I’ve met many people this year who have enriched my life. One of them is charismatic writer and performance poet, Liz Hicklin, who I met through local writerly circles.
Liz recently launched her latest volume of comedic verse Can’t Drive a Car?, a collection that shines a hilarious spotlight on the lighter side of ageing. With illustrations provided by award-winning artist, Fred Gatte, Can’t Drive a Car? is their first collaborative foray into the relatively new genre of Illustrated Mobility Aid Fiction!
The inspiration for Can’t Drive a Car? was drawn from an encounter with a tattooed fellow riding a mobility scooter along the footpath of Liz’s retirement community in Mornington. “I might be covered in tatts, but I’ve still got my manners,” he observed, as he gave way to Liz. Their little exchange sewed the seed for the premise of Can’t Drive a Car? and ‘Biker Sam’ became one of the verses therein. Other characters include Electric Rhys, Sarah’s Carer, and my personal favourite, Debonair Paul – once the ruler of the dance hall, he now sways to the beat on his walking frame:
“… With his foxtrot, his tango, his salsa and rumba;
He always went home with a Sheila’s phone number.
These days it’s much harder to kick up his heels,
(It’s not easy to lead a contraption on wheels).
Now the bandstand is silent, girls no longer swoon.
Paul shuffles alone by the light of the moon.”
Liz is a naturally gifted story teller. A life tapestry woven with a rich blend of love, loss, adventure, and entrepreneurship combined with a remarkable sense of recall and a delightfully wicked sense of humour has shaped her ability to bring realism, insight and emotion to her writing, while underpinning everything with her trademark sparkle of wit.
From Manchester to Alberta, and Alice Springs to Armadale, Liz has crossed the world several times embracing life’s great adventures: from an ardent love affair with Poet Laureate Ted Hughes before his marriage to Sylvia Plath (which is a tale worthy of its own blog post), to embracing the heat and hazards of the Australian Outback as a young English rose in the fifties, to all-night card games with soldiers on a shipping passage from Australia to Europe, and a nursing stint at a rheumatoid hospital, where she’d offer her patients “a pill or a poem.” Of course they invariably opted for a poem, and Liz would recite from one of her literary heroes, TS Eliot, or other twentieth century masters.
After setting up a successful pet shop business with her husband in Melbourne, Liz’s creative streak called to her. Falling in love with the craft through a series of workshops, she became a teacher of reproduction porcelain dollmaking, operating her own studio in Brighton, Victoria.
During eleven highly successful years in the business, Liz felt the need to bring some humour to the industry. The result was her first collection of poetry in 1987, Dedicated to Dolls – an instant success selling 1,500 copies internationally, and prompting requests for live performances at numerous dolls shows and conventions. Dedicated to Dolls – Volume 2 followed, and reflects Liz’s wit and wisdom, and innate ability to hold a humorous mirror up to society.
While Liz has had great highs during her life, she has also experienced the greatest of lows. With the tragic loss of her two daughters, Leeza and Jane, to separate mental health issues, she understands more than most the ever-present ache of grief. The release of her third book Peter the Parachute gave Liz the opportunity to light a candle among the dark shadows of sorrow, while celebrating the life and talent of her youngest daughter, Jane.
Peter the Parachute is a gorgeous children’s picture book. It combines Liz’s words with Jane’s colourful and uplifting renditions of Melbourne’s landmarks, the places that Jane loved best. It wasn’t until Jane’s artwork was displayed at her funeral that Liz noticed each painting contained an enigmatic man on a parachute, soaring high across a blue canvas sky. Perhaps a metaphor for Jane’s need for freedom and release?
Together with her son, Boyd, Liz worked to bring Peter the Parachute to life. The result is not only a delightful keepsake for lovers of beautiful artwork; it’s a heartfelt tribute to Jane, Leeza, and victims of mental health everywhere. It was launched in conjunction with the Alfred Hospital’s Psychiatric Division, with all proceeds donated to mental health research.
Liz and I became great mates from the first time we met. Perhaps it was our similar sense of humour that attracted us, perhaps it was a shared experience of losing a loved one to the horror of suicide, or perhaps it’s simply a love of literature and life. I suspect it’s all these things, and more. Either way, I’m very glad she’s my friend.
If you would like to get your hands on a limited edition, signed copy of Can’t Drive a Car? or would like to learn more about her performance poetry, contact Liz by email firstname.lastname@example.org