A new literary biography Good for the Soul: John Curtin’s Life with Poetry by Toby Davidson (Macquarie University) has just been published by UWA Publishing. Davidson draws upon his archival work as a John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library Visiting Scholar and personal knowledge as a Curtin descendent to trace Curtin’s affinity for poetry from boyhood to his wartime speeches and friendships with poets and critics such as Bernard O’Dowd, Dame Mary Gilmore, Norman Lindsay and Walter Murdoch.
Good for the Soul: John Curtin’s Life with Poetry traverses literature, history, politics, cultural studies and media studies disciplines to show how Curtin took the radical poetics he absorbed in his Melbourne socialist youth and repurposed them to urge Australians to radically reimagine themselves in a world at war. It also reveals how Curtin turned to poetry reading, discussion and recitals to improve his own mental health in a time of extreme stress and how he actively encouraged poems and poetry reading by members of the armed forces and everyday civilians.
Good for the Soul: John Curtin’s Life with Poetry is a unique, patiently researched and fascinating re-evaluation of Australia’s revered wartime Prime Minister. – John Edwards, author of John Curtin’s War