Fay Zwicky: B: July 4, 1933 D: July 2, 2017

July 7, 2017 by J-Wire Staff
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Jewish Australian poet Fay Zwicky best known for her work  “Kaddish”, has passed away in Perth two days before her 84th birthday.

Fay Zwicky

Wikipedia records: “Born Julia Fay Rosefield, Fay Zwicky grew up in suburban Melbourne. Her family was fourth generation Australian—her father, a doctor; her mother, a musician. Fay Zwicky was an accomplished pianist by the age of six, and performed with her violinist and cellist sisters while still at school. After completing her schooling at Anglican institutions, she entered the University of Melbourne in 1950, receiving her Bachelor of Arts in 1954. Descended from European Jews, she described herself as an “outsider” (“I was ashamed of my foreign interloper status”) from an “Anglo-Saxon dominated” Australian culture. She began publishing poetry as an undergraduate, thereafter working as a musician, extensively touring Europe, America and South-East Asia between 1955 and 1965.

She settled in Perth with her Swiss husband Karl Zwicky (the two married in 1957) and two children (one son, one daughter) and returned to literature working primarily as a Senior Lecturer in American and comparative literature at the University of Western Australia until her retirement in 1987. From 1978 till 1981 she was also a member of the Literature Board of the Australia Council in Sydney. After her retirement she concentrated on her writing, which won her international recognition.

In 1990, Zwicky married her second husband James Mackie, who died some years later. She led a very reclusive life in Perth: “I never expect anything. I always think I’m drifting and nobody knows I’m here, and it’s great.”[2] In 2004 Fay Zwicky was declared a Western Australian “Living Treasure”, a term she called “repulsive … like being prematurely obituarised.”

The title poem of her most-admired collection, Kaddish (1982), is an elegy for her father who died at sea. In her poem Zwicky uses the Aramaic phrases of the traditional prayer of mourning to frame her own memorial prayer detailing her complex relationship with her father. She draws on the Haggadah, the Passover Seder night liturgy. Kaddish” also uses the Lord’s Prayerand invokes God in female form as a goddess. Ivor Indyk describes Kaddish as “a mosaic of textual citations, of the Kaddish, the Passover Haggadah and numerous allusions to myth and nursery rhyme.”

A well-known member of Perth’s Jewish community told J-Wire: “Fay was included in a number of our family celebrations of the yom tovim.”


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