Portraits of Martin Harrison by Juno Gemes 2005–2014
Martin Harrison at Lucy’s Birthday Lunch at Pearls, Pearl Beach, 2005
© Juno Gemes 2005
The first time I heard his voice on the phone, it was warm, centred, thoughtful … “Bob asked me for a manuscript and I happen to have one ready.”
It was the manuscript for The Kangaroo Farm, which Paper Bark Press published in 1997. Paper Bark Press also published his third collection of poems, Summer in 2001.
Martin Harrison at Wallangara Artists Lunch, at our home on the Hawkesbury River, January 2007
© Juno Gemes 2007
I think of Martin and my friendship as a continuous conversation ranging over the years. Here at our home on the Hawkesbury river, at his home Shantipur at Wollombi, in town, on the road, long discussions often over meals, as the light changed into the late afternoon, into the starry night.
Our conversations were vast journeys in themselves. Beyond the philosophic discussions were the personal ones. Always with meticulous attention, humour, care, compassion.
Philosophic Conversations : Martin Harrison at Wallangara, 2009
© Juno Gemes 2009
Bob and Martin talked poetics. Martin and I talked through ideas creative and personal. Complete trust and unrestrained curiosity were central to our friendship.
Also we loved to plot and plan: events for Writers’ Festivals and Poetry Festivals around the country. Then we would take pleasure in attending these events together, all three of us, on the road. What can we do to extend the culture—to mature it?
Martin became Paper Bark Press’s sounding board, our advisor during the most productive years of the Press.
Our lives in all moods, shades and difficulties, were open to each other’s reflection.
Martin Harrison listening to Robert Adamson read to his class at UTS, 2012
© Juno Gemes 2012
Martin Harrison exhibited a rare and profound engagement with sound from his early sound work days.
I have had few friends in my life who had Martin’s gift for listening and for hearing meticulously. His hearing revealed minutely observed detail of movement and mood in his own nature, or the nature of others.
Fellow poets knew him alive to every nuance. Martin’s listening was deep, uncluttered and open. It was never filled with “I”, but more spaciously and curiously about “you”.
Martin’s ability to hear others was a manifestation of his generosity. His desire to engage, encourage, question and to nurture both the artist and the culture. His canvas was vast.
This portrait was taken in his class at University of Technology Sydney (UTS) when Martin invited Robert Adamson CAL Chair for Poetry at UTS to read.
Martin Harrison Shantipur, August 2014
© Juno Gemes 2014
In the last two years, Bob and I would visit Martin at Shantipur, arriving with lunch in a basket, as movement became difficult for him.
During our last lunch at Shantipur I framed some images of Martin and Bob talking together. At a little distance, but still in the kitchen, I called out to him “Martin!” He turned to me with this spontaneous angelic wave.
I knew immediately what it meant. This gesture was not just for me. Just moments before he asked me to guess the title of his next book? “Happiness” he answered. We all chuckled in astonishment.
Such a brave yet perfect title “HAPPINESS”. Like Sam Becket’s “Endgame” I countered.
“Exactly!” he replied.
Juno Gemes is one of Australia’s renowned social justice photographers. In images and words she has dedicated 40 years of her photographic work advocating justice and change in the social and political landscape of Australia. Juno Gemes and Robert Adamson were Co- Directors of PaperBark Press , Australia’s premier poetry publisher 1987–2010. Juno Gemes’s literary portraits have been widely published in literary journals in Australia, UK, USA, and are collected by The National Portrait Gallery Canberra, The National Library of Australia and The State Library of NSW