Good for the Soul: John Curtin's Life with Poetry

Good for the Soul: John Curtin's Life with Poetry

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Toby Davidson


"As Curtin knew, poetry gets to the core of the matter like no other literary form and is thus uniquely placed to engage, inspire and heal our minds as well as the national consciousness." - Toby Davidson


In his first days as Prime Minister, John Curtin presented himself to the press as a self-styled intellectual who loved sport and relaxing, when he could, with a book, beach walk, game of cards or fossick in the garden. He also revealed that he enjoyed poetry so much that he held to a Sunday night poetry ritual.

Curtin was Australia’s fourth wartime Prime Minister, Labor's fifth Prime Minister, and the first Prime Minister from a Western Australian electorate. The author, an esteemed scholar and poet, is also his great-grandson.

Toby Davidson reveals a new perspective on John Curtin: the poetry of his times, and the poems he himself read. As Davidson shows, Curtin’s poetry reading and his reflections upon it influenced his thoughts and language from his socialist youth to the last days of his leadership of a nation transformed by global peril. Good for the Soul: John Curtin’s Life with Poetry is a unique, patiently researched and fascinating re-evaluation of Australia’s revered wartime Prime Minister.

- John Edwards, author of John Curtin’s War Volume I & II

A stunningly comprehensive account which shows a side of John Curtin we have only glimpsed before. Davidson skilfully traces how poetry was Curtin’s companion and ally from his humble beginnings in rural Victoria to his death in office in 1945, two months before the end of World War II.

- Professor David Black, editor of In His Own Words: John Curtin’s Speeches and Writings and ‘Friendship is a Sheltering Tree’: John Curtin’s Letters 1907 to 1945.


Book details

Publication date: February 2021

ISBN: 978-1-76080-156-4

Price: $34.99

Format: C format paperback

Extent: 472 pages