Archive

In September 2018, NewSouth published a new edition of A Certain Style.

On a chilly evening in 1980, a stylish woman in her early seventies, wheezing slightly from a lifetime’s cigarettes, climbed a staircase just beneath the Harbour Bridge, entered a room full of book editors – young women mostly, university-educated, making their way ...

Sunday morning at Balgo in the Kimberley, the wind ripping past in a cold gale of dust and smoke. Wirrimanu, the name of this place, means ‘dirty wind’. White plastic shopping bags pulse and inflate, struggling against the twigs and wire that restrain them. My view down the magnificent plunge of the pound is intercepted by the gridded weld-mesh cage enclosing the verandah, and again by the three-metre-high cyclone mesh fence surrounding the compound. An insufficient barrier, as it turns out, to the entry of determined petrol sniffers. They have been in during the night and have opened all the jerry cans in the back of my car. Slippers, the dog who sleeps in the tray, has clearly made them welcome. I am carrying only diesel and water, and the sniffers have taken nothing, leaving a small stone on the lid of the toolbox as a gesture of – what? – irony, defiance, humour?

... (read more)

As recently as May, Frank Kermode, writing in the London Review of Books, had the temerity to say, ‘Some writers really are better than others’. This may come as a surprise to the odd professor of English, it seems. You will recall that Raimond Gaita, our La Trobe University Essayist in the previous issue, cited one vigilant professorial leveller who, having purportedly disposed of the illusion that there are great books, was determined to expose the folly of the notion that there are good ones.

... (read more)

I should make it clear at the start of these discursive memories that I knew Ted Hughes only slightly and Sylvia Plath hardly at all. But I lived in fairly close proximity to their ascent to fame in the 1950s and 1960s and knew much more closely some of the personalities intimately involved in the crisis in the lives of these two remarkable poets ...

... (read more)

‘AT NIGHT,’ wrote Charmian Clift one summer in the late 1950s on the Greek island of Hydra where she lived with her husband and children, where the harbour village had been invaded by summer tourists, where teams of local Greek matrons invaded the kitchen in relays to monitor the foreign woman’s housework and mothering techniques ...

... (read more)

Selected Poems: A new edition by Gwen Harwood, edited by Greg Kratzmann

by
July 2001, no. 232

Although her work is often surprisingly varied, there is no doubt that when you read a Gwen Harwood poem you enter a highly distinctive poetic world. If it comes from her first twenty-five years of productivity, there is a good chance that you will be in a landscape of psychic melodrama. Everything will be liminal. The setting will be a sunset, the late sun will be flaring a dangerous gold on some intertidal stretch, the protagonist will have awoken from a menacing dream or, pace Kröte, be moving backwards and forwards across the threshold of one. The history of her poetry may be the way this scene increases in intensity as the voices that communicate in dreams increasingly come from figures in Harwood’s own past.

... (read more)

Peter Goldsworthy, doctor and poet, is a writer of significant style and concision. This new selection of his lyric poetry lives up to its jaunty, graffitied, lavender cover; it bespeaks lightness. And lightness is damned hard work. You don’t get there just by smiling and going to book launches ...

... (read more)

Contemporary Australian fiction continues to lean on the national past. Perhaps that’s a comment on the present, or the future, for that matter. It seems to be not so much a matter of the past being experientially ‘another country’, but a more engaging version of the literal one ...

... (read more)

 A friend describes the sensation as being in the movie set of your own life: everything is familiar, but not quite right. Auckland feels like an Australian city that has simply slipped a little, like the accent, to the east. There are hints of Hobart in the crisp sea and the misty sketched-in headlands. And of Sydney, in the over-abundance of harbour, the narrow streets of Ponsonby, which drop away towards the water, the houses filled with quiet light. Perhaps all Pacific cities look pretty much the same these days: here is the casino, the observation tower, the thirties picture palace turned into a Singapore-style mall, the narrow lane with outdoor tables under braziers; the same stands of Westpacs and McDonalds and Lush cosmetics stores. Perhaps what differentiates one city from another now is the sheer volume of traffic forced through its streets.

... (read more)

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.

... (read more)