Michael Sharkey

David McKee Wright is a curious figure in Australian poetry – and in New Zealand poetry, for that matter. As editor of the Bulletin’s Red Page from 1916 to 1926, he was a well-liked and -respected figure in his own time (1869–1928), but he has seriously faded since. He is thinly represented in a number of anthologies, both here and in New Zealand, and was omitted altogether from Robert Gray and Geoffrey Lehmann’s anthology Australian Poetry Since 1788 (2011).

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The variety of Australian poetry is attested to by books such as Another Fine Morning in Paradise. Neither entirely fish nor fowl, it is by turns satirical, watchful, effusive, and lyrical. Its central preoccupation is with a sharp-eyed scrutiny of what might be called the-idea-of-a-better-life ...

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Judith Rodriguez deserves a guernsey for this book. It’s one of the best collections to appear in a long while. I think it’s more interesting than its companions in the UQP Selected/Collected series which is now three-all with Shapcott, Taylor and Rodriguez standing as our Living Treasures, and Dransfield, Buckmaster and Rankin among those freed from earthly care. Two chaps and one lady in each category, one observes. There must be logic in it? Poets don’t actually have to die before they get notices. But in the case of Buckmaster and Rankin it will push the reputation up a few notches. I know that’s callous, but you want the truth, don’t you?

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Tommo & Hawk by Bryce Courtenay

by
June 1998, no. 201

I suspect that Bryce Courtenay’s novels about early Tasmania, The Potato Factory and Tommo & Hawk, have introduced countless general readers to aspects of Australian literature which might otherwise remain terra incognita. For this reason, I applaud his enterprise.

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I don’t make a point of skiving off to every literary festival in the country but, once in a blue moon, comes an invitation that’s hard to refuse (commerce enters into it, yet I want the heady feeling of selling a book, too). So I went to the third, and probably last, Hawthorn Writers’ Week in March. Why ‘probably last’? Read on.

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I don’t suppose Rosemary Sorensen could have continued forever at ABR’s desk. All the same, I believe she has manoeuvred the journal into a liveliness other magazines lacked. It’s a cheerful thing to see the ABR flourishing, its covers in the public face in newsagents about the country: something that few other literary review journals have managed to do, outside their city of origin. Try, for example, to get a copy of Southerly, Westerly, Northern Perspective, Island, LiNQ or Imago across the counter anywhere outside their states of origin.

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Henry Lawson’s death prompted a torrent of lamentation and, despite the distaste of academics and critics, the poet was soon enshrined as a National Treasure. Colin Roderick’s biography is a monument of dedication to the poet.

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Two women really did walk into a bar recently. Their four elbows met the bar in unison. Their two schooners were embraced by four lips with the precision of guardsmen at the palace.

There was a bit of a silence.
There was no eye contact.

By and by one enquired about the other.
‘Have you heard about Bill Hayden?’
‘What’s he reckon, now?’
‘Well, he reckons that he’s prepared to take the job of Governor-General. He reckons he’s prepared to take the cut in salary.’
‘That’s very good of him.’
‘Yeah. He reckons that if he gets Dallas to do the shopping, he’ll just about break even.’

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