About the author
Peter Skrzynecki is of Polish/Ukrainian background and was born in 1945, in Germany, shortly before the end of World War II. He emigrated to Australia in 1949 with his parents.
After a four-week sea journey on the "General Blatchford" the family arrived in Sydney on 11 November. They lived in a migrant camp in Bathurst for two weeks before being moved on to the Parkes Migrant Centre, a former Air Force Training Base. It is this camp, in central-western New South Wales, that the poet regards as his first home in Australia.
In 1951 the family moved to Sydney, to the working-class suburb of Regents Park, where a home had been purchased at 10 Mary Street. Feliks Skrzynecki worked as a labourer for the Water Board and Kornelia as a domestic for a number of families in Strathfield. The parents worked hard and had the house paid off in four years. They grew their own vegetables and had a magnificent flower garden. Peter attended the local Catholic school,Saint Peter Chanel's and then, in 1956, began school at St Patrick's College, Strathfield, where he completed his Leaving Certificate in 1963. Brian Couch, his English teacher in those last years at school, engendered in him a love for literature.
After an unsuccessful year at Sydney University in 1964, he completed a Primary Teacher Training Course at Sydney Teachers' College in 1965-66 and began teaching in small schools in 1967. During the next three years he taught at Jeogla on the New England Tablelands, Kunghur on the Tweed River and Colo Heights in the Colo River district.
In 1968 he had recommenced his university studies as an external student at the University of New England. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1975. Postgraduate studies include a Master of Arts from the University of Sydney in 1984 and a Master of Letters from the University of New England in 1986.
From 1967 to 1987 Peter Skrzynecki taught in various primary public schools in the western suburbs of Sydney, in the inner-west and the south-west. In 1987 he started teaching at Milperra College of Advanced Education, now amalgamated into what has become the University of Western Sydney, where he is a Senior Lecturer. His areas of teaching include Introduction to English Studies, American Literature, Australian Literature and he has a special interest in D.H.Lawrence. He has also taught Creative Writing courses. In 1964, while at Sydney University, Peter Skrzynecki began writing poetry.He showed some of his early poems to Professor Derek Marsh who encouraged him to continue writing.In his English studies he was also introduced to the work of such modern writers as Dylan Thomas, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, W.B.Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Wilfred Owen and D.H. Lawrence. For the next two years at Sydney Teachers' College he continued writing and received guidance from Jess Wilkins, Frank Davidson, William Gunn, Jack Allison and John Rowland.Several of his poems were published in the Sydney Teachers' College Students' Union publications.
He had his first poems published professionally in Poetry Magazine in 1967 and again in 1968. Rodney Hall featured him twice in his "New Poets" segment in the Weekend Australian in 1969 and the ABC began broadcasting his poems on its "Poet's Tongue" programme. Douglas Stewart included him in the Australian Poetry 1969 anthology, then being published annually by Angus & Robertson. Thomas Shapcott selected his work for inclusion in Australian Poetry Now (Sun Books, 1970). During 1969, a meeting with Roland Robinson resulted in the formation of a friendship that lasted until Roland Robinson died in 1992. It was Robinson who published Skrzynecki's first book, There, Behind the Lids in 1970 with his Lyre-bird Writers Press and also his second book, Headwaters, in 1972. Both of these Lyre-bird Writers books were received favourably by critics and the latter won the Grace Leven Poetry Prize for 1972. These two collections, for the most, were concerned with the poet's experiences during the three years he taught in the country. They were reflective or meditative poems that dealt with the natural world, with the countryside, its people, its fauna and flora.
In 1975, Peter Skrzynecki's third book, Immigrant Chronicle, was published by University of Queensland Press. Though many of the poems carried traces of themes from the two earlier books, by and large, a new note or theme emerged in this collection. For the first time the poet wrote about his European background, his experiences as a migrant in Australia, the problems associated with being an exile, with his parents' dispossession and the difficulties, such as racism, bigotry and resettlement, encountered by them and other immigrants in trying to assimilate to a new life in a new land.
Kornelia (Woloszczuk) died in February, 1997. She was 79.
The house at 10 Mary Street, Regents Park, was sold later that year.
Peter Skrzynecki is married to Kate and has three children, Judith, Andrew and Anna.