Coetzee Centre Writer in Residence inspired by Australia... and illness

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Poet and novelist Dr Heather Taylor Johnson is the third and final Writer in Residence at the University of Adelaide’s J.M. Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice thanks to a generous six-month fellowship made possible by the Copyright Agency Limited Cultural Fund.

Dr Taylor Johnson is the author of two novels, Pursuing Love and Death (HarperCollins) and Jean Harley was Here (UQP), the latter shortlisted for the Readings Prize for New Fiction, as well as four books of poetry, the most recent being Meanwhile, the Oak (Five Islands Press).

She received her PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Adelaide in 2007. During her residency at the Coetzee Centre, Dr Taylor Johnson will be working on a novel that delves into America’s gun-massacre culture, which is a step away from her previous work.

“I’ve travelled all over the world and love to write about that. I write about illness, a lot, because I have Meniere’s disease and it’s interesting, to say the least. I write about the air when I am falling through it; I used to be a skydiver,” says Dr Taylor Johnson.

Meniere’s disease affects the inner ear, the centre of hearing and balance, causing vertigo and tinnitus.

“I have shared my work on illness narrative and form, at conferences in Reykjavik and Oxford, and with audiences at Byron Writers Festival, Melbourne Writers Festival and the Queensland Poetry Festival.”

After growing up in the USA and following extensive travels, Dr Taylor Johnson eventually settled in Australia.

“I have ridden my bike all over Australia. I love Australia – its spare country, its emotional cities, its easy gait – and I write about it, about all of it, Australian earth, Australian pavement, the Australian southern sky, and bicycles,” she says.

“I am thrilled to be returning to the University of Adelaide, to be the final Writer in Residence for 2017 at the J.M. Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice.”

Her previous residences have been at Varuna, the National Writers’ House, in Katoomba, NSW, and at The Anderson Centre, in Red Wing, Minnesota. She has received grants from Arts SA and the Richard Llewellyn Arts and Disability Trust. From 2013-2017 she was Poetry Editor of Transnational Literature and before that, from 2005-2012, with Wet Ink Magazine.

Dr Taylor Johnson conceived and edited the anthology Shaping the Fractured Self: Poetry of Chronic Illness and Pain (UWAP). In 2017 she was one of the winners of the Griffith Review Novella Prize, shortlisted for the Newcastle Poetry Prize, and had a poem accepted in the Best Australian Poems 2017. Her work has been published (or is soon to be published) in journals such as Southerly, Westerly, Meanjin, Island, Overland, Griffith Review, Review of Australian Fiction and Sydney Review of Books.

The Coetzee Centre brings art forms together. Focusing particularly on music and text, the Centre investigates the way art forms converge and how they can transform content when they are brought together. By bringing together outstanding practitioners in the fields of music, writing, philosophy and art history, the Centre provides a cultural hub that encourages innovative new forms of collaborative artistic production.

Dr Taylor Johnson is available for interviews.


Contact Details

Crispin Savage
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University of Adelaide
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