Good for the Soul: John Curtin’s Life with Poetry
Publisher: UWA Publishing
Published: February 2021
Alfred Deakin and Robert Menzies aside, Australian Prime Ministers have not been noted for their love of poetry – so the very title of Toby Davidson’s new book comes as a jolt. Davidson, himself a fine poet and a descendant of the Curtin family, demonstrates how central poetry was to Curtin’s life, both publicly and privately, and how it factored into Curtin’s brilliance as an orator. It is true that Curtin’s favoured poets – such as Wordsworth, Shelley, Whitman and Bernard O’Dowd – were chosen more on political grounds than aesthetics, and Davidson does not romanticise his ancestor. Good for the Soul: John Curtin’s Life with Poetry is that rare thing: a scholarly book that is highly readable, written with poise and clear-headed intelligence. It is a major contribution to Curtin studies and shows that poetry was for Curtin, as it is for some people in every age, nothing less than the language of the soul.