“I AM of the east-coast country;
Not from the great cities that play Faust,
With flats for souls, but where the
Bite the blue skies with their emerald teeth,
And where the sun sets witches’ fires on
Here I was born.”
Most Australians will recognise this poem by Val Vallis, who recently died at the age of 92, from school textbooks.
Tributes have poured in. Graham Nunn of the Queensland Writers Centre said: “The Australian arts community lost one of their truly original voices. In a career spanning more than 50 years, Val’s contribution to the development of Australian and particularly Queensland literature will always be remembered. Significant works by Val Vallis include, Dark Wind Blowing, Songs from the East Coast and The Queensland Centenary Anthology (as editor).
“On World Poetry Day in 2002, the Honourable Matt Foley, former Minister for Employment, Training and Youth and Minister for the Arts announced the naming of a major poetry award, the first Arts Queensland Val Vallis Award for Unpublished Poetry to commemorate Val’s contribution to poetry in Queensland.
“Val’s work captured the landscape of the east coast and our hearts. He will be deeply missed.”
Queensland Arts Minister Rod Welford also paid tribute. “A renowned Queensland poet, Val Vallis made an incredible contribution to Australian arts and cultural life in a career spanning more than 50 years,” Mr Welford said.
“His initial inspiration came from his early memories of the port of Gladstone and his fisherman father Michael.”
Val placed Queensland on the literary map with his early sea-inspired, salt of the earth yarns invoked by the winds, ocean and bustling lives of the fisherman and their families in his hometown harbour. His later inspiration came from his time with the 5th Division Headquarters in New Guinea and Australian Army Education Unit in during World War II.
His extraordinary literary achievements are well documented and his significant contribution as a lecturer in English and Philosophy at The University of Queensland will long be a part of his great legacy. Val will be remembered by family at a private funeral with a public memorial expected to take place early this year.