children roast in the fires of this terrible century
and no love is enough no elegy sufficient

That’s regular Overland contributor Alison Croggon in her 1997 poem, ‘Ode to Walt Whitman’.

Her words circulated on social media recently, at a time when the powerful seemed to have declared war on children. Half the population of Gaza is under eighteen and, as the world’s fourth largest military unleashed advanced weaponry on a tiny strip of land populated by 1.8 million people, the morgues soon filled with tiny bodies. Closer to home, we learned more details about how the Australian refugee detention centres are slowly sending kids mad.

If no elegy is sufficient in this terrible century, why, then, write? Why publish, of all things, a literary journal?

This special, expanded edition celebrates sixty years of Overland by asking those questions. It begins with the journalist and activist Laurie Penny revisiting Orwell’s famous essay on writing. It features a selection of editors from around the world explaining what they aim to accomplish with their publications. And it presents an array of essays, stories and poems that seek out to show, in practice, what the written word can achieve.

Much has changed in six decades, and, unfortunately, much has not. Today, more than ever, we can see why the fight for the values Overland represents matters so greatly.

In her poem, Croggon puts it like this.

and truly what is my faith
except a stubborn voice
casting out its shining length to where I walk alone
sick and afraid and unable to accept defeat
singing as I was born to

Jeff Sparrow

Jeff Sparrow is a Walkley Award-winning writer, broadcaster and former editor of Overland.

More by Jeff Sparrow ›

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

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