Diane Fahey

Diane Fahey was born in Melbourne, Australia. After spending a number of years living in Britain in the early eighties, she lived for six years in Adelaide, and now lives in Geelong, Victoria.

Diane attended the University of Melbourne, and has subsequently combined writing with teaching in schools, universities, and in adult education. In 2002, she taught in the Professional Writing and Editing Course at the Centre for Adult Education, Melbourne. She holds a Diploma of Secondary Education and the degrees of B.A. and M.A. from the University of Melbourne, and a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Western Sydney for her dissertation, ‘Places and Spaces of the Writing Life’.

Her poetry features both distinctively Australian, and European, settings and preoccupations. Dominant concerns are Greek myth, fairy tales, visual art and landscape, and increasingly, ecological themes. Her interest in mystery stories and in blending genres informs her recently completed The Mystery of Rosa Morland, the first of a trilogy of novels.

Her collections of poetry are: Voices from the Honeycomb (Jacaranda, 1986), Metamorphoses (Dangaroo, 1988), Turning the Hourglass (Dangaroo, 1990), Mayflies in Amber (A & R/HarperCollins, 1993), The Body in Time (Spinifex, 1995), Listening to a Far Sea (Hale & Iremonger, 1998), and The Sixth Swan (Five Islands Press, 2001).

Diane has won various awards including the Mattara Poetry Prize and the Wesley Michel Wright Poetry Prize. In 2001, one of her poems was shortlisted for the Davoren Hanna Poetry Prize in Ireland. Metamorphoses was shortlisted for the Victorian, and N.S.W., Premier’s Awards in 1988, and Mayflies in Amber was shortlisted for the John Bray Poetry Award at the Adelaide Festival of Arts in 1994. Listening to a Far Sea was shortlisted for the ‘Age’ Book of the Year Award, Poetry Section, in 1998.

Since 1987, Diane Fahey has received three one-year Writer’s Fellowships, a Writer’s Project Grant, and a three-year New Work Grant from the Literature Fund of the Australia Council; two Writer’s Grants from the South Australian government; and two Writer’s Grants from the Victorian government.

In 1993, Diane was a fellow at Hawthornden International Writers’ Centre, and has been writer in residence at Ormond College, University of Melbourne, and at the University of Adelaide. In 1999, she was awarded a residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Co. Monaghan, Ireland.


She was the first pin-up.
Naked and bejewelled,
she was chained to a rock,
then thrown by heavy-breathing
winds into wild postures:
at each new angle, lightning
popped like a photographer’s flash.

The gold circling her neck
matched her hair, the emeralds
her eyes, the rubies her nipples,
and the amethysts those bruises
covering her skin, once pearl-white
as for all princesses.

In lulls of wind, she pulled
against iron, stood almost straight.
The sky was a mouth swallowing her,
the sun a glimmering eye;
lolling in the tide, a sea-dragon
slithered and gargled like
some vast collective slob.

From afar, Perseus saw her first
as a creature writhing on a rock;
close up, she was a whirlpool
of rage and terror and shame.
The dragon he changed to stone
with hardly a thought. But
his strength almost failed him
in breaking those chains.

Looking away from her nakedness,
he smooths her ankles, wrists.
She waits for the moment
when he will meet her eyes.

From Friendly Street No. 11 and Tuesday Night Live

Sky Writing

Winter solstice 1988

Someone has split this sunlit sky in half
with a white streak that starts to fade
soon after the irritating buzz that made it.
Resoundingly, ocean writes on itself
thick lines resolving into foam on jade –
illumined ciphers in a dissolving script.

On the shore I weave a path round stones
smooth as amulets, each with its story
layered in colour. As far as my eye can see,
jellyfish gleam from dry sand, small moons
sinking, hardening, becoming glass
punctuation marks among scrawls
of seaweed. Sealed off from this warm air,
they lie exposed, unknowing, dying of light.

From Friendly Street No. 12 and Tuesday Night Live

Sacred Conversations

after seeing Titian’s ‘St Mark enthroned, with
SS Cosmas and Damian, Roch and Sebastian’, Venice

I am tired of all those Saint Sebastians standing there
at the feet of Madonna or super-saint, among other
saved ones all waiting for the next prayerful utterance
while ruminating on eternity. He is always so undressed
yet so aloof, so helpless yet complacent, so wounded yet
I like saints who hide their virtues beneath ample,
jewel-coloured robes, for whom pain is pain, and joy, joy,
not some awful mix-up of the two.
  Still, this Sebastian by
Titian stops me. Only one arrow pierces his body;
another, fallen from his calf, lies on the floor,
He has a serious, inward gaze, and no blood. But the glory
of the painting is his stance, graceful yet arrogant –
if one could strut while standing still, he’s doing it.
My guess is that he was a sixteenth century gondolier,
happy to be gaining money for so little effort, but bored
with standing motionless for so long on terra firma.
So he imagines being gazed at be each woman who enters
the church – over four centuries, a tall order,
but time has delivered . . .
  Above, Saint Mark is half-shadow:
Moses-like, he holds the book, stares at dark stars;
but this man’s face is clear, his body resembles neither
ravaged nor risen saviour’s, the knots in that white cloth
can be undone . . . For those arrows belong to Eros,
and this is not Christ but Dionysus, who has wandered into
a strangely silent conversation.

From Friendly Street No. 14 and Tuesday Night Live