Perkins, Cathy: A spoonful of blood

Perkins, Cathy

A spoonful of blood‘, Meanjin, 13 March 2015

On the life and work of Zora Cross (1890-1964), an Australian poet active during and after the Great War.

Her poetry collection Songs of Love and Life was a publishing event, with thousands of copies sold to a small, wartime population. I was drawn to the idea [says Perkins] that Australians were deciding whether to send conscripts into battle and enjoying erotic love sonnets at the same moment in history.

Cross comes up in a meeting in a cultural institution as a possible subject for commemoration during the Great War centenary.

But Zora Cross doesn’t fit the kind of commemorative campaign we’re discussing. I’m told the audience for the documentaries is mostly male. It’s an audience—so the thinking goes—that prefers war history to be about the waging of war, not the side effects of grief and poetry.

Cross wrote war poems based on letters from one of her brothers, then a memorial poem for the other brother. The article examines Cross’s reaction to the impacts of war on her family and concludes:

Then I look again at the letters Zora Cross wrote to George Robertson and I find a few lines I like more than anything I could come up with myself. “Really you never know a nation until you find out what its pens have been doing,’ she wrote in 1921. ‘The swords don’t matter a spoonful of blood. Ink outlasts all the gore that was unnecessarily spilt.”


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