Text Review


More than a Primer?

review by Glen Phillips


Explorations in Creative Writing
Kevin Brophy
Melbourne University Press, 2003
ISBN 0-522-85056-1
Pb 256pp, RRP AU$34.95


Certainly, this book raises many questions about its categorisation. Perhaps we needed a book for teachers (and students) in the fields of creative writing and English studies which is completely different from the frequently dull or largely unusable, over-individualised and idiosyncratic texts that have come onto the market over the years. It is true that Kevin Brophy's latest in his ever-lengthening list of published works is unconventional in form. Ever since his fabulous Creativity we have known that he is far more of an author than just a gifted writer of poetry and fiction.

Let's look at the structure of Explorations in Creative Writing. There are three main sections, viz, "Reading Writing', 'Making Writing' and 'Talking Writing'. That seems logical enough. Yet there is a sense that these are 'titles of convenience', since much of the fascinating content of any of the sections wouldn't really go amiss in one of the remaining sections. In fact, this very useful book is a delightful ragbag of often quite personal opinions, jottings, well-developed pieces of creative writing and competent, even scholarly, essays.

One of the abiding pre-occupations is the ambience of Melbourne - the City, its suburbs, its weather - even its dog turds. But don't be misled, the actual range of topics (though always linked somehow to the professions of writing and teaching writing) is huge - an apparent family anecdote (often used in much the same way that poet Andrew Lansdown uses his family as a touchstone to his lyrics) can lead to the question of literacy. We can move on to consider medieval thinking, then witness a challenge to Philip Adams, visit Fernado Pesson, go on to John Kinsella and find ourselves ending up with a vase of yellow tulips. We can be transported from Istanbul to Brunswick by turns.

I see that the work on Brophy's book was assisted by a publication grant from the University of Melbourne, and a good thing too. It seems that a number of Brophy's essays and papers well worthy of collecting into a book are hereby made available, together with many practical ideas for teaching (and learning) the craft of writing. Certainly, some of the arguments border on the jesuitical, but it's all pretty stimulating. You'd have to be tough to please if you couldn't find enlightenment and a chuckle or two in this engaging book.


Glen Phillips is a teacher of writing and poet based in Perth, Western Australia.


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Vol 8 No 1 April 2004
Editors: Nigel Krauth & Tess Brady