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Tamar Valley Storytellers: Nancy Corbett

Updated: Feb 22

Nancy Corbett was born in Canada in 1944. She has attained her B.A. and M.A. in English Literature from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver before moving to Australia in 1973. Nancy has since published two novels, several non-fiction books and a memoir (Firsthand). In March this year, she published her first book of poems, The Longest Conversation. Nancy has twice won the Launceston Poetry Cup (2016, 2019) and is currently a committee member of the Tasmanian Poetry Festival and a tutor at the Launceston School for Seniors, teaching a course in appreciating poetry and co-tutoring a writing workshop with Patience Stewart Gibb.

1. What are you working on?

At the moment I'm editing poems from many years of writing poetry.  I wrote my first poem at the age of six years and published my first book of selected poems, The Longest Conversation, this year.  I am 77 now, so there are a lot of poems from the past which require my attention.  Also, of course, I'm writing new poems.  And stories for the writing workshop I teach at the School For Seniors.  That demands a new story every week when the school is in session.  I'm also taking part in a special project with Kristen Lang. More about that later...

2. How does the Tamar Valley influence your writing?

I live in a house that overlooks the Tamar River and the hills across the way.  That view, and the continually changing sky, is a constant inspiration. The creative atmosphere in Northern Tasmania, our rich population of writers, painters, sculptors, actors, musicians and craftspeople is another inspiration, and a joy. One of the writing groups I belong to, Tatlers Women Writers of Northern Tasmania, published an anthology of fiction, history and poems last year titled In Pursuit of Tasmania. Most of us live in the Tamar Valley and it features significantly in the book.

3. What themes are you exploring?

At present I'm taking part in a poetry project organised by poet Kristen Lang, exploring the world from the point of view of its non-human or earth-centred life. In Kristen's words:

What might poems that support earth-centric ways of being look like and can they contribute to social change? I want to answer these two questions in pieces to begin with. By the end, we will see if we have a deeper, more inclusive answer.

4. Describe for us where you write.

I am fortunate to have a study of my own, a dedicated place with a big, solid, old-fashioned wooden desk. On the desk is a small lamp, because I work early in the morning and in winter, it's still dark. There are always piles of books and papers on my desk, as well as my computer and printer. I have my latest journal at hand on the desk, too. I write in it with a pen. The study windows face the front yard where I sometimes see the secret wallaby who sleeps in a narrow, private spot next to the house. There are proteas in bloom now in the yard so I can see the wattle birds getting their honey fix throughout the day. There's a file cabinet which I sporadically try to clear out, and a floor-to-ceiling bookcase filled with essential books collected over many years. Non-essential books are in piles on the floor, as well as many boxes of photos from the pre-digital age. Paintings by friends and some of my own photos are on the walls. I love my study.  I know how lucky I am.  Most days I spend several hours in this wonderful space.

5. Finish this sentence, "I wish the literary scene was more..."

Widely known, appreciated and well paid!

6. What's your favourite read so far this year?

Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver.  The wonderful poet Mary Oliver died in 2019. I don't have any words that are strong enough to express my appreciation of her poems, and my gratitude for her work.


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