Nationality: Australian. Born: Katherine Jill Sky Brinkwath, Tumby Bay, South Australia, 1940. Education: Bush schools in South Australia; University of Adelaide, 1975–78, B.A. 1978. Family: Married Richard Dutton Llewellyn in 1960 (divorced 1975); one son and one daughter. Career: Trainee nurse, Royal Adelaide Hospital, South Australia, 1954–58; registered nurse, Adelaide, 1958–60; coowner and director, Llewellyn Galleries, Dulwich, 1968–75. Agent: Tim Curnow, Curtis Brown Literary Agents, 7 Union Street, Paddington 2021, New South Wales, Australia. Address: 300 The Mall, Laura 2780, New South Wales, Australia.
Trader Kate and the Elephants. Adelaide, Friendly Street Poets, 1983.
Luxury. Sydney, Redress Press, 1985.
Honey. Hudson, Hawthorn, 1988.
Figs. Hudson, Hawthorn, 1989.
Selected Poems. Hudson, Hawthorn, 1992.
Crosshatched. N.p., 1994.
Sofala, and Other Poems. Kew, Victoria, Hudson, Hawthorn, 1999.
Recordings: The Waterlily, Bolinda Audio Books, 1987.
The Waterlily. Hudson, Hawthorn, 1986.
Dear You. Hudson, Hawthorn, 1987.
The Mountain. Hudson, Hawthorn, 1990.
Angels and Dark Madonnas—Travels in Italy and India. Hudson, Hawthorn, 1991.
Lilies Feathers and Frangipani. Sydney, Harper Collins, 1993.
The Floral Mother and Other Essays. Sydney, Harper Collins, 1995.
Gorillas Tea & Coffee (Travels in East Africa). Sydney, Harper Collins, 1995.
Burning: A Journal. Hawthorn, Victoria, Hudson, 1997.
Stardust. Hawthorn, Victoria, Hudson, 1997.
Editor, The Penguin Book of Australian Women Poets. Penguin, Melbourne, 1986.*
Manuscript Collection: A.D.F.A. Library, Duntoon, Canberra, Australia.
Critical Studies: In Overland Magazine (Mt. Eliza, Victoria), 1989; "A.D. Hope's 'Ulysses' and Kate Llewellyn's 'Penelope': Two Modern Voices from the Past" by Malati Mathur, in Commonwealth Review (New Delhi, India), 2(1–2), 1990–91; "Mapping the Unpredictable: The Art of Kate Llewellyn" by Anne Gunter, in Overland (Melbourne, Australia), 127, winter 1992.* * *
Kate Llewellyn first attracted notice as a poet when she contributed work to Sisters Poets No 1 (1979), a pioneering collection of women's poetry. In 1986, with Susan Hampton, she edited The Penguin Book of Australian Women Poets, an even more important anthology that was to help redefine the achievement of Australian women in poetry from the colonial period to the present day.
Llewellyn's own first collection, Trader Kate and the Elephants, was joint winner of the Anne Elder award for a first volume of poetry. It established her tone of sensuous directness, a combination of earthiness and often playful associative juxtapositions. Her second collection, Luxury, more closely defined her increasing command of a direct, colloquial voice to express the confidence of her feminine explorations of self and of relationships. Later collections such as Honey and Figs, as well as Selected Poems, continued to explore this rich vein of sensuous intimacy, but the processes of aging and of an underlying rueful acceptance have moved more into the foreground of her writing.
Although Llewellyn has been prolific as a poet, she has perhaps gained greater readership through a series of three diarylike prose volumes (though distinctions between prose and poetry are frequently lost in these books). The Waterlily traces the author's move from Sydney up to the mountain resort of Leura, noting everything from daily gardening life to isolation and the vagaries of human relationships. Dear You, written as a series of letters to an absent lover, is notable for its honesty to experience. The third volume of this poetic prose trilogy, The Mountain, is addressed to her daughter.
Crosshatched, a verse collection published in 1994, reconciles the diary-note form of the autobiographical trilogy with the more clipped cadences of Llewellyn's earlier poetry, notably in the work based on the disastrous bushfires in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales in January 1994. Other poems revisit classical myths in the well-established feminist tradition. Sofala (1999) has the sort of easy authority Llewellyn has now made her own in both prose and poetry. If there is a new wistful quality, there is never any sense of resignation.
—Thomas W. Shapcott