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

Image of Phurpa at Dark Mofo

Dark Mofo 2019: The Dirty Three and Phurpa

Two bands conjure different degrees of devilishness on a Sunday in Hobart

‘The Essential Duchamp’ at the Art Gallery of NSW

A comprehensive exhibition of the 20th century’s most influential artist

Media unites

Legislation is needed urgently to protect the public’s right to know

Illustration by Jeff Fisher

Vanishing voices

The cultural damage of homogenising language

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

Photo of Blackpink at Coachella

Seoul trained: K-pop and Blackpink

Trying to find meaning in the carefully formulated culture of K-pop

Cover image of Underland by Robert Macfarlane

The chthonic realms explored in Robert Macfarlane’s ‘Underland’

Cave systems, mines, urban sewers, mycelial networks, moulins and more

Still image from 'High Life'

A master’s misstep: Claire Denis’ ‘High Life’

The French auteur chooses a sci-fi film to start over-explaining things

Photo of Leonard French underneath his stained glass ceiling at the National Gallery of Victoria.

Leonard French’s Balzacian life

Reg MacDonald’s biography may return this Australian artist to the national imagination

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 of Phurpa at Dark Mofo

Dark Mofo 2019: The Dirty Three and Phurpa

Two bands conjure different degrees of devilishness on a Sunday in Hobart

Image of the University of Sydney


The Australian’s crusade on free speech in universities

Image of Quarterly Essay 74, ‘The Prosperity Gospel’, by Erik Jensen

Everymen don’t exist

On the campaign trail with Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten – a Quarterly Essay extract

Image from ‘Fleabag’

Falling for ‘Fleabag’

On the problematic hotness of Andrew Scott’s Hot Priest