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Ivor Indyk

I was a lecturer in Australian literature, and some of the writers I wanted to lecture on couldn’t find publishers for their work. Also I found I preferred to converse with writers who were living rather than with the dead. And then there was the Demidenko affair, which made me angry enough to start HEAT in 1996.

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I’m fresh from Hannah Kent’s compelling, humane, and utterly convincing The Good People (Picador, 10/16). Kent completely inhabits her material. In this single nineteenth ...

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As with most issues of HEAT, The Persistent Rabbit is consistently excellent. Still, there are degrees of excellence. Compare the essay by Barry Hill with those by Chris Andrews and Stuart Cooke. Hill’s discussion of Ezra Pound’s Orientalism is proof (which these days we need) that scholarly rigour need not be obscure and, conversely, that accessibility doesn’t equal dumbing down. Plus, Hill writes majestically and, when appropriate, with sardonic wit or bluntness. Andrews and Cooke have both written fascinating, commendable essays, Andrews on the Argentinean novelist César Aira, and Cooke on two Mapuche (indigenous Chilean) poets, Leonel Lienlaf and Paulo Huirimilla. But in contrast to Hill’s essay, their pieces are less alive, less complete, less exhilarating.   In this issue, the fiction resonates more powerfully than the poetry (although the poetry is uniformly solid, the best of it potent and playful). Michelle Moo’s ‘New Gold Mountain’ is a taut satire of colliding voices set in a colonial goldfield, Mireille Juchau offers a beautifully observed story about a girl and her family, and Julia Sutton delivers a sharply funny tale about an artist who is, or isn’t, being threatened by a terrorist. Best of all is Barbara Brooks’s poignant ‘fictional memoir’ about the narrator’s grandfather, a veteran of colonial India lost in his memories. 

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As with most literary journals, Heat 21 is a curate’s egg. Notably, Without A Paddle shines when in analytical-critical, essayistic mode. The poetry and fiction are rather more prosaic, with a few exceptions: Ken Bolton in fine form; Michael Hofmann’s beautifully spare poetry. Hofmann’s poem prefaces an extended interview with the poet and German-English translator; his responses are humble, full of sly humour.

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The key theme of HEAT 19 is death. In 224 pages, a collection of Australian writers and academics pay homage to the departed in a range of essays, poems and short stories. The journal opens with Judith Beveridge’s moving and personal tribute to the poet Dorothy Porter. According to Beveridge, ‘Dot’ (as she was known to her friends) was a ‘consummate professional and her public performances were unfailingly polished’. However, Porter ‘also had a very fragile side, vulnerable to the pain of exclusion and rejection’. The title of Beveridge’s piece is ‘Trapper’s Way’, which is the name for a strip of land in the New South Wales suburb of Avalon where Beveridge once lived with Porter.

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In an excellent essay on the poetics of art criticism in this issue, Robert Nelson writes of the nature of rapturous poetic perception: ‘Suddenly the world is larger, more meaningful … one reality gives onto another and the world is seen as an extension of the ways that you might imagine it.’ HEAT consistently provides its readers with opportunities for such aesthetic insights.

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Westerly edited by Delys Bird and Dennis Haskell & HEAT edited by Ivor Indyk

by
February 2007, no. 288

Who reads literary magazines, and why do they? Writers looking for what is being published, academics keeping up with who is being published, the elusive ‘general reader’ looking for a good read? The current volumes of HEAT and Westerly offer multiple reasons and rewards for picking them up, reasons which extend well beyond these superficial factors. Reasons which may send you to the postbox with a subscription form.

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One of the benefits of a Collected is that it places individual poems within the context of the poet’s whole oeuvre, with often dramatic consequences for their interpretation. When Leonie Kramer brought out David Campbell’s Collected Poems in 1989, more than half of the volume was made up of poems written in the last decade of the poet’s life ...

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I would now like to begin with a plea for small literary magazines. I now have a vested interest in their survival (well, one, in particular), but then, I always thought I did. Little magazines are essential to the vitality of Australian literary and political culture. They play an important role in nurturing new poets, critics, storytellers, and reviewers. In the current book-publishing climate, there are few other opportunities for publishing short stories, experimental fiction, or poetry. Small magazines instigate and foster cultural debate and present a diverse range of opinions. Many of the most important issues in Australian public life today were first raised and discussed in literary magazines, including the stolen generations and racial ‘genocide’, the perils of economic rationalism and globalisation, the politics of One Nation, and the implications of new media technologies.

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Don Anderson’s description of Peter Rose’s previous collection as having a fin de siècle mood to it, is surely appropriate to his new collection too. There is an air of decadence to Rose’s poetry, but while this may have much larger social implications – it is the end of the century after all – the decadence seems to me to have a more definite testament to offer. ... (read more)
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