Ronald M. Craig
Introducing emerging poet, short story producer, novelist and visual artist, Ronald M. Craig.
I was born in the Womens’ Royal Brisbane Hospital and progressed through school until the conclusion of grade twelve in 1982.
A glimpse of my family life from 2005: (from left to right: Mum-Carolyn, Michael- second eldest brother, David- youngest brother, Ron, Shandell- eldest niece)
With great determination, I premeditated a job interview where I successfully secured work at a Rubber Stamp Company in Brisbane. However, later I was rejected by the Australian Defense Force, which served to annihilate my ultimate dream, that was to become a special air serviceman in the Australian Army. This I believe was the driving force behind my newfound rebelliousness that has on many occasions landed me in very unenviable positions, and yes, even in prison!
During the fourteen years that I spent hitch-hiking around Australia, I held close to two hundred casual jobs of very different calibres, ranging from process work in a Sydney mail centre in Enmore, mineral exploration along the Pilbara’s rugged Canning Stock Route, a couple of months aboard a sixty-five foot timber commercial fishing vessel on the Arafura Sea, and laboratory analysis work adjacent to Arnhem Lands’ Ranger Uranium mine during 1988-89. Over the years, I realised that my unique experiences provided me with an unexpected opportunity to tell my stories via the written word. And so in 1998, I started writing them down during a two-year sojourn for a violent offense at the Alice Springs Correctional Centre. I was placed in a Maximum Security Unit (MSU), where supposedly the worst of the worst criminals were locked down for 23 hours a day. or are the worst of the worst simply and invariably misunderstood?
During this time, I created four short story collections, plus some poetry at the far away penitentiary. I turned to poetry again when I was granted a transfer to Woodford Prison. This was where other emerging poets and I published a unique coffee table style cooperative anthology titled ‘Sweetness of Distortion’, which is an Arrows Publication, 2002. I also entered many well-established poetry competitions like the Banjo Paterson Poetry Prize, the New England Poetry Prize, and the Winton Poetry Award. I compiled a third draft- ‘Consequential Journey’, recording 107 eclectic pages of philosophical, factual and reminiscent prose and rhyming verse that mostly remains unpublished. Catalogued here are a number of my poetry and contemporary short stories based on my true life experiences.
The inaugural poem below relates to my strong friendship with ‘Grandson Albert Namatjira’, who in 1998 and 1999 habitated in dormitory jail conditions in the ‘Red Desert Inn’ (Alice Springs Jail). Also in our company was another established Western Australian Indigenous artist from the Pilbara region, ‘Uncle Neville Gable’- a fine acrylic painter who could whip-up large colourful landscapes that Rex Batterbee would be proud of in the time it takes to firebake an enormous desert goanna.
Grandson Albert Namatjira and I advocated for reconciliation- a better understanding of one another’s vastly different cultures, and for quite some time there was serious discussion of going into the art gallery business called ‘Namatjira & Craig Art Gallery’ together. However, unfortunately in the end, Albert’s family or a lack of commitment prevented it from happening.
In June 1999, Albert Namatjira presented me with ten small watercolour paintings. I was chuffed and euphoric, a surreal and weighted obligation weakened my muscular knees. So I said that I would accept the paintings on the condition that Albert allow me to show my appreciation by way of a gift of White Ox packets, six Tally-Ho papers, and four boxes of Redhead matches. I realised that after this incident, my populatory amongst the ‘local fellas’ had noticeably increased. The quality of life for all five contrasting cultures living in the two large dormitories continued to improve.
Below are two of the ten paintings Albert Namatjira gifted to me:
Here are also some artworks that I created between 2006-2020:
Throughout the two decades that I was incarcerated in the Northern Territory and Queensland, the importance of observing other human beings closely and to study body language has been invaluable to me. I believe that it can protect an individual and help civilians in the free world. I developed an ability to recognise fear and apprehension as people will always be fearful of those they do not know and of things they do not understand. So the average person is highly unlikely to harbour a clue as to who a convict really is. So, ‘Who is a Convict?’:
My love for horses, camping and the great outdoors eventually steered me toward several part-time station hand positions around the country. I painted numerous ‘Achromatic’ (black and white) artworks as a fond tribute to the educational and gratifying memories that I shall never forsake. Two fo these paintings are displayed below, one before the matching poem and one succeeding it. Achromatic art is also categorised as ‘chioscuro’ (the study of negative space). My passion for this style of art continues to challenge and entertain my genuine intrigue, and coincidently, as with many aspects of original art, I discovered that all mediums and genres seem to magically merge to formulate a deeper meaning that is truly complimentary.