The Association for the Study of Australian Literature congratulates Jennifer Strauss on her award of AM (Member of the Order of Australia) in the Queens Birthday Honours List, “For service to education as an academic and scholar in the field of Australian literature and poetry, and to a range of organisations involved in womens issues and industrial relations”.
Over the years, Jenny has been one of the great mainstays of ASAL. She has been a Victorian state representative, a judge of our Mary Gilmore Award for a first book of poetry, and was active on our Executive over a period of years, culminating in her Vice Presidency in 1992-94.
She has also had a very active role in the Victorian branch of the Australian Federation of University Women, helping with grants for women researchers, and has recently been its President.
As a critic, Jenny has done great original work on Australian women poets. Her book-length studies of Gwen Harwood, Boundary Conditions (1992, rev. ed. 1996) and Judith Wright (1995) are standard works on these authors.
Jennys achievements as an editor are considerable as well. The Oxford Book of Australian Love Poems (1993) and Family Ties: Australian Poems of the Family (1998) were each ground-breaking, being the first significant anthologies on these themes to be published in this country . The Oxford Literary History of Australia , which she co-edited with Bruce Bennett and Chris Wallace-Crabbe, will remain a major contribution to Australian literary culture for many years to come.
Her painstaking work on The Collected Verse of Mary Gilmore (vol. 1, 2004; vol. 2 forthcoming) cannot be understated. Gilmore has long been one of Australia s canonical writers, but a proper and complete edition of her work, by which her achievements might be re-examined, has been sorely lacking. Jenny has brought off this unprecedented task. As the output of a very long life, Gilmore left a massive, scattered and uncollated list of works in journals, books and manuscripts, and putting them into good order has been a Herculean labour, requiring not only finely honed editorial skills, but a sensitivity as to how the material should be arranged to be useful to both researchers and the general reader. This is scholarship of the very highest order.
Jenny has therefore been able to accomplish something that would easily daunt many a lesser soul. That she has done it so superbly is no doubt in part a testimony to her own powers as a poet of great distinction. She has published four collections: Children and Other Strangers (1975), Winter Driving (1981), Labour Ward (1988), and Tierra Del Fuego: New and Selected Poems (1997). Jennifer is that rare creature, the genuine scholar-poet, in whom there is always a passionate dialogue between the reflective and the creative.