Tag Archives: encouragement

The best kind of encouragement

Many years ago a famous Australian writer penned a generous appraisal of new work by a much younger compatriot.

In comments sent to his publisher, she expressed appreciation of his first little book in a way that not only heartened him but also, more importantly, conveyed wise reflections on the most valuable qualities of the particular genre in which she was an eminent practitioner and he was taking early steps.

Shortly I’ll identify those two writers — and quote some of what she said, because its tone is exemplary. There’s nothing patronising about it. There’s no flattering overpraise of the sort that fulsome blurbs and social media posts of mutual-back-scratching coteries too often lavish on novice practitioners.

Whether in literary practice or any other field, a neophyte won’t learn much from excessively laudatory compliments. More helpful is an estimation that’s framed by a general perspective on what constitutes best practice in that line of work.

Surely this is the best kind of encouragement.

It was the highly respected poet, literary critic, and environmentalist Judith Wright who made the following comments about a chapbook whose author she’d never met, though she had read some of his poems previously:

“I like best his tough humorous approach and nearly epigrammatic style, his intelligence in using words and his width of focus — taking in not just the immediate situation but its context too. That’s rare, now that so much verse is self-preoccupied, concentrating on the personal at the expense of thinking and feeling outwards, and without bringing up enough to justify the inwardness.

Reid has always been able to relate in the opposite direction. To be humble and humorous about oneself is a lost art, but he has it.  To look at the not-me with love and real interest and say something valid — Reid knows what poetry’s for.


Yes, as you’d probably guessed, it was my own first little book that she was referring to.

The principle that she invoked, that poetry should go beyond self-absorption, deserves to be upheld and reaffirmed.

Her comments have come back to me now, as a new selection of my poetry is about to be published. Breaking the Surface is forthcoming next month from Ginninderra Press, and I wish Judith Wright were still alive so that I could send her a copy and thank her for giving me, long ago, the best kind of encouragement.