Paul Hetherington

Prose Poetry: An introduction by Paul Hetherington and Cassandra Atherton

by
May 2021, no. 431

It speaks volumes that almost a century and a half after Baudelaire’s Paris Spleen announced the modern prose poem, James Longenbach influentially defined poetry as ‘the sound of language organized in lines’. An otherness, bordering on illegitimacy, pervades what Cassandra Atherton and Paul Hetherington argue is ‘the most important new poetic form to emerge in English-language poetry since the advent of free verse’. The book vindicates this claim. No less compelling, however, is the way the prose poem, long defined in negative terms, here becomes the whetstone over which old assumptions – about the prosaic, the poetic, and the daylight between the two – are run to a fresh sharpness.

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The Anthology of Australian Prose Poetry edited by Cassandra Atherton and Paul Hetherington

by
December 2020, no. 427

What is it about English language poetry that has proved so resistant to the lure of the prose poem? The French, it appears, held no such qualms, finding themselves besotted with the form ever since Aloysius Bertrand and Charles Baudelaire began dispensing with line breaks and stanzas. Of course, the very existence of English-language works like Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons (1914) or William Carlos Williams’s Kora in Hell (1920) could be used to argue otherwise, but such endeavours were considered too eccentric at the time to impart a lasting legacy. Perhaps if T.S. Eliot, whose antipathy towards the prose poem is well known, had given us a major cycle along the lines of Saint-John Perse’s Anabasis (1924), a work he admired and translated, things might have turned out differently.

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Belated recognition of Australian prose poetry

by Paul Hetherington and Cassandra Atherton
October 2020, no. 425

Until recently, Australian prose poetry hasn’t attracted much attention – we’re not sure why. Having written prose poetry for years, we’re both fascinated by the form, which can be loosely defined as poems written in paragraphs and sentences rather than in stanzas and lines.

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Poetry books that focus on memory, recuperation, and loss are common, but it is rare to find poems that speak about such matters as sparely and eloquently as these do. Bill Manhire’s new poems are bony and sinewy, resonating with an awareness of public and personal grief. Although these works often speak by indirection, many of them pack a real punch. As Manhire p ...

Which poets have most influenced you? In the 1980s I read Emily Dickinson’s poetry intensively, and I suspect that her superbly compressed work is ingrained within me. In late adolescence I loved the musicality of W.B. Yeats, and later I grew to admire W.H. Auden’s complexities and clarity. I dwelt for a while in the evocations of New Zealander Lauris Edmond. Recently, I have been reading the tensile work of Tusiata Avia with great enjoyment. Many Australian poets, including Judith Wright and Rosemary Dobson, have influenced my writing.

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The abandoned ship was there one morning – a new broken headland –
shiny, sitting high on the low tide, with hundreds of windows like
blinking oval spectacles. Over months the view became fractured;
someone dubbed it the Marie Celeste ‘beached at last’ and a group of us

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Originally published in German, Albrecht Dümling’s The Vanished Musicians: Jewish refugees in Australia (Peter Lang), a fascinating compendium of Jewish musicians who found refuge in Australia in the 1930s and 1940s, is now available in Australian Diana K. Weekes’s excellent translation ...

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In this episode of Australian Book Review's States of Poetry podcast, Paul Hetherington reads 'Gap' and 'River' which feature in the 2016 ACT anthology.

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for TAW
(from 'Paintings')

This black dress
is also a painting –
it hangs on a wall
where light holds it close.
It's a doorway to places
no-one quite knows;
that bloom and rain
with extravagant vistas.

We've sometimes entered
into the painting
dipping dark hats,
watching children
riding down lanes

for BL
(from 'Paintings')

 

A hundred eyes
examine me like an insect,
red and yellow like fear.
What walks about me
in dirty boots, holding my ideas
ridiculous? Whose face
visits restless nights,
threatening to blank my dreams ...

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