Guide to the Papers of David Brooks

MS 8075

National Library of Australia

Collection Summary

Papers of David Brooks
Date Range
Collection Number
MS 8075
5.46 metres (39 boxes, 5 folio items)
Language of Materials
National Library of Australia


Scope and Contents

Correspondence and manuscripts of Brooks' own work, including some of his notebooks and diaries, comprise the bulk of the papers. The development of Brooks' work, from initial ideas and thoughts to a published work, can be traced in these papers. There are also manuscripts of his selections of the poetry of A.D. Hope and of R.F. Brissenden, as well as the work of other writers.

Among the correspondents are Robert and Cheryl Adamson, Silvana Gardner, Alan Gould, Paul Balnaves, R.F. Brissenden, J.P. Hardy, Rosemary Dobson, A.D. Hope, Galway Kinnell, Susan Jeffery, Robert White, Geoffrey Dutton, David King, Ruth Morse, Craig Powell and Eric Domville.

Conditions Governing Access

Please refer to the collection's catalogue record for the access conditions (

Conditions Governing Use

Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions. For such material, written permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder(s). Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.

Preferred Citation

Items from this collection should be cited as '[Title or description of manuscript item], MS 8075, National Library of Australia, Papers of David Brooks, [box number and series and/or file number]'.


The papers were acquired from David Brooks in two instalments. The first, in 1989, was acquired under the Taxation Incentive for the Arts Scheme, while the second was purchased from Brooks in 1998.


Brooks' own arrangement of the papers has been maintained by the Library.

The Library also holds the papers of Harland Gordon Brooks (MS 8128) and Nicolette Stasko (MS 9406).

Biographical Note

David Brooks was born in Canberra in 1953. As a very young child he lived in Greece and in Yugoslavia, where his father was posted, before returning to Canberra, where he attended school. He attended the Cleveland Heights High School in 1969-70, on an American Field Service Scholarship.

In 1971-74, while studying at the Australian National University, he was involved in the Canberra poetry magazine, both as a poet and as a photographer, and with poetry readings and handpress printing. He also founded Open Door Press with Alan Gould and others. Early friends among Canberra writers included Alan Gould, Philip Mead, Kevin Hart, R.F. Brissenden, Rosemary Dobson, A.D. Hope, David Campbell and Judith Wright. He has since continued to develop many friendships and contacts with other writers, both in Australia and overseas.

In 1975 Brooks was a part time tutor in the Department of English at the Australian National University before beginning study for an MA and a PhD at the University of Toronto. He was an Overseas Contributing Editor to New poetry and Poetry Australia and an agent for the Australian National University and the Literature Board in arranging poet/writers-in-residence. Some of his early poetry was published in the United States and in Canada and he made extensive contacts with poets in both those countries, some of them becoming close friends. Brooks also continued to publish handpress material as well as instructing on, and operating, a handpress at Massey College, University of Toronto.

Brooks returned to Australia, where he had a one-year contract at the Royal Military College at Duntroon, in 1981. At this time he completed his PhD thesis (on the early Cantos of Ezra Pound), became associate editor of New poetry and reviewed poetry for The Canberra Times.

In 1982-85 Brooks was a Senior Tutor in the Department of English at the University of Western Australia. He undertook editorial work for Westerly. His first collection of poetry, The cold front (1983), launched by A.D. Hope, was shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier's Prize and won the Anne Elder Award. His first short fiction appeared in State of the art (1984) and Transgressions (1986). His first collection of short fiction, The book of Sei, was published in 1985, when he also commenced editing Helix.

From 1986 to 1991 Brooks was a lecturer in the Department of English, Australian National University. He continued, with Nicolette Stasko, to edit Helix, which changed its name to Phoenix review, and he reviewed poetry for The Australian and other publications. He was a reader for the Fremantle Arts Centre Press, for Hale & Iremonger and for other publishers, and he wrote regularly for The Age monthly review. An expanded version of Book of Sei was published in 1989 and he edited and published Poetry and gender (1989) with Brenda Walker. The necessary jungle (1990) and Sheep and the diva (1990) followed and in 1990 he also commenced work on The house of Balthus (1996) and Notebooks. During this time he was also host, together with Nicolette Stasko, of joint ANU residencies by Antigone Kefala, Jennifer Maiden, J.S. Harry and Vikki Viidikas (1989) and with John Forbes, Nigel Roberts and Robert Adamson (1990).

In 1990, Brooks resigned from the Australian National University and took up an appointment as a lecturer in Australian Literature at the University of Sydney in 1991. He was Senior Lecturer in Australian Literature from 1992, and became Associate Professor in 2005.

A.D. Hope's Selected poems and Suddenly evening: the selected poems of R.F. Brissenden, both edited by Brooks, were published in 1992. Brooks was the Chair of the NSW Literature Awards in 1993, and has served on the management committee of the NSW Writers Centre, on the Board of Directors of the Eleanor Dark Foundation, and on other boards and committees, for example, the Sydney Festival Writers' Week. The House of Balthus was published in 1995 and Black Sea in 1997. He was briefly an Australian literature columnist on the Financial review in 1997 and has been on the editorial board of Westerly and Southerly, which he has co-edited since 2000. Brooks travelled and lectured in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, France and China in 1994-95, after a two month research visit to Oxford and to Paris in 1993. He has since spent periods living in France, 1998, and Slovenia, 2005. His poetry and fiction have been widely anthologised nationally and internationally, and translated into several languages.

Brooks married Alison Summers in 1975 and separated from her in 1982. In 1983 he met Nicolette Stasko, with whom he lived until early 2004. Their daughter, Jessica, was born in 1985. Brooks married a Slovenian photographer and translator, Teja Pribac, in 2005.

Item Descriptions

Series 1. Correspondence, 1975-91

The first instalment included correspondence for the period 1975-80 and contains copies of letters written by Brooks, mostly while he was living in Canada. The main correspondents are Robert and Cheryl Adamson, Silvana Gardner and Alan Gould. Other correspondents include Paul Balnaves, R.F. Brissenden, J.P. Hardy, Rosemary Dobson, A.D. Hope, Galway Kinnell, Susan Jeffery and Robert Whyte.

A second instalment of correspondence mainly dates from the period 1980-91, with some miscellaneous correspondence for the period 1975-82. Brooks has annotated the files with brief notes about the correspondents, who include poets, academics, ex-students, colleagues, publishers and journal editors. Most of the correspondents in the first instalment are again included, as are Eric Domville, Geoffrey Dutton, David King, Ruth Morse, Craig Powell and others.

Correspondence with the following is restricted until the death of David Brooks: Carmel Bird, Veronica Brady, Andrew Burke, Margaret Coombs, the Fremantle Arts Centre Press, Silvana Gardner, Sonia Harford, A.D. and Penelope Hope, Gail Jones, Cate Kennedy, Rebecca King, Galway Kinnell, John Kinsella, Anne McCulloch, Jennifer Maiden, Jane Messer, Les Murray, Penelope Nelson, Mary-Anne Paton, Fiona Place, Craig Powell, Mark Ramsay, Rachel Robertson, John Scott, Pauline Simpson, Michael Stanier, Carolyn Van Langenberg, Brenda Walker, Kaye Watts and Patricia Wilden.

File 1. Correspondence A, 1975-80 - Box 1

File 2-4. Correspondence A, 1980-91 - Box 1

File 5. Correspondence B, 1975-80 - Box 1

File 6-11. Correspondence B, 1980-91 - Box 1, 35

File 12. Correspondence C, 1975-80 - Box 2

File 13-15. Correspondence C, 1980-91 - Box 2, 35

File 16. Correspondence D, 1975-80 - Box 2

File 17-19. Correspondence D, 1980-91 - Box 3

File 20. Correspondence E, 1980-91 - Box 3

File 21. Correspondence F, 1975-80 - Box 3

File 22-24. Correspondence F, 1980-91 - Box 3, 35

File 25. Correspondence G, 1975-80 - Box 4

File 26-29. Correspondence G, 1980-91 - Box 4, 35

File 30. Correspondence H-I, 1975-80 - Box 4

File 31-37. Correspondence H-I, 1980-91 (File 34: Closed) - Box 4, 5, 35, 39

File 38. Correspondence J-K, 1975-80 - Box 5

File 39-41. Correspondence J, 1980-91 (File 39: Closed) - Box 6, 36, 39

File 42-46. Correspondence K, 1980-91 - Box 6, 36

File 47. Correspondence L, 1975-80 - Box 6

File 48. Correspondence L, 1980-91 - Box 6

File 49. Correspondence M, 1975-80 - Box 7

File 50-56. Correspondence M, 1980-91 - Box 7, 36

File 57. Correspondence N, 1975-80 - Box 8

File 58-60. Correspondence N-O, 1980-91 - Box 8

File 61. Correspondence P-Q, 1975-80 - Box 8

File 62-69. Correspondence P-Q, 1980-91 (File 64: Closed) - Box 8, 9, 37, 39

File 70. Correspondence R, 1975-80 - Box 9

File 71-76. Correspondence R, 1980-91 (File 75: Closed) - Box 10, 37, 39

File 77. Correspondence S, 1975-80 - Box 10

File 78-84. Correspondence S, 1980-91 - Box 10, 11, 37

File 85. Correspondence T-U, 1975-80 - Box 11

File 86-87. Correspondence T-U, 1980-91 - Box 11

File 88. Correspondence V-W, 1975-80 - Box 11

File 89-96. Correspondence V-W, 1980-91 - Box 12, 38

File 97. Correspondence X-Z, 1975-80 - Box 13

File 98. Correspondence X-Z, 1980-91 - Box 13

File 99-103. Miscellaneous correspondence, 1975-82 - Box 13

Series 2. The book of Sei other stories (1985)

This series contains a complete set of manuscripts and corrected typescripts of 19 short stories entitled The book of Sei & other stories (Sydney, Hale & Iremonger, 1985).

File 1. 'The book of Sei' - Box 14

File 2. 'The dolphin' - Box 14

File 3. 'Red and black' - Box 14

File 4. 'The white angel of Mantria' - Box 14

File 5. 'The journal of Roberto de Castellan' - Box 14

File 6. 'Blue' - Box 14

File 7. 'The lost wedding' - Box 14

File 8. 'John Gilbert's dog' - Box 14

File 9. 'Du' - Box 14

File 10. 'Black' - Box 15

File 11. 'The misbehaviour of things' - Box 15

File 12. 'The same room' - Box 15

File 13. 'The line' - Box 15

File 14. 'The poet' - Box 15

File 15. 'Another chase story' - Box 15

File 16. 'Depth of field' - Box 15

File 17. 'Hands' - Box 15

File 18. 'Striptease' - Box 15

File 19. 'Roses' - Box 15

Series 3. Sheep and the diva (1990)

Manuscripts and corrected typescripts of short stories which were published under the title Sheep and the diva (Melbourne, McPhee Gribble, 1990). Some drafts and rejected stories were received in the second instalment.

File 1. 'Letters from Tandelo' - Box 16

File 2. 'The city of labyrinths' - Box 16

File 3. 'Sheep' - Box 16

File 4. 'Disease' - Box 16

File 5. 'Nadia's lover' - Box 16

File 6. 'Disappearing' - Box 16

File 7. 'The city of arches' - Box 16

File 8. 'The diva' - Box 16

File 9. 'The wood' - Box 16

File 10. 'The family of the minister' - Box 16

File 11. 'The avenues of lost time' - Box 17

File 12. 'The book' - Box 17

File 13. 'The birds of paradise' - Box 17

File 14. 'The garden' - Box 17

File 15. 'The tape-recorder of dreams' - Box 17

File 16. 'Dr. B. and the students' - Box 17

File 17. 'L.' - Box 17

File 18. 'The maze' - Box 17

File 19. 'Pentecost' - Box 17

File 20. Drafts and rejected stories for/from Sheep and the diva - Box 17

Series 4. Necessary jungle: literature and excess (1990)

This series contains manuscripts and corrected typescripts of 13 essays, originally planned for publication as Literature and excess, but published by McPhee Gribble in 1990 under the title Necessary jungle: literature and excess .

File 1. 'Introduction' - Box 18

File 2. 'The fantastic as a language of the real' - Box 18

File 3. 'Teaching with structuralism' - Box 18

File 4. 'The blood of Jose Arcadio' - Box 18

File 5. 'Cigarettes, advertising and religion' - Box 18

File 6. 'Woman as compound sign' - Box 18

File 7. 'Disintegration' - Box 18

File 8. 'Literature and excess' - Box 18

File 9. 'On risk' - Box 18

File 10. 'Reading poetry' - Box 19

File 11. 'Unnatural naturalism' - Box 19

File 12. 'The male practice of feminist criticism: a second moment' - Box 19

File 13. 'Reality, etc.' - Box 19

File 14. 'Poetry and sexual difference' - Box 19

Series 5. The House of Balthus, 1992-95

Early notes, research material and both early and later drafts, manuscript and proofs of the novel The House of Balthus (Sydney, Allen & Unwin, 1996) make up this series.

File 1-4. Early notes, research material, fragments and drafts - Box 19, Folio [unnumbered]

File 5-6. Initial stories - Box 20

File 7. Revised stories - Box 20

File 8-10. Drafts of Balthus/paintings section revised December 1992 - Box 20

File 11-12. First full composition - Box 20, 21

File 13. Manuscript, 1994 - Box 21

File 14-15. Edited manuscript, including 'author's comments' - Box 21

File 16-17. Revisions prior to Faber Faber submission, 1993 - Box 21

File 18-19. Manuscript, revised and entered, 10 May 1993 - Box 21, 22

File 20-21. Manuscript master, 23 July 1993 - Box 22

File 22. Final drafts and cullings, July 1994 - Box 22

File 23-24. Revisions after Faber Faber rejection, 1994 - Box 22

File 25-27. Allen Unwin returned edited manuscript and proofs, 1995 - Box 22, 23

File 28. Floppy disk - Box 23

Series 6. Black sea, 1990-96

Received in the second instalment, this series contains drafts of stories, some rejected parts of stories, edited manuscripts and an unedited manuscript of the book entitled Black Sea (Allen & Unwin, 1997). The stories were written between 1990 and 1996.

File 1. Drafts and rejected stories, 1990 - Box 23

File 2. Drafts of stories, 1994-96 - Box 23

File 3. 'The mooncalf' - Box 23

File 4. 'St Cloud', 1995 - Box 23

File 5. 'The ratcatcher', 1996 - Box 23

File 6. 'The black sea', 1993-96 - Box 23

File 7. "Gauguin's dream' - Box 23

File 8. Discarded stories, some of which later appeared in other publications - Box 23

File 9. Black sea revisions, December 1996 - Box 24

File 10-13. Black sea manuscripts - Box 24

Series 7. Early poetry and essay manuscripts, 1969-94

A collection of early poetry manuscripts, including early drafts of poems for The cold front (Sydney, Hale & Iremonger, 1983), together with notes and drafts of early essays, are held in this series. Some of the essays were published, while some were used by Brooks in his MA courses at the University of Toronto.

File 1. Pomes: earliest extant poetry - juvenilia, 1969-70 - Box 24

File 2. Copies of earliest essays, some published, some for MA courses at the University of Toronto, 1976-77 - Box 24

File 3. Early poetry manuscripts, 1978-74 - Box 24

File 4. New South: Australian poetry of the late 1970s, a selection (1980) manuscript and launch material - Box 25

File 5. Early poetry manuscripts, 1970-82 - Box 25

File 6. 'Shard light', poems by Brooks, c.1981 - Box 25

File 7. Completed poems, 1982 - Box 25

File 8. Sex and politics in Czechoslovakia: photocopies of articles, newspaper clippings, and notes, 1985 - Box 25

File 9. 'The sentence', 1986-89 - Box 25

File 10. 'Prisoners of gender', 1989 - Box 25

File 11. 'Essay' essay; 'The wheel, the mirror and the tower'; Balthus essay - Box 25

File 12. A.D. Hope/Australian poetry essay: notes, 1986-90 and 'Codicils to the book of Enoch' published in Tilting Matilda (1994) - Box 25

File 13-14. Prose, 1989-94 - Box 26

File 15. Miscellaneous notes, drafts, articles, and essays - Box 26

Series 8. Drafts and fragments, 1978-96

Manuscripts and corrected typescripts of poems written between 1978-82 were received in the first instalment. In the second instalment there are drafts and fragments of both poems and prose.

Files 1-4 are available for reference; files 5-18 are restricted until the year 2013.

File 1-9. Drafts and fragments, 1978-96 - Box 26, 27, 28

File 10-12. Poetry, 1983-85 - Box 28, 29

File 13. Poems and stories (completed); miscellaneous drafts, 1983 - Box 29

File 14-15. Prose, 1983-86, including some very early drafts and fragments of stories for The book of Sei and a very earlyHouse of Balthus note. Some of the fragments are not identified - Box 29

File 16-17. Essays, 1985-88 - Box 29

File 18. Notes for lecture on own poetry, 1984 - Box 29

Series 9. Notebooks and diaries, 1977-95

Notebooks and diaries used by Brooks in Australia, Canada and the United States. They contain notes for his poems, drafts and fragments, accounts and arrangements for New South: Australian poetry of the later 70's, a selection (1980), research notes for his PhD thesis, drafts of reviews, stories and teaching and lecture notes.

File 1-3. Pocket diaries, 1977, 1979, 1980 - Box 30

File 4. Desk diary, 1982-83 - Box 30

File 5-14. Notebooks, 1975-76, 1978, 1980-84, 1995 - Box 30, 31

Series 10. A.D. Hope editions, 1992

Edited manuscripts of A.D. Hope's Selected poems, edited and introduced by David Brooks (Sydney, Angus & Robertson, 1992) and Security of allusion: essays in honour of A.D. Hope , edited by David Brooks (Canberra, Phoenix Review/Bistro Editions with the Australian National University Faculty of Arts, 1992) which was issued as a special issue of The Phoenix Review and distributed to subscribers as issue # 9.

File 1-2. Edited manuscript of Selected poems - Box 31

File 3. Proof copy of manuscript of Selected poems - Folio [unnumbered]

File 4-5. Security of allusion edited manuscript - Box 31

File 6. 'Security of allusion…' photocopy and Security of allusion: essays in honour of A.D. Hope, edited by David Brooks - Box 31

Series 11. R.F. Brissenden Suddenly evening, 1992

A colleague at the Australian National University, Brooks was a close friend of R.F. Brissenden and his wife, often visiting them at their house at Depot Beach on the south coast of New South Wales.

Manuscripts and a small collection of other papers relating to Suddenly evening: the selected poems of R. F. Brissenden, (Melbourne, McPhee Gribble, 1993), edited and introduced by David Brooks after Brissenden's death in 1991, are contained in this series.

File 1-2. Manuscript - Box 32

File 3. Corrections, cover proofs, correspondence, 1992 - Box 32

File 4. Proof copy of manuscript - Folio [unnumbered]

File 5. Cover art work - Folio [unnumbered]

File 6. Auslit print: author enquiry on Brissenden, 11 December. 1992 - Folio [unnumbered]

Series 12. Manuscripts of other writers

A collection of other writers' manuscripts, some of which were received by Brooks in his capacity as a reader for publishers.

File 1. Carmel Bird: 'Woodpecker point: a short story' - Box 32

File 2. R.F. Brissenden: Sacred sites: poems. Published as Phoenix review no. 5; Jingling Johnny: a melodrama for different voices. - Box 32

File 3. Andrew Burke: 'Sitting still flying: poems' (1986); 'The family album: poems'; Draft 1 of 'Mother waits for father late: a family tale' - Box 32

File 4. Richard Deutch: 'A Christmas letter to my father' (1992); 'A poem for my father: Christmas, 1992'; 'The teenager talks to the Virgin' - Box 32

File 5-6. Five Islands Press Associates/Scarp Productions new poets publishing program manuscripts sent to Brooks in his capacity as a reader for the publishers - Box 32, 33

Peter Boyle, 'Coming home from the world' (1994)

James Bradley, 'Paper nautilus' (1994)

Paul Cliff, 'The wolf problem in Australia' (1994)

Peta Spear, 'My sweet sex' (1994)

Beth Spencer, 'Things in a glass box' (1994)

Adrian Wiggins, 'The beggar's codex' (1994).

File 7. Philip Hammial: 'With one skin less', published by Hale Iremonger in 1994. This manuscript was sent to Brooks as he was a reader for the publisher - Box 33

File 8. Poems of Lynn Hard, c.1990; Kate Llewellyn: 'Dear you' - Box 33

File 9-11. Craig Powell: 'Rehearsal for dancers: poems 1972-76'; 'A face in your hands: selected poems 1963-1981'; 'Selected poems 1964-1988' - Box 33

File 12-13. Bert Pribac: Photocopies of Bert Pribac's poems, annotated by Pribac and Brooks, and papers relating to a proposed anthology of Australia;The beautiful vida and other poems from two homelands (Canberra, Lapwing Private Press, 1987) - Box 33, 34

File 14-16. John A. Scott: Brief early draft and later extended draft of 'The apology'; 'Zone: a novella' (Part 1 of 'The Lot Trilogy'); 'What I have written' - Box 34

File 17. Dane Thwaites: 'South China: new poems 1989-91' (1991), received by Brooks in his capacity as a reader for publisher - Box 34

File 18. Poems by R.F. Brissenden, Alan Gould, Kevin Hart, Philip Mead, Carolyn van Lagenberg and others - Box 34

Series 13. Thesis, 1974

File 1. David Brooks, 'The poetry of Galway Kinnell: a reading of the first three volumes'. Honours thesis, 1974. Kinnell is a Pulitzer Prize winning poet - Box 34