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Kate Jennings grew up on a farm near Griffith, New South Wales. While earning a Bachelor of Arts with Honours from the University of Sydney during the late 1960s and early 1970s, Jennings was active in left-wing politics and feminism, later editing Mother I'm Rooted (1975), a collection of contemporary women's verse. In 1975 Jennings published her first collection of her own poems, Come to Me My Melancholy Baby, exploring the trials of being a feminist poet in the 1970s. Jennings left Australia for New York in 1979 and has since worked as a writer, editor and speechwriter for a major investment bank .
Recognised as an expatriate, Jennings has continued to publish from the USA. She has written short stories, essays, poetry and novels and, in 1993, began a period as poetry editor for the Bulletin. Jennings's essays range over a variety of topics, but her negative views on Australian literature and feminism were not received well in Australia. Some of her short stories explored her childhood on the Riverina, but she extended this exploration with the novel Snake (1996), attracting praise from other writers such as Jill Ker Conway and Shirley Hazzard. Her second collection of poetry, Cats, Dogs and Pitchforks (1993), also attracted wide admiration. In 2002 Jennings published Moral Hazard, a novel set in New York, that draws on her experience as a speechwriter and her husband's battle with Alzheimer's disease.
Jennings was the recipient of a $32,000 one-year Category A Fellowship from the Australia Council Literature Board in 1993.
Kate Jennings presented the second Ray Mathew Lecture at the National Library of Australia, 29 June 2010. The lecture is presented annually by an Australian writer living overseas.
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