When I first heard of an impending Atlas of Australian Birds, my expectations were, it now seems to me, naive, showing certainly no acquaintance with the ‘birds atlas projects [which] have been developed in many other countries’ (actually, the bibliography numbers attached to this direct us to just three such projects: a use of ‘many’ learned, perhaps, from such usages as ‘this wine will improve with cellaring for many years’).
Evan Jones’s Selected Poems is more than timely: its author was born in 1931. In an introduction (or ‘Personal Appreciation’), fellow Melbourne poet Alex Skovron complains that ‘Evan’s work has not always received the attention it deserves, especially in recent years’. It is worth pausing a moment to consider why this should be so.
With Dryden out of favour and Rochester still only a cult enthusiasm, ‘Restoration literature’ is likely to evoke for most readers only stage comedy, yet likely to seem to a casual reader to promise only scholarly drudgery in justly neglected corners, crowned by an inadequate, hurried examination of a major work, Samson Agonistes, looking sadly astray in this company.
I have sat on these books longer than is reasonable for a review, yet have to confess that I am not satisfied with the readiness of what follows. I got the Porter first, but receiving the Johnston thought that they in some ways offered similar difficulties, perhaps similar rewards, to the reader, and that it might be neat to review them together.
The acknowledgements included in the Preface to this collection name some of the most common places for poetry to be published in Australia, but by chance few of these poems seem to me familiar. That of course makes it more interesting to see them individually; and also makes the whole thing easier to see at large.
Unlike its parent, the Concise Macquarie has a regular commercial publisher, and we might suppose that it is a sensible commercial proposition. We might wonder if the reduction from the 77,000 headwords of the bigger dictionary to the over 41000 of this is worth saving the $12 difference in price: but nobody who read my review of the parent Macquarie is likely long to ponder this when he or she remembers that Collins cost’s $19.95.