December 2016 – January 2017

Arts & Letters


By Sarah Holland-Batt
A poem


for my school friends

I think of the luxury cars we drove as teenagers –
Audis, Mercedes, Lexus, Bimmers.
Brooks Brothers leather and cashmere sweaters.
Padlock Tiffany fobs. Kate Spade totes.
The knowing yearbook notes: il miglior fabbro,
see you in Belize! We got our tans at sophisticated lakes –
you could tell they were premium. The water
was pretty much Evian. No more than we deserved:
silver service Cokes and lobster rolls, black diamond
weekends in Aspen. French lessons? Bien sûr, chérie, you bet.
Après ski, sophomore trips to Paris and the Met.
A Harvard woman in Wayfarers and a trench
came to recruit our brains, which were the size of the state
she said, fast and sleek as Corvettes. They opened doors,
were plush as debutante balls, cost a bomb.
But we nailed our vitae: honour roll, choir, varsity tennis.
Gridiron? God, no; soccer. (Our sports were European.)
Philosophy class: Kant, Camus, absurdism.
Our teacher we called by his given name (Jim).
Jim showed us Ubu Roi, the sad wrong jaguars of Rousseau.
We aced trig and calculus, everything you could know
from Lincoln to Clinton. Blue dress, log cabin.
No cheer team. We were leaders. We fed the homeless
foiled burritos like silver bullets and started not-for-profits,
partied in our parents’ boardrooms and drank Everclear
from ironic red dixie cups. We showered every penny
of our college years on worthy NGOs. Our empires
could come later, after the consulting years; we had time
at our disposal, and after all, we could afford it:
we had generously upholstered souls, and everybody knows
America was beautiful at the end of the century
and charity begins with our kind of beautiful money.

Sarah Holland-Batt

Sarah Holland-Batt is a poet. Her most recent book is The Hazards.


December 2016 – January 2017

From the front page

Unpopulation policy

The PM’s efforts are too little too late

‘Exploded View’ by Carrie Tiffany

This new novel is most striking in how it diverges from its predecessors


Ben Quilty in bleeding colour

The Australian artist opens up on the eve of a retrospective exhibition


Australia’s Islamophobia problem goes right to the top

In This Issue

Image of Patrick White

The art of biography

The author stays out of the picture, and other personal rules of writing

Image of Pauline Hanson

A pox on both your houses

How can the major parties address the rise of populism in Australia?


Australia divided

The electorate has fractured into three economic and cultural zones

Image of Ram’s Head, Blue Morning Glory by Georgia O’Keefe

A new world for the making

‘O’Keefe, Preston, Cossington Smith: Making Modernism’ brings together three giants of modernism

More in Arts & Letters

Image of Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, 2010

Rats, heroes and Kevin Rudd’s ‘The PM Years’

This memoir answers some questions about his deposal and return but raises others

Image of Gerald Murnane

Tracking time: Gerald Murnane’s ‘A Season on Earth’

Forty years on, the author’s second novel is reunited with its lost half

Image of Matmos

Clicks, plinks, hoots and thuds: Matmos’s ‘Plastic Anniversary’

The American experimental duo embrace the ‘sounds’ of a ubiquitous material

A French Western? Jacques Audiard on ‘The Sisters Brothers’

The celebrated director explains how he made a Hollywood staple his own

More in Poetry

Image of Les Murray

Les Murray’s magisterial ‘Collected Poems’

How to approach a 736-page collection by Australia’s greatest poet?

Detail of a painting of Barron Field

Barron Field and the myth of terra nullius

How a minor poet made a major historical error


A song cycle in 5 parts

The inland food bowl

A poem

Read on

Image from ‘Destroyer’

Hell hath no fury: Karen Kusama’s ‘Destroyer’

Nicole Kidman confronts in this LA crime thriller

Image from Hobart’s school strike for climate

The kids are alright

Climate-striking students have every right to protest

Image of Defence Minister Christopher Pyne

The Teflon Kingdom

Saudi Arabia is confident it can buy out the West, and Australia is happy to oblige

Image of Nationals leader Michael McCormack

Instability again threatens the Nationals

What can history tell us about the party’s current strife?