Nationality: Australian. Born: Judith Green, Perth, Western Australia, 13 February 1936. Education: Brisbane Girls' Grammar School, 1950–53; University of Queensland, St. Lucia, 1954–57,B.A. (honors) 1957; Girton College, Cambridge, 1960–62, M.A. 1965; University of London, Cert. Ed. 1968. Family: Married 1) Fabio Rodriguez in 1964 (divorced 1981), three daughters and one son; 2) Thomas W. Shapcott, q.v., in 1982. Career: Resident teacher, Fairholme Presbyterian Girls' College, Toowoomba, 1958; lecturer, University of Queensland Department of External Studies, 1959–60; lecturer in English, Philippa Fawcett College of Education, London, 1962–63, and University of the West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica, 1963–65; lecturer, St. Giles School of English, London, 1965–66, and St. Mary's College of Education, Twickenham, Middlesex, 1966–68; lecturer, 1969–76, and senior lecturer, 1977–85, La Trobe University, Melbourne; writer-in-residence, University of Western Australia, Nedlands, summer 1978, and Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida, 1986; lecturer on Australian literature, Macquarie University, North Ryde, New South Wales, 1985; visiting fellow, Western Australian Institute of Technology, South Bentley, 1986; lecturer in English, Macarthur Institute of Higher Education, Milperra, Sydney, 1987; lecturer in writing and writer-in-residence, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, 1988–89; writer-in-residence, Ormond College University of Melbourne, 1988–89. Since 1989 lecturer in writing, Victoria College; senior lecturer, Deakin University, 1993. Poetry editor, Meanjin, Melbourne, 1979–82; poetry columnist, Sydney Morning Herald, 1984–86. Since 1989 poetry consultant, Penguin Books Australia. Also artist and illustrator: individual shows in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Paris. Awards: Australia Council fellowship, 1974, 1978, 1983; South Australian Government prize, 1978; Artlook Victorian prize, 1979; P.E.N. Stuyvesant prize, 1981; Feminist Fortnight Favourite, 1989, for New and Selected Poems; Chistopher Brennan award, 1994. AM (Member of the Order of Australia), 1994. Address: P.O. Box 231, Mont Albert, Victoria 3127, Australia.
Four Poets (as Judith Green), with others. Melbourne, Cheshire, 1962.
Nu-Plastik Fanfare Red and Other Poems. St. Lucia, University of Queensland Press, 1973.
Broadsheet Number Twenty-Three. Canberra, Open Door Press, 1976.
Water Life. St. Lucia, University of Queensland Press, 1976.
Shadow on Glass. Canberra, Open Door Press, 1978.
3 Poems. Melbourne, Old Metropolitan Meat Market, 1979.
Angels. Melbourne, Old Metropolitan Meat Market, 1979.
Arapede. Melbourne, Old Metropolitan Meat Market, 1979.
Mudcrab at Gambaro's. St. Lucia, University of Queensland Press, 1980.
Witch Heart. Melbourne, Sisters, 1982.
Mrs. Noah and the Minoan Queen, with others, edited by Rodriguez. Melbourne, Sisters, 1983.
Floridian Poems. Winter Park, Florida, Rollins College, 1986.
The House by the Water: New and Selected Poems. St. Lucia, University of Queensland Press, 1988.
The Cold. Canberra, National Library of Australia (Pamphlets Poets),1992.
Poor Johanna (produced Adelaide, 1994). In Heroines, edited by D.Spender. Melbourne, Penguin, 1991.
Lindy, with Robyn Archer (opera libretto). Music by Moya Henderson, n.d.
Winners: A Novel. New York, Knopf, 1979.
Noela Hjorth, with Vicki Pauli. Clarendon, South Australia, Granrott Press, 1984.
Editor, Mrs. Noah and the Minoan Queen. Melbourne, Sisters, 1983.
Editor, with Andrew Taylor, Poems from the Australian's 20th Anniversary Competition. Sydney, Angus and Robinson, 1985.
Editor, I sogni cantano l'alba: poesia contemporeana, translated by G. Englaro. Milan, Lanfranchi, 1988.
Editor, The Collected Poems of Jennifer Rankin. St. Lucia, University of Oueensland Press. 1990.
Translator, Your Good Colombian Friend, by Jairo Vanegas. Upper Ferntree Gully, Papyrus Press, 1995.*
Manuscript Collection: Fryer Research Library, University of Queensland, Brisbane.
Critical Studies: Interviews in the Australian National Archive, 1976, Women and Writing: Into the Eighties, Clayton, Victoria, Monash University, 1980, Uomini e Libri 97 (Milan), January-February 1984, Bagdala (Novi Sad, Yugoslavia), 1984, Sydney Bulletin, 1985, The Age (Melbourne), 3 January 1987, and Linq (Townsville, Queensland), 1987; "More Wow than Flutter" by Les A. Murray, in Quadrant (Sydney), October 1976; "Bolder Vision than Superintrospection" by P. Neilsen, in The Age (Melbourne), 12 March 1977; "Sea Change" by C. Treloar, in Twenty-Four Hours (Sydney), August 1977; "Restless, domestic…" by Chris Wallace-Crabbe, in Australian Book Review (Melbourne), December 1980; "A Positive Poetic" by Jennifer Strauss, in Australian Book Review (Melbourne), April 1983; "The White Witch and the Red Witch: The Poetry of Judith Rodriguez" by Delys Bird, in Poetry and Gender: Statements and Essays in Australian Women's Poetics, St. Lucia, University of Queensland Press, 1989; "A Lifetime Devoted to Literature: A Tribute to Judith Rodriguez" by Jennifer Strauss, in Southerly (Sydney), 1992; "Judith Rodriguez," in Dialogues with Australian Poets by R.P. Rama, Calcutta, Writers Workshop Press, 1993; "An Interview with Judith Rodriguez" by Peter Haddow, inFamous Reporter (Kingston, Tasmania), 1993; "'By What Sign/Are You Walking?': The Poetry of Judith Rodriguez" by Lyn McCredden, in Australian Literary Studies, 18(2), October 1997; in In Other Words: Interviews with Australian Poets by Barbara Williams, Amsterdam, Rodopi, 1998.
Judith Rodriguez comments:
Three articles about my writing, by myself:
"Archimedas' platform, images of poetry, woman writing," in Meanjin (Melbourne), Winter 1988.
"Statements," in Poetry and Gender: Statements and Essays in Australian Women's Poetics, St. Lucia, University of Queensland Press, 1989.
"Out of the Dream, Voices," in Fine Line (Melbourne), December 1990.
I write poetry to live more fully. I dare to hope that poetry strengthens the best we can think and do. There is a delightful self-indulgence in this dialogue with readers and with those who have lived and will live.
My first close critic was the poet John Manifold.
Writing for stage and collaborating with a composer have been exciting, loosening-up, new-way adventures for me.
Establishing a poetry list for Penguin Books Australia has been a marvelous experience.* * *
Judith Rodriguez first attracted attention (under her maiden name Judith Green) in 1962 as one of the contributors to Four Poets, a volume that presented the early work of four young writers with Brisbane affiliations and that, in effect, announced the emergence of a new force in Australian poetry. More than a decade later this force came to be tagged "the Queensland octopus" to indicate a sort of energy that was less regional than adaptive. Although each of the original four (Rodriguez, David Malouf, Rodney Hall, and Don Maynard) came to occupy important editorial positions, they did so in states other than Queensland, which is often regarded as the Deep South of Australian culture.
In her first poems Rodriguez displayed a vigorous manipulation of language, which was barely kept in check by the formal lyricism of the time, to serve the ends of immediacy and directness of expression. There is the sense of a new writer still seeking a style and a voice, though the uneven "Essay on M.K." comes closest to pushing the author into genuine self-exploration. It was not after a long period in Europe and Jamaica and an uneventful return to Australia that her second volume, Nu-Plastik Fanfare Red, was published. The increase in command and in certainty of direction is immediately clear in poems such as "Sojourners at Phoenix":
They are here, Svetlana, as they were there.
Men. Difficult to love. Difficult not to.
Slavers strung out in harness, iron-galled;
smiths of ideals, lining up at the anvil for thrashing.
Stalin, that fathered five-year plans and prisons.
And an architect of together. You can't say fairer.
And when you left, Svetlana, and when you left
with nothing ahead but maybe
glimmer in the jaws of the escape hatch
you could not perhaps slip through whole...
Her poetry had become imbued with a warm female sharpness—precisely observed moments and objects and responses, place rather than time, people through things, humanity through attitudes. Her tone had become clipped, never sloppy, and her poems were as tightly packed as a larder full of preserves. She had found a way to use language to contain her wide experience and range of interests.
Rodriguez's next full book, Water Life, was illustrated (or, rather, complemented) with the author's own vigorous and sensuous linocuts, and it received a major literary award. Her femininity is never embittered, though the exploration of her womanness has been increasingly fruitful for her writing and her development and has led to moments of painful honesty. Water Life summed up not only stages in the poet's own intellectual and emotional development but also that of a generation of women, and in ways it was directed to growth and celebratory instincts rather than rejection and self-immolation. The later small collection, Shadow on Glass, refines the characteristic Rodriguez energy to an almost clenched lyricism. It could be said that the lyrical mode has always exercised this poet's mind, but only in her late work has the combination of song-flow and mind-stress fully cohered, and, even then, it has done so only fitfully. She is in many ways the most exciting and explorative of the so-called Queensland octopus generation, her work providing the sense of an intellect—and a female strength—in the course of liberation and growth. In any terms her achievement and challenging way with language are apparent.
Publication of New and Selected Poems, nearly half of which is new work, reinforced the idea of water as a strong underlying principle used often with quite unconventional modes of approach to the idea of feminine fluidity and suppleness. What is more immediately apparent, though, in this impressive volume is the unique personal voice, quirky yet touching universal recognitions, direct and anecdotal without losing (or underlying too vehemently) the poet's apprehension of the numinous. At the first Feminist Book Fair in Melbourne in 1989 the work was regarded by many as one of the outstanding books presented.
In 1992 Rodriguez published the booklet The Cold, which is dominated by a long poem addressed to the older poet Barbara Giles. The poem indicates a development toward a longer, retrospective viewpoint in Rodriguez's work, something reinforced by other poems in the booklet. Rodriquez's presence during this period also has been evident in her position as poetry adviser to Penguin Books Australia, where she has invigorated the publisher's list and brought new vigor to the marketing of Australian poetry.
—Thomas W. Shapcott