Monday, February 29, 2016

Ted Gioia – The Hidden Story of the Love Song


Springfield Music Lecture Series - Ted Gioia - The Hidden Story of the Love Song 

Lionel Maxwell Munby 1919 - 2009

Lionel Munby took a communist approach to history, looking at the lives of ordinary people.
David Short in the Guardian

Lionel Munby, who has died aged 90, taught and fostered the study of local history in Hertfordshire, edited the Local Historian and played a leading role in developing the subject in England.

Born in Oxford, Lionel developed his interest in social history and politics in the 1930s. After school in Oxford and Clifton college, Bristol, he entered Hertford College, Oxford, where in 1939 he graduated with a first in modern history. It was during this time that he, like many intellectuals of his generation, joined the Communist party.

With the war came military service, mainly in Italy. Initially, promotion eluded him, but he was eventually called in to his superior's office and told that it was silly that he was not being promoted just because he was a communist. The offending pages of his service record were then burned. Promotion followed, and he finished the war as the adjutant of Milan.

In 1946 he was appointed to teach at the Cambridge University's board of extramural studies. He soon started to teach local history in Hertfordshire as well. From the start, he got students actively involved in their learning, an approach being taken up by other historians, many with communist credentials, who looked at history from below, at the lives of ordinary people.

This involved reading documents, deciphering strange handwriting, studying maps and walking fields, all of which led to him writing local history. Many Hertfordshire local history publications in the 1960s, 70s and 80s owe their inspiration and editing to Lionel. Some classes led to the founding of local history societies.

He was on the committee of the Hertfordshire Association for Local History from 1955 to 1987, serving as chairman and president. He also provided the inspiration for the founding of the Hertfordshire Record Society and became its first secretary.

For 20 years he was the editor of the Amateur Historian, later the Local Historian. The change of title was indicative of Lionel's thinking. Local historians were not professional or amateur – just local historians. He was also involved in the British Association for Local History, in later years as president.

Lionel wrote a number of books. The Hertfordshire Landscape (1977) is considered a classic, and many of his other works are indispensable items on any local historian's bookshelves.


More examples:

Marxism and history: a bibliography of English language works (1967)
East Anglian studies (1968)
The Luddites, and other essays (1971)
Kings & Queens: The Colouful History of the British Monarchy (1974)
Concise Encyclopedia of World History (1977)
Reading Tudor and Stuart handwriting (1988)
How much is that worth? (1989)


Sunday, February 28, 2016

Poetry Marjorie Pizer's vehicle of optimism and understanding

SMH: February 26, 2016

As she lay in her hospital bed at the end of her life, Marjorie Pizer Holburn said she'd had a good life, paused for emphasis, smiled happily, and added the adjective "big".  Though she was never completely recognised as a major poet, poetry gave her life meaning and she was hailed by many leading poets such as Judith Wright, A.D. Hope and Robert Fitzgerald, and writers such as Drusilla Modjeska and Manning Clark, for her work.



When I am sick The world is sad. When I am well The world is glad. Our world is in us As we smile or sigh, But we pretend it is the world That makes us laugh or cry.

Her poetry was appreciated by literary figures all over the world and her poems were used in schools and hospitals, in women's magazines, in poetry collections, in the media and, particularly, by people who needed comfort from grief and bereavement. The Aboriginal actor and director Brian Syron used one of her poems on his gravestone.

Pizer and her husband, the poet Muir Holburn​, also established the successful publishing house Pinchgut Press in 1947, originally in their spare bedroom. As well, Marjorie was a psychotherapist for more than 50 years.

Marjorie Pizer was born in Melbourne on April 3, 1920, the eldest of three children to Solomon Pizer, a well-to-do tailor, and his wife Ruth (nee Blashki). Her Blashki grandparents, both born in Melbourne, lived close by, but both sides of the family had come originally from Poland. Solomon brought all his family to Australia after he arrived in Geelong in 1913 escaping military service in the Russian army.

Marjorie went to Merton Hall, a Church of England girls' grammar school, and started writing poetry as a teenager following Solomon's death. Then her Blashki grandparents died over the next year and she increasingly took refuge in her writing.

To the literary researcher Hazel de Berg Pizer described herself as a shy, withdrawn bookworm who could be stubborn. Her relationship with her mother was poor, something she regretted in later life. In newspaper interviews she said she was rebellious and shocked her family by marrying out of the faith as the Pizers were practising Jews.

At Melbourne University, which she fought her mother to be able to attend, Pizer worked on the student newspaper Farrago and was appointed co-editor with Niall Brennan to work on MUM, the literary annual. She joined the Labor Club and the Communist Party and became an activist. She met other students like Zelman Cowen, Sam Cohen, Jean Blackburn and their friends like Arthur Boyd.

She left university and joined the Department of War Organisation, where she worked for Tom Critchley and met Muir Holburn​, a young University of Sydney graduate and poet. She said they were cheeky; they published a scandal sheet called 'The Worker', a sort of unofficial gossip sheet within the department, and began their collaboration on writing about Australian poetry. Together they were Communists, then adherents of the 1950s cult of Scientology, after which she and Muir left that for the practice of psychology.

In 1945, they moved to Sydney so they could work in the Mitchell Library on their first major books. They bought a house in Kirribilli and joined the Fellowship of Australian Writers, where they met Miles Franklin and Katharine Susannah Prichard.

The two young poets were regular visitors to Franklin's house in Carlton and she would stay with them on the Australia Day weekend. They would pick her up and drive her across the Harbour Bridge to their house and take her home again afterwards.


Then Muir died suddenly of a heart attack at 40, leaving Marjorie with two young children. His death stirred her into writing poetry after years of writing about other Australian poets. She wrote about Muir and his death and for years she wrote of her love for him.

And to many interviewers she explained that she used her writing to overcome her grief and transform her life into optimism and writing poetry.

In her essay about poetry which she published in 1977 in her book, Full Summer,  she wrote,  "The task of the poet is to come to terms with the world in which he or she lives".

Her lifelong love of reading sustained her and underpinned her own psychotherapy practice, which began at this stage of her life. Her humanist psychotherapy was about helping people, mainly the women who were the majority of her clients, to become more assertive, to learn to communicate better and find new dreams to live for.

She volunteered for many years at Tranby College in Glebe, and at the Leichhardt Women's Community Health Centre in Flood Street as a psychotherapist. She swam daily at Balmoral beach and wrote a lot there; later in life she studied with her friend the artist Judy Lane.

Her friends described Pizer as very down to earth with a strong drive for simplicity in her writing and also in her daily life. She made her own clothes; she knitted, and cooked, gardened and did carpentry. She loved to make marmalade using the huge citrus crop she grew in her large back garden. A friend who trained as a therapist with Marjorie and her partner Anne Spencer Parry – a fantasy writer for children and publisher for Pinchgut – said that Pizer was wonderful with her hands.

Pizer did leatherwork and made a small pouch to attach to her belt; there she carried her notepad and pen so that if a poem came suddenly to her she could immediately write it down. She worked and reworked her poems and when she was satisfied she would write them in longhand in a large hardback notebook with a fountain pen given to her by her brother. The poem was ready when she signed and dated it.

Pizer left more than 30 such manuscript books of her poems, and her collected papers, deposited in the National Library and at the State Library of NSW, include many unpublished poems as well as correspondence with her old friends Dame Mary Gilmore and Miles Franklin and other well-known writers. She edited, published and wrote 20 books of and about poetry and writing.

A few years ago, Pizer left her house, Coonardoo, in Neutral Bay and moved to Canberra to share a house with her daughter, Jo.

Marjorie Pizer is survived by her children Kim and Jo, five grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, brother Ian and his family. Her brother Dennis died in 1982 and another grandchild, Jordana, died as a baby, occasioning Pizer's most popular book, To you, the living: Poems of bereavement and loss (1981).

Daniela Torsh

Read more: