Sitting In (1992), a landmark memoir in labour history; Broken Song: TGH Strehlow and Aboriginal Possession (2002), a literary biography on Aboriginal and frontier poetics; and Peacemongers (2014), a pilgrimage book about Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi in the years leading up to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Other essays are new: ‘Brecht’s Song’, on his working-class mother; ‘Dark Star’, an expansion of his meeting with Christina Stead on her 80th birthday; ‘Loving Roughneck’, his critical appreciation of John Berger; and ‘On the Edge of the Cliff’, on his private meeting with the Dalai Lama in the Blue Mountains.

As has been the case with his book-length works, Hill’s essays collected in Reason and Lovelessness are freshly, deeply researched, genre-crossing, multi-disciplinary, combining the candidly personal with the philosophical.

Hill was born in Australia and educated in Melbourne and London, where he worked as a psychologist and a journalist (the Age and the Times Educational Supplement). He has been writing full-time since 1975.

His short fiction has been widely anthologized, some of it translated into Chinese and Japanese. He writes libretti and has done much work for radio. Broken Song: TGH Strehlow and Aboriginal Possession (Knopf 2002) has been described as ‘one of the great Australian books’ (John Mulvaney) and ‘a major event in Australian high culture’ (Robert Manne). Necessity: Poems 1996-2006 won the ACT’s 2008 Judith Wright Prize. Lines for Birds, collaboration with the painter, John Wolseley, was short-listed for the 2011 Queensland Premier’s Award. His latest book is Naked Clay: Drawing from Lucian Freud.

Hill also worked as a radio critic on the Age for 15 years. Between 1998 and 2008, he was Poetry Editor of the Australian, and between 2005 and 2008 was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Melbourne. For decades, he has aspired to be a good Buddhist.