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Margaret Diesendorf (1912–1993)

by Patricia Munro

Poet Margaret Diesendorf, who had lived for the past four years in Canberra, died on Thursday at her home in Aranda, aged 80.

Dr Diesendorf was born in Vienna in 1912. She studied German languages, French literature, linguistics and philosophy, and gained an MA and PhD from the University of Vienna.

She left the upheavals of Europe in 1938; it was her love of the English language which brought her to Australia.

In Sydney she worked as a language teacher in secondary schools, as a university tutor and lecturer, an editor and as a radio and television broadcaster.

Proficient in German, French and English, she translated the work of Rilke into English, and of A. D. Hope into French. Her translation of Rosemary Dobson's collection Child with Cockatoo was published in Paris in 1967.

In 1964 Dr Diesendorf edited a French/English edition of Poetry Magazine, and translated the poetry of Grace Perry into German. As guest editor of American magazine Poetry Eastwest she introduced Australian poets to that country.

In Sydney she played a very active role in the Poetry Society. She was passionately interested in the contemporary poetry of Australia, and made a significant contribution to fostering Australia's poets here and abroad. She collaborated with long-time friend and colleague Grace Perry on Poetry Australia from its inception in 1964, and was its associate editor from 1967 to 1981. During that time she was also associate editor of the American magazine Creative Moment.

Her own poems and articles have been published in anthologies, journals and newspapers in Australia and overseas.

Love, vitality, warmth and generosity marked Dr Diesendorf's life, and love was a major source of her inspiration. In the tradition of Rilke, many of her poems draw together the process of love and making art: essentially her life's work.

Spanning two cultures, Margaret Diesendorf brought to her art, European cultural and literary traditions, the musicality and humour of her native Vienna, and the aesthetics of a classicist and philosopher.

But her influence goes far beyond the publication of her two books of poems: Light (1981) and Holding the Golden Apple (1991).

Her funeral will be held at 3pm next Thursday at St John's Church, Reid, and a wake will be held afterwards at her home.

Original publication

Additional Resources

Citation details

Patricia Munro, 'Diesendorf, Margaret (1912–1993)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 19 June 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Máté, Margaretha Amalia

15 May, 1912
Vienna, Austria


22 April, 1993 (aged 80)
Aranda, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.