Two youths in their prime, Arcadian singers both of them,
And equally keen to make up a verse, or match one.
Such is the epigraph to The Ilex Tree, a collection of poems written by Les Murray and Geoffrey Lehmann. The collection was published in 1965, only a few years after the duo had finished their time at the University of Sydney, and three years after they had first met while co-editing Hermes literary journal.
While editing Hermes, Murray and Lehmann forged a lasting creative relationship, which in many ways was to have an important impact upon their respective careers. Murray’s debut publication was in Honi Soit, which led to him shortly after being published by the esteemed Southerly journal. It was also through this friendship that both met one of the masters of Australian poetry, Kenneth Slessor, whom Murray admits is the only poet he finds himself returning to.
Perhaps more impressive yet, is the fact that a good deal of the poems which make up The Ilex Tree, the collection which won the Grace Leven Poetry Prize, were in fact first published in Honi Soit, ARNA, and Hermes.
It is exactly fifty years since these “Two youths in their prime” co-edited Hermes, producing one of the most infamous editions to date. Accordingly, this year’s edition of Hermes is in many ways a celebration of the Murray-Lehmann editorship. The theme for 2012, ‘Odyssey’, certainly seems to reflect this: it is as much about returning to something, as it is about moving towards something.
Hermes editor Gabriella Edelstein said, “We have to create a publication just as worthy as its name…and that the journal stays current and is never put to rest.” Given its history has been marked by a series of hiatuses and recent concerns over its viability, it is more important than ever that Hermes remains relevant on campus.
With a highly popular 2011 edition, and the 2008 resurgence of ARNA, it seems that the future of literary journals on campus are in good shape. To commemorate the Lehmann-Murray anniversary, Hermes intends to publish poems by the respective poets, and a series of critical essays about them written by campus academics and students (as well as traditional creative pieces). This is all part of the editorial team’s plan to further engage the post-graduate, academic, and alumni communities of the university. The anniversary, it seems, provides a nice reminder of the rich history of the university’s student publications, and the truly unique opportunities they provide students, staff, and alumni.
Submissions for Hermes are open til 12 August.