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David McCooey

David McCooey is a prize-winning poet, critic, and editor. His latest collection of poems is The Book of Falling, published by Upswell Publishing (2023). His first collection, Blister Pack (2005), won the Mary Gilmore Award and was shortlisted for four major national literary awards. He is a professor of literature and writing at Deakin University in Geelong, where he lives. His website is:

David McCooey reviews 'Mermaid' by Alan Gould and 'The Majestic Rollerink' By Heather Cam

April 1996, no. 179 01 April 1996
‘Nothing odd will do long’, said Johnson (that great friend of reviewers). If we begin by positing Aland Gould as an odd poet (that is, more than merely eccentric or self-conscious), then whether Johnson is correct about oddness depends on the second half of his observation: ‘Tristram Shandy did not last’. No doubt ABR readers smile at such a sentiment; but if so, then the question becomes ... (read more)

David McCooey reviews 'The Best Australian Poetry 2005' edited by Peter Porter

October 2005, no. 275 01 October 2005
Comedy isn’t the only art that requires good timing. Poetry also requires it. Indeed, poetry might be partly defined as the art of giving things away at the right moment. Illustrating this we have The Best Australian Poetry 2005. In this elegant anthology, we find Peter Goldsworthy’s inspired description of our planet: ‘Our earthen dish is seven parts water / one part china, and a tiny bit j ... (read more)

'Going Public: A Decade of Australian Autobiography' by David McCooey

May 2006, no. 281 01 May 2006
Autobiography is based on a paradox. It is a generic representation of identity, but identity and genre appear to be antithetical. If we conventionally think of our identity as unique (singular, autonomous and self-made), how then can the presentation of that identity be generic? How, when narrating our lives, can we be both singular and understandable? Does narrating a life presuppose a way of wr ... (read more)

David McCooey reviews 'Australian Lives: An Oxford Anthology' edited by Joy Hooton

October 1998, no. 205 01 October 1998
Joy Hooton must know more about Australian autobiography than anyone else. Her critical and bibliographical works are now complemented by this marvellous anthology – humorous, plangent, and surprising. It replaces the more literary Penguin anthology by the Colmers (an important collection, though now somewhat outdated), and more than accounts for the period not dealt with in Gillian Whitlock’s ... (read more)

David McCooey reviews 'Fishing for Lightning: The spark of poetry' by Sarah Holland-Batt

October 2021, no. 436 23 September 2021
Sarah Holland-Batt’s Fishing for Lightning is a book about Australian poetry. As such, it is a rare, and welcome, bird in the literary ecology of our country. It is welcome because poetry, like any other art form, requires a supportive culture that educates and promulgates. Not that Holland-Batt, herself one of our leading poets, is ‘merely’ didactic, or a shill for the muses. Holland-Batt, ... (read more)

David McCooey reviews 'Sandstone Gothic: Confessions of an accidental academic' by Andrew Riemer

June 1998, no. 201 01 June 1998
In retrospect it’s not surprising that Andrew Riemer wrote so insightfully about Shakespeare’s comedies. Those green worlds of transformation are expressive of longing and nostalgia, of social order being restored through the acceptance and reconciliation of opposing forces. That the brute, material world is partly dealt with through nostalgia, fantasy and parody is an idée fixe of Riemer’s ... (read more)

David McCooey reviews 'Threads of Life: Autobiography and the will' by Richard Freadman

August 2001, no. 233 01 August 2001
Samuel Johnson once wilfully said, ‘Sir, we know our will is free, and there’s an end on’t.’ One can understand Johnson’s sentiment. Talk about will can be interminable. If we feel our will to be free, does it matter if it really is? Right now, I’m willing myself to write this review, instead of having dessert or watching Big Brother (‘Will to Power in Big Brother: Or, Are You Smirki ... (read more)

La Trobe University Essay | 'Infidelity: "The Monkey’s Mask" in Poetry and Film' by David McCooey

May 2001, no. 230 01 May 2001
Movies are often criticised for their lack of fidelity, for not keeping faith with their sources, especially novels, their audience, or their glorious antecedents. Infidelity is also a key plot device, especially of genre films: melodrama, comedy, crime, even the western. We keep going back to the movies partly because they don’t give us what we want. The New York poet Frank O’Hara suggests th ... (read more)

David McCooey reviews 'Vertigo: A Cantata' by Jordie Albiston and 'Awake Despite the Hour' by Paul Mitchell

October 2007, no. 295 01 October 2007
Reading Paul Mitchell’s second book of poems during a bout of insomnia seemed apposite not only because of its title but also because Mitchell’s poetry occupies a strange middle place, somewhere between dream and reality. Awake Despite the Hour illustrates Mitchell’s interest in occupying both the ‘real’ (politics, family and the quotidian) and the extramundane (imagination, the surreal ... (read more)

David McCooey reviews 'The Queen of Bohemia: The Autobiography of Dulcie Deamer' by Dulcie Deamer and 'An Incidental Memoir' by Robin Dalton

May 1999, no. 210 01 May 1999
It’s interesting how many comic autobiographers are theatrical, like Barry Humphries, Clive James, Hal Porter, and Robin Eakin, whose Aunts up the Cross (1965) is a minor masterpiece and very funny. Eakin’s belated follow-up, An Incidental Memoir, published under her married name of Dalton, compares interestingly with Dulcie Deamer’s posthumously published The Queen of Bohemia. ... (read more)