Thwaites: Unfinished journey

From Ginninderra Press comes Unfinished journey: collected poems 1932-2004 an anthology of Canberra poet Michael Thwaites. I greatly enjoy his 1989 collection, The Honeyman and I look forward to reading more of his stuff. But I wonder whether the new collection will have many new items?

Michael Thwaites was a Rhodes Scholar for 1937. In WWII, he enlisted in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. Among his books is Atlantic Odyssey (New Cherwell Press, 1999), a first-person story of the WWII battle of the Atlantic in which he served on convoy escort converted trawler, the Wastwater. During his time at sea he learned that he had been awarded the 1940 King’s Medal for Poetry. Throughout his life during and since the war, Michael Thwaites as continued to write and publish poetry.

After the war, Thwaites was a Lecturer in English at the University of Melbourne, but in 1950, he was appointed to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation as Director of Counter-Espionage. In April 1954 he supervised the sensational defection of the KGB officers Vladimir and Eudokia Petrov, which had a lasting impact on Australian political history. Old Parliament House, now a museum, is presently staging an interesting exhibition on the Petrov affair to mark the fiftieth year since it occurred.

Thwaites left ASIO in 1971 and for five years (1971-1976) was Deputy Head of the Parliamentary Library in Canberra (in the same, now “Old”, Parliament House), where I was later an employee myself for five years.

On the June 2000 death of Judith Wright (who remains my favourite Australian poet), Michael Thwaites published “A Letter to Judith Wright” in the local newspaper.

Dear Judith, you’re my junior by one day but quicker off the mark. Lover of country, unresting traveller, now you share with Hamlet the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveller returns.
Where shall we write? You left us no address on the other side. But you may meet with Jack your husband, Oodgeroo, your spirit’s friend, others past number whom you stirred and served with warrior’s faith in final victory.
Your poet’s soul, disciplined, never dead, spoke in that final walk across the bridge, symbol of what lay nearest to your heart – apartness conquered by the power of love. Carry us with you as you journey on.