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Life with Birds: a suburban lyric
About the Book
Life with Birds is about suburbs, families, secrets, silence and birds. It’s also about war. Not a story of heroism or healing trauma; more the trying to fill in gaps in a family story and re-animate a father never really known. Bronwyn Rennex uses whatever material she could find: old photographs, army records, conversations and Google searches.
Life with Birds invests in the small scale, the domestic and the ordinary as an essential and overlooked part of Australian military history as an investigation of the disjunction between public and private experiences of the Vietnam war and its aftermath. It is personal, angry, political and it’s also funny, balancing a desire for some sort of testimony alongside a commitment to question how we talk about war. Told in fragments, it contains a mix of speculation, imagination and guesswork. The reader fills in gaps just as the author has had to. Rather than describing her mother’s grief at her father’s death, Rennex uses her love letters to him alongside her claim for a war widow’s pension. The shape of her love and loss lies between these documents.
This delicate and extraordinary commonplace book reflects the subtle and ongoing negotiations between individuals in a society. Following specific family experience, it resonates broadly on common themes of sadness, secrets, resilience and the unknowability of others – those things that defy our easy translation into coherence. That she can’t retrieve her father in any satisfactory way becomes part of the story, and perhaps its most crucial part; a failure that becomes a description of the author’s loss.
About the Author:
Bronwyn Rennex is a writer, artist and arts professional. She recently completed a Master of Arts (Research) in Creative Writing at the University of Sydney and awarded the Dr Colin Roderick Prize in Australian Literature, for the best thesis on a topic in Australian Literature. Her poems have been published in Cordite Poetry Review and her photographs have been exhibited widely and are held in private and public collections.
Until 2017, she was Co-Director of Stills Gallery in Sydney, where she worked with some of Australia’s most celebrated artists. More recently she has worked as an arts worker/ consultant in Arnhem Land.