Antigone Kefala is one of the finest Australian poets, highly regarded for the intensity of her vision, yet not widely known, on account of her minimalism, and the small number of poems she has published, each carefully worked, each magical or menacing in its effects. Antigone Kefala has written fiction, including The First Journey, The Island and Summer Visit, poetry collections, The Alien, Thirsty Weather, European Notebook, Absence: New and Selected Poems and Fragments as well as the non-fiction work Sydney Journals. Born in Romania of Greek parents, she lived in Greece and New Zealand before coming to Australia.
Martin Duwell on Antigone Kefala [source: sydneyreviewofbooks.com]
She was born in the Romanian town of Braila and grew up there in the pre-war and war years. Her family had migrated from Greece two generations before. If you look at Braila on Google Earth you see that it is at that point where the Danube swings east just before entering the Black Sea. The accompanying photos make it seem a distinctly charmless place, but that may be a result of nearly half a century of post-war communism. Kefala’s own memories are of a cultivated, strongly Francophile, intellectual and artistic environment. Her father and older brother were musicians. The family left Romania for Greece after the war and lived in refugee camps – there is a wonderful photograph in Sydney Journals of Antigone and her brother, Homer, as teenagers walking arm in arm in Athens.
The family was, eventually, accepted as migrants by New Zealand (Australia rejected them when it was found that her mother had a spot on the lung). In New Zealand – ‘the green country’ as she calls it in European Notebook (1988) – Kefala learnt English (after the Romanian and French of Braila and the Greek of Athens), attended University and began writing in English. She came to Sydney in December 1959, and found Australia a far more interesting place than New Zealand, on the grounds that it was a country just beginning to look at its own identity. She worked first teaching English as a second language (and writing in the Mitchell library in the evenings) and then as an administrator in the ethnic arts division of the newly established Australia Council for the Arts. [Read more…]
- Antigone Kefala wins the 2017 Queensland Literary Award for Poetry
Exhibition: ‘My Sydney. A Glimpse’
This exhibition features Margaret Frederickson’s history of living, working, training and sharing life with her family, friends, valued teachers and artists. This portrait of Sydney poet Antigone Kefala, (winner of the prestigious Judith Wright award for FRAGMENTS surrounded with her precious words), is one example of her painting. Portraiture has been a huge part of her life’s work and before retiring she was a Portrait Tutor at the prestigious Brisbane Art Institute for decades.