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Lisa Gorton

Lisa Gorton

Lisa Gorton, who lives in Melbourne, is a poet, novelist, and critic, and a former Poetry Editor of ABR. She studied at the Universities of Melbourne and Oxford. A Rhodes Scholar, she completed a Masters in Renaissance Literature and a Doctorate on John Donne at Oxford University, and was awarded the John Donne Society Award for Distinguished Publication in Donne Studies. Her first poetry collection, Press Release (2007), won the Victorian Premier’s Prize for Poetry. She has also been awarded the Vincent Buckley Poetry Prize. A second poetry collection followed in 2013: Hotel Hyperion (also Giramondo). Lisa has also written a children’s novel, Cloudland (2008). Her novel The Life of Houses (2015) shared the 2016 Prime Minister’s Award for fiction. She is the editor of The Best Australian Poems 2013 (Black Inc.).

'Graffiti' a poem by Lisa Gorton

February 2007, no. 288 01 February 2007
‘I wonder this wall can bear the weight of such words’Graffiti on a wall in Pompeii The city is smaller than you expected.Its houses turn their backs on streets –        And given half a chance       who wouldn’t bunker down behind a stack of silence?       An arm’s length of wall permits any ... (read more)

Lisa Gorton reviews 'How to End a Story: Diaries 1995–1998' by Helen Garner

January–February 2022, no. 439 20 December 2021
The first two volumes of Helen Garner’s diaries – Yellow Notebook (2019) and One Day I’ll Remember This (2020) – cover eight years apiece. This one covers three. It is an intense, even claustrophobic story of the breakup of a marriage – a story told in the incidental, fragmentary form of a diary. In an earlier volume, Garner wrote: ‘I would like to write about dominance, revulsion, se ... (read more)

Lisa Gorton reviews 'Beowulf: A new translation' translated by Maria Dahvana Headley

June 2021, no. 432 26 May 2021
Only one manuscript of Beowulf has survived. It was in Sir Robert Cotton’s library. Cotton had been a student of that careful genius William Camden, who, through a lifetime’s work, formulated a different view of history: not the record of victory but the recollection of lost worlds and times. He and his fellow Antiquarians searched out fragments and ruins: Roman urns in the fields, Saxon buria ... (read more)

Lisa Gorton reviews 'Picnic' by Fay Zwicky

February 2007, no. 288 01 February 2007
Picnic is probably Fay Zwicky’s most confident collection. In it she renounces certain kinds of brilliance for a freer and more open style of poetry – what she calls in one poem ‘the grace of candour’. It is a style that approximates moral qualities: honesty, direct ness, kindness to strangers. And it is in fact such moral qualities that give force to this collection. Take the title poem, ... (read more)

Lisa Gorton reviews 'With Love and Fury: Selected letters of Judith Wright' edited by Patricia Clarke and Meredith McKinney and 'Portrait of a Friendship: The letters of Barbara Blackman and Judith Wright' edited by Bryony Cosgrove

July–August 2007, no. 293 01 July 2007
Judith Wright and Barbara Patterson met at a gathering of the Barjai group, a Brisbane salon for young poets and artists, when Judith was almost twice Barbara’s age. Judith had not yet published her first collection, The Moving Image (1946). She read some poems and Barbara was magnetised: It was not just that she was a poet … it was that she believed that the saddest thing in the world was ... (read more)

Lisa Gorton reviews 'Five Bells Australian Poetry Festival (Double Issue)' edited by John S. Batts et al.

June 2009, no. 312 01 June 2009
Along with regular features, this bumper edition of the Poets’ Union journal, Five Bells, includes the proceedings of festival discussions in Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth: sixteen strongly argued, well-crafted papers by some of Australia’s best poets, variously considering the state of Australian poetry now. For all the individual interest of these papers, this collection’s strength lies in ... (read more)

Lisa Gorton reviews 'Butterfly' by Sonya Hartnett

February 2009, no. 308 01 February 2009
Sonya Hartnett is one of the most various of good writers. In particular, she is good at creating atmosphere: a distinctive world for every story. As a consequence, every book she writes is a different style of book. Take some recent examples. The Ghost’s Child (2007), with its plot like a fable, reads like an old tale told in an outdated language of ‘sou’westers’ and ‘fays’. Its form, ... (read more)

Lisa Gorton reviews 'Mary Poppins, She Wrote: The true story of Australian writer P. L. Travers, creator of the quintessentially English nanny' by Valerie Lawson

October 2010, no. 325 01 October 2010
‘Where were you born?’‘Oh, we’re onto that kind of question are we?’‘You wouldn’t believe in writing an autobiography?’‘No, being born, going to school, having measles, being married or not wouldn’t really be an autobiography for me. An autobiography would be an inner statement, how one grew within, the hopes, the difficulties, the aims. But as I never do want to write anythi ... (read more)

'Hostages to Fortune: Parents and Children' by Lisa Gorton

September 2005, no. 274 01 September 2005
Once an angry man dragged his father through his own orchard. ‘Stop!’ cried the groaning old man at last. ‘Stop! I did not drag my father beyond this tree.’ Gertrude Stein At first, you find the claim that you resemble your parents implausible. Later, you find it unflattering. But there are moments when you glimpse someone in a mirror and only belatedly recognise yourself. These are ... (read more)

Lisa Gorton reviews 'Imagining Australia: Literature and culture in the new new world', edited by Judith Ryan and Chris Wallace-Crabbe

May 2005, no. 271 01 May 2005
Imagining Australia collects nineteen essays from a 2002 conference on Australian literature and culture at Harvard University. Of course, as the proceedings of a conference, it is on occasion hard work. There is something about conferences – the dedication of their audiences, perhaps, or the vulnerability of their speakers – that encourages a somewhat defensive formality. That said, almost ev ... (read more)
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