John Mateer

Many see John Tranter as an important, if slightly peripheral, figure in contemporary Australian poetry. He is well known for his long involvement in the Sydney poetry scene, as well as for his role as an editor, particularly for his editing, with Philip Mead, of the Penguin Book of Modern Australian Poetry (1991) and, more recently, of the internet poetry journal Jacket.

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On the last day of the Melbourne Writers’ Festival, I attended a session titled ‘Hope and Wright Remembered’, a presentation intended as a memorial for those two well-known figures of Australian poetry, A.D. Hope and Judith Wright. For a panel on poetry, it was exceptionally well attended, the Merlyn Theatre being nearly full. I had the impression that the session would be one of two things: either a commemoration ceremony for the recently departed, in which those left behind would eulogise the Great Man and the Great Woman, or it would be a chance for criticism in both its affirmative and condemnatory modes, a chance to make claims either for or against the poets’ work.

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If presence in literary journals, anthologies and at writers’ festivals may be taken as an indication of a poet’s importance, Anthony Lawrence has for some time been regarded as one of Australia’s foremost poets of the post-­’68 generation. He has published five books of poetry, all of which to my knowledge have been well received, and he has also been the recipient of many prizes, most recently the inaugural Gwen Harwood Memorial Prize and one of the Newcastle Poetry Prizes for 1997. With the publication of his New and Selected, Lawrence seems to have been canonised.

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