L.R. Palmer

The prose and poetry site for

Click here
for info
By Lyn Palmer 
(Written in London circa 1968)

I am one of those people who just can't follow directions. As soon as someone starts to give them to me, I go into a kind of coma... 'Now, you can't possibly go wrong if you...' and 'You can't miss it...' are the words that ring like a death knell in my head and cause my mental processes to seize up and converge into a mindless mass of gibbering brain cells. I'm one of those people who have never mastered how to fall off a log, so it is quite useless to tell me that something is as easy as that. I listen intelligently on the telephone when people give me involved directions, interjecting with 'uh-huh's' and 'oh yeh's' etc. and then I retire to maps and directories to work out involved routes on my own initiative. As this usually means that I go to Shepherd's Bush from Notting Hill via Reading, I always leave home three hours before my appointed time. I spend aeons changing buses, wandering in circles around squares, and finally land on my host's doorstep a nasty mess of jangled nerves: 'Hello, did you have much trouble finding us?' I give a false laugh and say hypocritically: 'How could I, after the directions you gave me,' and make for the liquor. In moments of defeat when I realize I've crossed the same street four times I hail a taxi. The driver looks at me a little oddly and drives me around the corner, and there I am. I have found in cases like this it is best to simulate a slight but noticeable limp and give him a Brave Smile when paying the fare. 

 Top of Page
Click here for information

Webpage Services
Home Page
Click here for information
Poet L.R. Palmer was born in Melbourne, Australia, on 1st May 1934 and died aged only 34. Her work reflects the frustrations of a young lesbian trying to cope with the prejudices of the pre-feminist period. Amongst her papers I found a list in her own hand writing which was obviously prepared as a prelude to composing a c.v. For the majority of these employers she worked as a secretary, a menial position in those days and one that caused her much frustration. The list is as follows:
Argus (Newspaper); General Motors; Paterson Laing & Bruce; Brasch; Makeover MacBeath; Fred Farr; Milk Bar; Allan Palmer; Kew Cottages; John Withers; Perth Stationers; Franklins (Book Shop); Val's (Gay Coffee Lounge, at which she loved working part time); C.A.E (Council for Adult Education);
Temporary jobs 6 months; Prince-Littler; M.G.M; B.B.C.

Lyn Palmer was born in Melbourne, Australia, on 1st May 1934 and died aged only 34, on 17th March 1969. She is buried at Springvale, Melbourne, in the A.F. Alway Memorial Lawn (Row T Grave 10). The cause of death, I am told, was a heart attack but later rumours have hinted at suicide. Her whole adult life, though, was a kind of suicide so I will stick to the facts as I understand them and leave the way open for further research.

Lyn had fought a battle with chronic asthma since childhood and was convinced that her life would be short. This conviction, which she divulged to only those closest to her, developed a unique personality. A lesbian (at a time when the dreaded word could never be mentioned and "gay" still had a secret meaning) she was given to fits of manic depression. She would drink to excess, but at all times had a perceptive, cutting wit. The anticipation of an early death made her question why she should have been born at all. Much of her poetry asks this and reveals that she often craved death.

From birth she was surrounded by melodrama. Some might term it tragedy. Born in Melbourne, Australia, her father was an alcoholic. Her mother, a pert little lady called Pearl, refused to marry him unless he agreed to control his drinking and accept some responsibility. Lyn (whose given names, both of which she disliked, particularly the first, were Elsie Ruth) was placed in the care of a foster family for her first five years. The way this came about is as unique an event as any in the poet's life. Pearl was sitting in a tea shop in Williamstown when she fell into conversation with a middle aged stranger. On hearing her story, the woman offered to foster the baby girl while her single mother worked to support her. The bargain was struck there and then and Lyn came to regard the foster family as her own and estranged herself from her mother, who was only free to visit her at weekends anyway. When the foster mother eventually died in about 1966 Lyn was heart broken. Through the years one of her most prized possessions was a woolen patchwork rug which the foster mother had crocheted for her.

Webpage Services
Home Page
Click here for information


Eventually her parents married. The child Lyn was then more than 4 years old. She attended the wedding and never forgot it. The marriage resulted in her being wrenched abruptly from the foster family in order to live with her  true parents. She came to idolize her father, whom she saw only at his best (Pearl protected her from him when he was drinking) and she remembered him as a cheery, cheeky, tough little man. When he left home permanently she blamed her mother for driving him away. He died a few years later, from alcoholism.

These early memories clouded the rest of the poet's life. She inherited her father's obstinacy and irresponsibility while from her mother came her sardonic sense of humor. Almost a dual personality, Palmer's public joviality won her many friends. The poetry that she wrote in her teens indicates an ironic acceptance of life but even some of these early efforts foreshadow the black death wish that ultimately enveloped her.

She begins writing as an escape from the hypocrisy she sees in, for example, religion and its dogma. Soon afterwards she takes a job in a psychiatric hospital (Kew Cottages) as a nurse - with the intention of 'justifying her existence' by doing something useful. But from this experience emerges her first black poetry. After this period she passes through a phase where she lives alone in a cheap room in a 'trendy' area of Melbourne at the time, St. Kilda. Here she mixes with the arty intellectual gay world which, in those days, was known as 'camp society'. Her reaction to this in her poetry, despite outward appearances, is one of increasing depression.

She undertook the inevitable trip to London about 1957 with the hope of escaping haunting doubts and starting afresh. She was searching for mental stimulation but the life she led there, as a non-entity forced to accept typing jobs in an enormous impersonal city, only made her more bitter. An essay which she wrote only weeks before she returned to Australia is particularly scathing; but as the entire world has now gone the way that she described London in the late fifties, it is not published here.

She had a moderate number of lesbian affairs but, until London, had never admitted to love as an emotion that she could sustain. It hit her heavily when she finally accepted it at the age of 25. The few poems she wrote at this time are naive, charming and carefree (See Nos. 19, 20, 21). But love had come too late for her and, from this point onward, her personality noticeably split. Her poems reflect her mental turmoil. Lyn Palmer 1963

After returning to Australia in 1960 she began to drink heavily and for increasing periods. She became unreliable and irresponsible in an apparently deliberate attempt to emulate her father. However at the same time she landed her first executive position in business, as assistant to Tom Miller of  Talent Promotions Pty Ltd and based at the Channel 9 television studios in Melbourne. Lyn soon became one of the most powerful agents in Australia, representing the greatest entertainers of the period and acting as their mentor and friend. She was whole-heartedly loved by several people but rejected them one by one and became addicted to gambling. She deliberately ran herself into debt and eventually bankrupted herself in business. She averred that she hated the world and the corruption which she saw in the human race. She wanted to die.

Webpage Services
Home Page
Click here for information


Unwilling or unable at the time to take her own life (which she sometimes said she wanted to do) she set out consciously or otherwise to achieve oblivion through alcohol, which warred brutally with the prescription drugs she took for her asthma. The strain on her heart was more than it could sustain. Yet she contrived to appear to everyone, excepting those closest to her, to be cheerful and full of sharp, sometimes nonsensical, sarcastic humor.

Towards the end she achieved some equilibrium in a stable relationship but by now she had already suffered several heart attacks. At the time of her death she was leading a relatively adjusted life and, subject to sorting out the mess she had made of her business affairs, her personal future appeared more promising than it had ever been. But maturity arrived too late for her.

This poetry site devoted to Lyn Palmer reveals a sensitive, confused young lesbian* growing up in the crazy, trendy, shallow world of the fifties and sixties. It was a world which she could see too clearly, but which she would not accept.
B.A. 1992
* Particularly effective lesbian poems are Nos. 6 and 28, while life in London's lesbian clubs such as The Gateways and The Cellars is captured in Nos. 3, 4 and 11.

Top of Page
Home Page
Click here for information

The poems marked by Arabic numerals are arranged in the order in which the poet left them: the first poems being the last that she wrote, then proceeding in reverse order. Those marked in Roman numerals, her lighter verses, are intermingled at random in order to relieve the tone of pessimism and to remind the reader of her reckless and nonsensical side. Most of these were written at work to relieve her boredom, or at night when a wry thought occurred to her. The humorous poems are NOT in any particular order.
If you want to read the serious poems in chronological order, go to bottom of page.

All works are strictly Copyright ©
For permission to perform or publish any of L.R. Palmer's works, please E-mail.

Top of Page
Home Page
Click here for information

Softly I hear the song 
Eerily through the shades 
Of years Faintly but truly 
Stirring me still 
To Shame 
Song of hope and faith 
Song of my soul 
Before I was born 

When in years far distant 
I read my verses of today
Written in youthful hope
Please God let me say 
'How young I was'
Or 'What an innocent child' 
Please don't let me voice the words 
'O Lord what a fool was I'. 


I walked a while with pleasure 
She chattered all the way 
And not a thing I learned that day 
That pleasure walked with me. 

I walked a while with sorrow 
And not a word spoke she 
But O, the things I learnt that day 
That sorrow walked with me. 

Webpage Services
Home Page
Click here for information
Interview:         Platitudes, platitudes
                        Preach me a platitude
                        Ensnare me with words
                        Bind me with phrases
                        Coil me around
                        With conversational mazes.

1st week:         Discussions, discussions
                        Mutter me a discussion
                        Bore me with facts
                        Define me with seating
                        Tie me down
                        With the minutes of meeting.

2nd week:         Arguments, arguments
                        Shout me an argument
                        Confuse me with logic
                        Astound me with reason
                        Turn me about
                        With the change of the season

Final week:       Reprimands, reprimands
                        Mouthe me a reprimand
                        Lecture me with sorrow
                        Treat me with sufferance
                        Bid me to go
                        With never a reference.

Jive little girl!
Become a mindless robot
Whirl and turn, whirl and turn
And never look at your partner.

Jive little girl!
The hand is there to catch you
Reel and spin, reel and spin
And never ever smile.

Jive little girl!
Your legs are old and weak
No hand is there to guide you
And you've forgotten how to speak.


A penny to ride the merry-go-round
Everyone can afford it
You're not in the race
If you can't stand the pace
Around and around and around.

Twopence to ride the swings
Everybody does it
You're not worth your salt
If you want to cry halt
Upsy, downsy, upsy. Whee!

Threepence to ride the roller coaster
Everything is blurred
You're not a stout fella
If you show that you're yella
Faster, faster, faster.

Nothing to travel alone
And to breathe the fresh air
But who would dare?
THEY would say you were funny
And had no money.


                How to stay afloat
                Or - how to be in the swim, tho' intelligent.

Rules of conformation:
                Raise your voice five notches above its
                normal timbre until it sounds like a supersonic
                note heard only by the canine ear, and it will
                be possible for you to converse with a cellmate.

                Be conversant with all the latest C&A versions
                of last year's Italian fashions.

                Know the score of "My Fair Lady" and agree that
                it has quite a good story.

                Do not mention "West Side Story" or "Irma la Douce"
                as these are reactionary and Not To Be Tolerated.

                Refer to Mr MacMillan as "That nice bloke wiv
                ther mustash wot interviewed that smashing Mr Eisenhower larse week."

                Do not mention The Election. Only Communists vote.

                Practise heart-rending screams for when an error
                is made in your typing, e.g. The Southern Amazonian
                Red Tailed Baboon in labour.

                Know the Top 20 off by heart. For the novice,
                this does not mean Liz, Phil, Chas, Annie,
                Maggie etc., but Elvis, Tommy, Shirley, Ricki
                and Conway Twitty.

                Do not read, as this is highly suspicious,
                interfering as it does with serious Telly watching.

                When you have learnt these few minor rules
                you will be able to Take Your Place in the
                mysterious labyrinthine ways of those
                who LIKE being cooped up with 20 others of their own
                giggling, waffling, screaming ilk
                in a sterilised cell
                EVEN AT MEALTIMES!

Top of Page
Home Page
Click here for information

I have a little dog that mews
I also have a horse that moos
I think I'll buy a barking cat
For what have I got to lose?

Ghostfire in the trees
Burns unholy flame
Dance demons, dance!
Wind sings eerily
Stars turn away
Dance demons, dance!

Frost glimmers whitely
Dead leaves rustle
Creep ghouls, creep!
Dark shadows surrounding
Stillness over all
Creep ghouls, creep!

Doors bolted fast
No lights glow
Laugh devils, laugh!
Feathered birds tremble
Furred beasts moan
Laugh devils, laugh!

Moon affrighted hides
Screams murder peace
Hunt fiends, hunt!
Attacker now attacked
Proud prey falls
Hunt fiends, hunt!

L.R. Palmer
L.R. Palmer - 1960

An odd little thing is the flea
You can't tell a he from a she
But he can, and she can
You are in my soul like a flame
You are in my being and my breath
Having neither form nor name
You are mine until life is death.

You are in my heart like a song
Throbbing, pulsating music loud
Sung by unseen life-giving throng
Never by discord being cowed.

You are in my mind with too sweet phrase
Resting never, scheming forever
Telling me how to live my days
Until death the reins do sever.

You are in my body like a knife
Destroying, shaping, though I sigh
The futile pattern of my life
For you are myself, my ego, I.

Blind fools
not knowing
happily die
in their void.

Wise men
know not
and perish
in their misery.

Why search?
Why strive?

The end is the same
and still unknown
despite all pain.

The next two doggerel were written for one
of the women she worked with in the typists' pool

Webpage Services
Home Page
Click here for information
When Beth
Met Geoff
In Yarrawonga
Did he wronga?

Geoff didn't even
Have a go
He left all that
To Spanish Pedro

There was a young lady named Beth 
Who lisped when she tried to say yeth 
This embarrassed her so 
That she always said no 
That frustrated young damsel named Beth. 

This precious draught
If enjoyed alone
Would make life sweeter
For a longer time
But I must always share
And in the sharing
The drink is often bitter
The cup of joy
Is a fragile one
At a single harsh note
It lies shattered and abandoned.

'A leader is found!'
Celebrations did abound,
All people danced and sang
And the whole world rejoiced.

'A leader is found!'
A child wondered at the sound,
Was puzzled by his elders' joy
'A leader to what?' he asked.

'A leader is found!'
Nations looked up from the ground
The earth rang with shouts of praise.
Nobody saw or heard the child.

Deep in the abyss something stirred
Was it feathered or was it furred
Or was it a Troll from the depths below
Chanting out its tale of woe?
I don't know what it was I heard
When deep in the abyss something stirred
All I know is that I ran
When the litany began
I could make out the words quite well
And that is why I ran like hell!


Webpage Services
Home Page
Click here for information
And are we born to this? 
Must our clear eyes become veiled, 
Our full hands empty and grasping, 
And our heads turned over our shoulders. 

And are we born to this? 
Must our young bodies fall 
Dirty and bleeding on the field 
Of other men's quarrels. 

And are we born to this? 
Must our fresh thoughts be staled 
By factual lies and the blind creed 
Of the pitiful frightened masses. 

And are we born to this? 
Must our white gallant hope 
Be torn into a flag of truce 
To wave at our friends. 


So many paths and lanes 
you rove, 
Pursuing what you call love. 
Oh what dreadful pains 
You suffer 
As the road gets rougher;
When your fiery blood and heat 
Slow down and watch your feet. 
You see? 
Your varied tracks are all the same 
With but a different name. 
You don't chase, you flee. 


Top of Page
Home Page

There are more than 40
poems in the works of L.R. Palmer

In February 2010 all personal papers  and

a selection of photographs of LR Palmer  were donated to the

Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives

Visit: http://home.vicnet.net.au/~alga/

Click on back arrow to return to where you were.
Top of Page
Home Page
© All works copyright To the Estate and Executors of L.R. Palmer

Written permission must be obtained
prior to performance or publication
any of these works:  E-mail

This page designed and hosted by

Dr Barb Angell,
Bundanoon, NSW 2578

Email: biz@angellpro.com.au
Phone: 0417 192 055