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Nicholas Birns

Nicholas Birns is Editor of Antipodes and co-editor of Companion to Australian Literature Since 1900 (2007).

Commentary | ‘So close and yet so far: Reading Australia across the Pacific’ by Nicholas Birns

March 2009, no. 309 01 March 2009
Traditionally, there has been an almost physical force, like a law of gravitation, making Australian literature’s visibility in the United States an elusive phenomenon. This is not, contrary to received opinion, because Australian literature did not meet world standards. It is hard to conceive of Christopher Brennan, Joseph Furphy, and John Shaw Neilson not meeting ‘world standards’. What do ... (read more)

Nicholas Birns reviews 'Disquiet' by Julia Leigh

May 2008, no. 301 04 January 2024
Julia Leigh rose to prominence at the end of the 1990s, when Australian literature was experiencing the best and worst of times. Though the 1990s were not the ‘low dishonest decade’ that the post-9/11 allegorical reading of W.H. Auden’s poem ‘September 1, 1939’ implied, this characterisation was apt where Australian literature, or at least its worldwide reception, was concerned. Relentle ... (read more)

Nicholas Birns reviews 'Sometimes Gladness: Collected Poems 1954-2005' by Bruce Dawe

November 2006, no. 286 01 November 2006
People outside Australia are struck when Bruce Dawe is described as Australia’s most popular poet, just as people outside Ireland are struck when Paul Durcan or Brendan Kennelly is described as Ireland’s most popular poet. What about Les Murray, or Seamus Heaney? Are not these world-class poets ‘of the people’? Even more puzzling is that Dawe, like Durcan and Kennelly, is not necessarily a ... (read more)

Nicholas Birns reviews 'Helen of Troy and Other Poems' by Dimitris Tsaloumas

July–August 2007, no. 293 01 July 2007
Dimitris Tsaloumas is often thought of as a poet writing between two languages. In his English poetry, this emerges in the way that the everyday diction of Greek often functions as the learned register of English. ‘Nostalgia’, as a compound word, is a modern Western coining, but when Tsaloumas opens the volume with ‘Nostalgia: A Diptych’, he evokes the Greek components of the word, particu ... (read more)

Nicholas Birns reviews 'Necessity: Poems 1996–2006' by Barry Hill

October 2007, no. 295 01 October 2007
Barry Hill’s latest collection is both delightful and substantive. Australia has a minority tradition of the urbane, exuberant, even bouncy poet – Andrew Sant, Peter Porter. It is a constant in American poetry – early John Hollander, Frederick Feirstein, L. E. Sissman, John Frederick Nims, X.J. Kennedy – with the difference that, as the above examples show, urbanity in the United States wo ... (read more)

'Antipodes and the dark hemisphere: Beyond the bilateral?' by Nicholas Birns

April 2010, no. 320 01 April 2010
Antipodes: A North American Journal of Australian Literature was founded in 1987 as the journal of the American Association of Australian Literary Studies, itself founded the previous year. Both institutions are products of the Hawke era, when the still-simmering question of Australian identity and the Australian film boom of the early 1980s created an ideal state for Australians to be interested ... (read more)

Nicholas Birns reviews 'Shades of the Sublime and the Beautiful' by John Kinsella

June 2008, no. 302 01 June 2008
Another poet might invoke Edmund Burke’s famous treatise on the Sublime and the Beautiful as a piece of phraseology or a pleasing adornment, but with John Kinsella, such a title is dead serious. Elliot Perlman’s superb novel Seven Types of Ambiguity (2003) ingeniously makes the reader think of William Empson’s, and the idea of plural signification it evokes, but not instantly to reread it. K ... (read more)