Tributes and Vale articles by Caty's friends

For Inscribe Newsletter February 2010

VALE Catherine Kyne- 1935-2009

Cate Kyne The Writer

I first met a woman larger than life called Cate Kyne, in 1980, at the Footscray Women’s Learning Centre, where we both worked. Over the years our paths crossed, often in unexpected ways. In all the time that I’ve known Cate I noticed one constant in her life, she made writing her life-long quest. And part of this quest was to refine her writing skills.

This tribute was initiated by women writers that participated in writing workshops where Cate also came. She named the group the Virginians. Other friend of Cate, jeltje, her poetry editor, and Ellie, her listening friend, also contributed in the compilation and editing of the overall piece.

The memory of Cate, in the writing workshops run by Sandra Shotlander, of which I was a member, is very vivid for those of us who sat around Sandra’s table hoping to give life to an inspirational piece of writing.

Whether standing, sitting or lying on a chaise lounge, writing was for Cate a consuming passion.

And so we remember brave Catey who for five years or more suffered excruciating back pain from spinal damage. This did not prevent her from creating her portraits, tableaux, scenes, verse and chapters from lived experiences.

She showed us nuns in their wimples, flushed faces of children with velvety cheeks and ringlets, the women mostly Irish, and images laced with sensuousness.

Cate seemed to have a reservoir of stories which she could pull out at whim, but because of her many other engagements and commitments to raise awareness about issues of social injustice, and the environment, many of her stories may never had hit the paper. She stood up for Aboriginals, the plight of refugees –once she employed a holder of bridging visa E to work in her garden when it was illegal for holders of bridging visa E to work in Australia – there’s a sense that the refugee story is buried in one of her stories first drafts.

She wrote short stories, plays, poetry, which have been read or performed in the Darebin festivals, by Community Theatre, around the pub scene, at La Mama and “[email protected]”.

Her writing reflects the social history of migration, movements in the 70’s & the 80’s, and also her time in a contemplative community as a lay sister. While her political writing touches on the burlesque, like the poem titled “CONDOLEEZA RICE’; pieces about her relationship with her family are threaded with irony:

Oh, and my embarrassing grandmother- talking her head off to trammies, with tales of riding 50 miles sidesaddle to dances “with me dancing shoes in me saddlebags and me hair like a plate of grapes”. “The old bitch’ll outlive me yet” fumed my father, and so she did.*1

Cate could describe the surface of objects in voluptuous details. The landscape of her writing is rich with details of nooks and crannies, ferns, water on rocks, emerald green……..

She was unique, determined, unwavering and her leftie political drive reflected this, but the intricately crafted images of childhood that emerged from the Coburg workshops revealed a Cate as a young woman, still mystically connected to Catholicism.

Ellie, jeltje and myself have each chosen a poem which speaks to us;
Holding Up the Children, is my choice.

Holding Up the Children

The boat, rust-red on seas of silk -
low-rolling, deep-laden, turtle-heavy -
near 500 souls aboard, under mango sun,
dripping heat like juice of love,
this love that sent the boy - 15 he was,
10 years and more they saved -
the people of the mountains, they sold up,
sold the great grandfather’s land,
to send their green-eyed boy
on sapphire seas, it was, they reasoned,
a chance for one of them at least

Holding up the children
holding up the children
“THERE’S KIDS ON BOARD!”

Silent seas holding the green-eyed boy,
no word will reach the mountain-people,
the boy, drifting, rolling turtle-heavy
down and down in seas of silk,
the mother and the girls, sweet children,
pink dresses, faces floating like flowers
in the blue ocean - sinking, calling thin as gulls

Holding up the children
Holding up the children
“THERE’S KIDS ON BOARD!”
And the father weeps,
he may not go to the lost wife,
the drowned, sweet girls -
it is forbidden - and the sun
dripping heat, like juice of love.
The late-night sitting, Parliament,
‘The Pacific Solution’ it is agreed,
both Parties pass this law -
Troop ships, Special Assault Forces,
legal and necessary for deterrence
of 'Illegals', for border protection -
it will win them an Election.

The scattering across the decks,
the sliding, the screaming, the shots
across the bows: “Will they shoot us,
will they?” The boat listing, slipping
in seas as warm as treacle,
those boats that should in safety,
bear harbour-home the precious bounty,
should roll in on homeward-spilling waves,
should beach at last, hands clasping
hands, on shores that smile

Not this, not like pink flowers floating,
the children’s faces sinking in blue seas,
the green-eyed boy rolling, turtle-heavy down,
not this, the tears of waves spilling
on white-bone reefs, not this shameful tide,
this cry, thin as gulls, pleading to the pale moon
to pull and homing-heave the waters,
to surge in fullness onto shores -
the great turning - can we possibly do this?
We must, or all, we all are lost
in blue seas, sinking.

Ellie Whittaker: Cate Kyne, writer and friend

Cate and I had been friends for around twenty years, I'm not even sure now how we originally met. Probably, through both of us attending a community group meeting. The acquaintance quickly segued into friendship when we found we had many interest in common, among them writing and theatre.

Cate and I never attended the same writing group, but often met at her home in Fairfield, where Cate would read me her latest poetry. lyrical poetry about Ireland.. and Australia.. Ancestors in Ireland, the Australian bush.. and poetry about her own local environment. I especially loved her Possum Palm Summer which is a poem about the possums in the date palms near Fairfield station.

She wrote stories too, and plays, and a novel. 'The Songman’s Daughter" I spent a lot of time with Cate going over drafts of the novel with her.  I wish it could have been published before she died.

Cate also wrote the play 'Princess Apocalypta and the Cane Toad.' which the small theatre group we belonged to performed three times. The play is a mix of humour and environmental warning of what will happen to our planet if we don't take care.

Cate was a passionate woman. Passionate about her writing, about caring for the environment, about social injustice.  Two big words in her life which she lived to the full were Community and Communication.

Cate was on the planning committee of the Northern Notes since its conception, and always added her enthusiasm and ideas. She wasn't with us to work of the first issue of 'Inscribe' but I know, being Cate, she would have loved to have been.

Possum Palm Summer /
On turning sixty

Summer morning a-squabble with starlings,
at Fairfield Station, shrill dissonance,
wrap-around sound rains down from date-palm.
Date palm soars upward, bract builds on bract
to petticoats of faded fronds to deep green shock-top,
to tangerine spurt of date-bearing stalks.
Date palm of many summers, whole clusters
of communes housed within this roof of fronds.
Full moon tonight, in Sagittarius,
a ripe old age, this sixty summers' moon.

Noon-day sun, and date palm
evicts ashrams of Indian Mynas
scuttling down skirts of fronds,
sudden shock of summery protest
in tatters of branches.
Wings a-flap, showers of sparrows
snatch sweetness at date palm crown.
Within are Wattle Birds gobbling orange fruits,
erratic experts in unexpected flights,
claiming title to the heart of palm,
celebrating ripeness.

Full moon is golden,
round date-fruit moon
takes it slow and easy,
flood-lights date palm,
gilds date fruits,
moon-icing shimmer on
cobbled lozenges
of date palm trunk.

Night train decants weary workers
'Look, look! Possums climbing!'
No one sees the moonlight climb,
the silhouettes of possums purpose-full,
pink possum hands clutch golden dates.
The shout breaks the feast,
a hurtle of possums
clatters into friendly fronds.
The watcher, bereft, stands
in a hail of date-fruits,
abandoned possum lollies,
like Jaffas down the aisle,
up-dated, at possum movies...
Like I said, full moon’s
in Sagittarius, belly-laugh moon,
and the joke’s on me.

Jeltje, Cate’s poetry editor

As one of the editors appointed by Cate Kyne in her will, I found that I was, in fact, required to embellish what was already there, her poems having been carefully chosen and arranged, before her passing, on the hard disc of her computer. With her eyesight failing rapidly, and the text as enlarged as it was, it must have been extremely taxing for Cate to keep an overview of spacing and punctuation which is so essential in creating subtleties of meaning in poetry on the page.

Cate Kyne started her working life as a librarian and, later on, worked as a teacher in schools and in tertiary institutions. Her preoccupations with gathering knowledge and shaping informed opinion are forever present in her writings. At the same time, her poetry attempts to do away with didactics and, instead, engage her audience with real-life experience. Cate's life's project to be forever vigilant of worldwide political developments, and imaginatively incorporate this awareness in her writings, is extremely impressive. My favourite poems in the collection are performance pieces that are purposefully focused on her and other women's day to day realities, such as Black Coat Judgement (please see below).

Towards the end of a very productive life, Cate Kyne managed to even include the experience of her rapidly deteriorating eyesight as part of her creative expression, without any suggestion of self-pity or signs of diminishing fervour.  On the contrary, her occasional inclination towards self-mockery is present even here, in this unorthodox interpretation of Melbourne's history of settlement. Cate's writings have appeared in various Australian publications, and she has been anthologised with both her prose and her poetry. A number of works, including a novel, are currently being edited by Cate's second appointed editor, Yoland Wadsworth, to be published posthumously also, as requested by Cate in her will,

Black Coat Judgement

The black coat past, it’s coming back,
the past is the black coat I can’t escape,
the susso kids it was, they wore the black coat,
"Susso kids, half a quid, Susso kids, half a quid..."
tottering, enveloped in big, black coats,
1929 to 1935, the black coats on the susso kids,
army greatcoats cut down for the susso kids,
the coats of war dyed black, heavy-felted,
great, black coats, stiff and scratchy on
skinny legs, feet without socks,
shivering in canvas shoes

"Susso kids, half a quid, Susso kids, half a quid..."
in their black coats, scorned, black coat judgement,
the fruits of war, they dog my steps, those black coats,
the black coat wool, it clogs the throat,
fists clench lost in drooping sleeves,
fingers clutch the thick fibres, piled,
entangled in those black-shred plumes of war,
oil wells like black wool burning, I wear the black coat,
this shroud for the soul, black coat,
from Twin Towers smoking to Baghdad burning,
the black coat that stifles reason, black coat,
blanketing the sky of us, black coats
for the next generation of the Susso Kids,
black coat judgement.

Lella Cariddi

1. Artemis Publication / 1995

Singular Women Reclaiming spinsterhood
Edited by Jocelynne A.Scutt.


For Inscribe - SHORT VERSION

VALE Catherine Kyne- 8 December 1935 - 28 April 2009

Cate Kyne The  Writer

A tribute compiled by women writers, who attended writing workshops with Cate.  Jeltje, Cate’s poetry editor, and Ellie, her literary friend contributed editorial advice, and Cate’s sketch together with her poem of the same name - Possum Palm Summer / On turning sixty.

Those of us who sat around Sandra Shotlander’s  table in the writing workshops, vividly remember Cate, who, whether standing, sitting or lying on a chaise longue, wrote with consuming passion, showing us nuns in their wimples, flushed faces of children with velvety cheeks and ringlets, the women mostly Irish, and images laced with sensuousness.

For several years Cate suffered severe back pain, and later in life near blindness. Neither prevented her from creating portraits, tableaux, and poetic verse, or from giving voice to her  stories, plays, and poetry, which she performed in pubs, at LaMama and “[email protected]”.

Cate also wrote the play 'Princess Apocalypta and the Cane Toad.' which the Community Theatre group she belonged to performed three times; and a novel ‘The Songman’s Daughter’.

Cate was passionate about her writing, about caring for the environment, about social justice.  Two big words in her life, which she lived to the full were ‘Community’ and ‘Communication’.

Her writing reflects the socio-political history of migration, politics of the 70’s & the 80’s, her time in a contemplative community as a lay sister, and writings about her family threaded with humour:  Oh, and my embarrassing grandmother - talking her head off to trammies, with tales of riding fifty miles side-saddle to dances, “with me dancing shoes in me saddlebags and me hair like a plate of grapes”. 1*

Cate was on the planning committee of the Northern Notes since its conception, and always added her enthusiasm and ideas.

Lella Cariddi on behalf of all contributors

1. Artemis Publication / 1995, Singular Women Reclaiming spinsterhood, Edited by Jocelynne A.Scutt.

Possum Palm Summer /
On turning sixty

Summer morning a-squabble with starlings,
at Fairfield Station, shrill dissonance,
wrap-around sound rains down from date-palm.
Date palm soars upward, bract builds on bract
to petticoats of faded fronds to deep green shock-top,
to tangerine spurt of date-bearing stalks.
Date palm of many summers, whole clusters
of communes housed within this roof of fronds.
Full moon tonight, in Sagittarius,
a ripe old age, this sixty summers' moon.

Noon-day sun, and date palm
evicts ashrams of Indian Mynas
scuttling down skirts of fronds,
sudden shock of summery protest
in tatters of branches.
Wings a-flap, showers of sparrows
snatch sweetness at date palm crown.
Within are Wattle Birds gobbling orange fruits,
erratic experts in unexpected flights,
claiming title to the heart of palm,
celebrating ripeness.

Full moon is golden,
round date-fruit moon
takes it slow and easy,
flood-lights date palm,
gilds date fruits,
moon-icing shimmer on
cobbled lozenges
of date palm trunk.

Night train decants weary workers
'Look, look! Possums climbing!'
No one sees the moonlight climb,
the silhouettes of possums purpose-full,
pink possum hands clutch golden dates.
The shout breaks the feast,
a hurtle of possums
clatters into friendly fronds.
The watcher, bereft, stands
in a hail of date-fruits,
abandoned possum lollies,
like Jaffas down the aisle,
up-dated, at possum movies...
Like I said, full moon’s
in Sagittarius, belly-laugh moon,
and the joke’s on me.


Vale Cate Kyne

It was moved –

That the Committee of the Ross House Association minute its expression of deep sadness at the unexpected recent sudden death (28 April 2009) of long term member and supporter of Ross House – Cate Kyne. Caty, through her membership of the Union of Australian Women, the Action Research Issues Association and the Housing for Action for the Aged Group, had more than twenty years of active involvement in Ross House. One of her notable contributions, among many, was to assist in the running of the one day Open Space Technology event that led to a change in direction from proceeding with the transfer of the ownership of Ross House to the Brotherhood of St Laurence, to moving to transfer it to the Ross House Association. Her final legacy was to seek the renewal of community development and the CD Committee and CD staff role at the 2008 Annual General Meeting.

Also that this expression be placed in the newsletter and Annual Report (along with similar expressions regarding Doug Pentland and Mr O’Malley who have also recently died after many years service in and to Ross House).

Moved: Yoland Wadsworth
Seconded:


UNION OF AUSTRALIAN WOMEN
VICTORIAN SECTION
ORGANISING COMMITTEE

Extract from Minutes

MONDAY 11 May 2009 at 10.30 a.m.
2nd floor meeting room Ross House

1. Introduction

1.1 Welcome: President welcomed those present.

1.2 Present: Anne Sgro’, Vera Hunt, Carol Stals, Jenny Stewart, Fran Mackieson, Gwen Goedecke, Allie Dawe, Kathy Byrne, Evelyn Meindertsma, Carmen Green and Mary Hall.(---)

1.3 Apologies: (---)

1.4 Catie Kyne: Organising Committee members had been shocked and saddened by the sudden death of Catie – a member of the UAW Organising Committee, a long term activist on social justice and women’s issues and the UAW’s expert on climate change. Over 20 UAW members were among the hundreds who attended Catie’s funeral service at the Fairfield Amphitheatre. The service had been carried out in accordance with Catie’s wishes and was a wonderful tribute to a unique woman whose life was an inspiration to many people involved in social activism.

Decided:

  • to put an article in the next newsletter on Catie’s life

  • to forward a donation of $50 to Yoland Wadsworth as the UAW’s contribution towards the tribute placed in the AGE on Monday 4 May.

  • also to hold a forum later this year in honour of Caty (the topic to be transitional towns with a panel of 3 speakers).