Remembering Liam Davison

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My great friend Liam Davison (right) would have been 60 today. That’s us, in Vietnam I think.

I don’t want to talk about the senseless loss of life, that took him and his wife Francesca that was MH17, and one day I’ll be ready to write in a lot more detail about Liam and his writing, and what they both meant to me.  Liam was an extraordinary person and writer.

Today, I’m just remembering the friend I met at teacher’s college in 1975, who I taught with, wrote with,  travelled, socialised, rode and and talked with for nearly forty years.

Recently, Gavin Duffy, the graphics editor of Peninsula Writing, shared some photos he’d re-discovered of Gavin, Liam and myself on the radio set of Radio Port Phillip where we did a weekly radio show on local writing for a while, and also trying to sell our little magazine at a publisher’s event in the mid 1980s.  They were fun times, excited about writing and where it all might lead. I love our Peninsula Writing wind-cheaters and that sense that we were doing something fun and important.

I miss him pretty much every day.

Today, I’ll be celebrating his 60th with family and friends

Below: Promoting local writing on Radio Port Phillip. From left: Liam, Debbie Batt, me.

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Below: On the Small Publishers stand at a book fair. From left: Liam, unknown, me.

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Below: Liam, Gavin Duffy and unknown, Book Fair.

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Peninsula Writing – #6 – 1986

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The sixth issue of Peninsula Writing was perhaps the finest edition of them all. It was also the last. The magazine took on a theme approach for the first time, the Mahogany Ship, an almost mythical ship that had been sighted briefly half-buried in the sand dunes near Warrnambool that seemed to pre-date known European settlement.

This was the first cover that wasn’t by Gavin Duffy; a map of the Warrnambool sand dunes including the enigmatic site of wreck. Beyond that, the issue didn’t contain a lot of artwork.

The Mahogany Ship idea was an interesting choice, given that the Mahogany Ship history is located on the west coast of Victoria, a long way from the Mornington Peninsula. But the range of writing gathered together was significant.

The issue opened with Liam Davison’s fine story The Mahogany Ship, Melbourne poet Philip Martin generously allowed us to reprint his poem Dune Ship, which had just appeared in his own book, and he also wrote an interesting account of the genesis of that poem. followed by a poem by Judith Rodriguez The Mahogany Ship, Dune Ship on a Hot Day by Francis King, The Mahogany Ship by Warrick Wynne, Ship by Connie Barber, The Ship as Lover by Mary Chapman and The Mahogany Ship by Mimie F. Brown.

This was the first time in six issues that Liam Davison and myself had included our own creative writing in the magazine.

In the review sections we substituted the reviews for piece by Liam Davison: The Mahogany Ship in Australian Fiction

I think that issue five is the high point of the magazine, for the ideas and the quality of the writing and how the pieces bounce off each other, although you could argue that, for its artwork, issue four was the best.

There is no hint in this issue that it would be the last. In fact, the last page still seeks subscriptions. But it would be the final issue of this little magazine.

Below: Contents of Issue six

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Below: The Editorial for Issue six.

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Below: Poems by Francis King and Warrick Wynne

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Below: Extract from ‘The Mahogany Ship’ by Liam Davison

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Peninsula Writing – #4 – 1985

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The fourth issue of Peninsula Writing appeared in 1985 and was the last of the illustrated covers from Gavin Duffy, an overview of a beach and perhaps Frankston Pier.

The issue featured stories by Pauline Rough, Donal Pritchard, Lynn Sunderland, Peter Murphy and grouped poems together for the first time. Poets included were Nancy Davison, Connie Barber, David Kerr, Karen Pridmore, David Turner and Shane McCauley.

In the reviews section I reviewed Geoffrey Dutton’s Snow on the Saltbush and Liam Davison reviewed James McQueen’s Uphill Runner

The issue featured artwork by Gavin Duffy and Marcus Batt.

The issue included an index of issues 1-4.

Below: Contents of Issue 4

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Below: Artwork by Gavin Duffy

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Below: Poem by David Turner, Artwork by Gavin Duffy

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Below: Artwork by Marcus Batt, Story opening by Donald Pritchard

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Below: Artwork by Gavin Duffy

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Below: Artwork by Marcus Batt, Review by Warrick Wynne

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Below: Artwork by Marcus Batt

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Below: Artwork by Marcus Batt

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Below: An index of Issues 1-4

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Peninsula Writing – #1 – Winter 1983

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The first issue of Peninsula Writing came out in Winter, 1983, for the Mornington Peninsula which had ‘long been in need of an outlet for creative writing’. The manifesto was to provide a forum for writers from the Peninsula and beyond.

The first edition set the pattern for issues to follow: a terrific cover by Gavin Duffy, short stories, poetry, some reviews and some artwork and graphics, including some artwork by Phillip Mead. All for $3.75.

In that first edition there were stories by Margaret Pearce, Doug Shingleton, David Kerr, Valerie Albiston, J. Mann and poetry by Desmond Judge, John Goodall, Bruce Lundgren, Shane Doheny, Anne Parratt and Reece Caterson. I reviewed The Younger Australian Poets and Liam Davison reviewed The Plains by Gerald Murnane.

Below: the editorial for Issue 1

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Below: Contents for Issue 1

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Below: Pages 4-5 of Issue 1, featuring artwork by Philip Mead

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Below: Page 36-37, featuring art work by Phillip Mead and a story by Valerie Albiston

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Below: Pages 44 and 45. Poem by Reece Caterson, art work by Phillip Mead

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Peninsula Writing 1983-1985

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Issue #1 – 1983. $3.75

Doing some Autumn cleaning over the holidays I found lots of photos that I’d not originally considered good enough to make it into a photo album, but I wanted to keep.

Among them were some photos of Liam Davison and Gavin Duffy printing Peninsula Writing in the 1980s.

Peninsula Writing was a quartely local literary magazine that Liam, Gavin and I founded in 1983 to promote and foster creative writing on the Mornington Peninsula. Liam edited the prose, Gavin created the artwork, graphics and design, including five terrific coves and I edited the poetry. We all typed, stapled and folded. The little magazine featured poetry, prose and reviews and lasted five issues.

In some ways it was the very worst time to try to publish a magazine. No desktop publishing or laser printers, or internet, we typed the whole thing out by hand, made offset masters and printed it ourselves on an offset machine borrowed from the local church. Very hands on! We struggled with all the usual stuff; distribution, advertising, sponsorship and getting the damn type black enough! If only we’d waited a few short years …

I was a bit surprised that nothing much exists about this short-lived little magazine now. Not one image on Google Search, and no article anywhere I can find. It wasn’t ground-breaking historical stuff, but it was part of a little local movement and I think it deserves a little better than nothing.

So, I intend putting together a series of blog posts, one on each issue, with some scans, lists of contributors etc., just to put the record out there. For I feel it was something worthwhile.

Below: a break in the printing. Liam Davison, Gavin Duffy and Jackie Davison (Liam’s mum, who had access to the church offset printer)

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Below: Liam working the offset printer. We always struggled to get the print black enough.

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Below: Me with the first copy of ‘Peninsula Writing’

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Birdcall

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As I blogged about earlier, I joined a good sized audience this week at 45 Downstairs to hear some short fiction loosely focused on the idea of ‘love and loss’, short story readings from Carrie Tiffany, Arnold Zable and Toni Jordan, which were all interesting and 45 Downstairs is a great place to hear writing.

However, I was really there to hear Liam Davison’s work read. And I was so pleased with the choice, a story called Birdcall which was featured in the Best Australian Short Stories 2013, (Blackinc)

It’s a beautiful story, classically about love and loss, but imbued for all of there with the heard-rending sadness at the loss of the author.  It’s a beautiful story, about a father and son, about putting away the past, about connections and disconnections. The central image of the birdsong, and the bird-caller is wonderfully balanced and subtle and restrained, like his best writing so often was.

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It was also beautifully read by actor Paul English (above). It’s not an easy story to read, with its birdsong (see the opening below) built into the story. Easy to get wrong. And Liam’s voice is also hard to read sometimes, the tone matters, and English got it just right.

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It was very moving to hear Liam’s words out loud again, with lots of his family and friends in the audience too. And I thought I held it together pretty well; I really wanted to hear the story and listen to it, listen to it as a beautifully written piece of fiction and not get all mixed up with thinking about everything else around it.

And I mostly did that, but when we got to the passage below I couldn’t help but think of all the writing that we now won’t get from Liam and that hurts. And maybe I lost it a little then.

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Liam Davison featured at Shorts@45

I saw this week that a forthcoming event at FortyFive Downstairs (Flinders St, Melbourne) is going to feature a reading of a short story by writer Liam Davison, tragically killed last year. In my opinion Liam’s stories were among his very best work; his collection The Shipwreck Party is one of my favourites. It will be interesting to see what story they choose and no doubt moving for his friends and admirers to hear his work aloud again and reflect on the work that didn’t get written.

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More details here.