John Kinsella

Dislocations is a product of the Irish diaspora. Its editor is a Western Australian who claims his Irish heritage from Carlow and Wicklow; its subject was brought up on the border between counties Armagh and Tyrone in Northern Ireland, and emigrated to the United States in 1987. There is, then, a biographical precedent for John Kinsella’s sharp characterisation of Paul Muldoon’s work as ‘a liminal poetry that lives both sides of any given border … in an ongoing state of visitation with its roots in linguistic and cultural reassurance’.

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John Kinsella tends to be a polarising figure, but his work has won many admirers both in Australia and across the world, and I find myself among these. The main knocks on Kinsella are that he writes too much, that what he does write is sprawling and ungainly, and that he tends to editorialise and evangelise. One might concede all of these criticisms, but then still be faced with what by any estimation is a remarkable body of work, one that is dazzling both in its extent and its amplitude, in the boldness of its conceptions and in the lyrical complexity of its moments. An element that tends to be overlooked in Kinsella, both as a writer and as a public figure, is his compassion. What it means to be compassionate, rather than simply passionate, is a question that underpins Kinsella’s memoir Displaced: A rural life.

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John Kinsella’s new memoir, Fast, Loose Beginnings, may have been published by the august publishing house of Melbourne University Publishing, but it is nevertheless a garage-band of a book. It is, as its title signals, both fast and loose. Its rhythms aren’t always graceful, and its timbres aren’t always smooth. You can almost hear the hum of the amplifiers. The poet Jaya Savige, in his review of the book for the Sydney Morning Herald, commented on the book’s lack of polish.

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Kevin Brophy reviews 'Night Parrots' by John Kinsella

Kevin Brophy
Friday, 20 December 2019

Lasseter, it has been said, was a strange man, admired for his unusual and innovative ideas. He told a story of being caught during a storm in Central Australia: he put all his clothes in a hollow log, stood naked until the storm passed, and was then able to don his dry clothing. Though some claim that Lasseter was at Gallipoli, he did become the source of another great Australian myth of failure.

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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. Kinsella’s use of Burke’s title prompts one to reread the original – ideally, in a Kinsellan métier, on the internet, late at night. Additionally, the ‘shades’ in Kinsella’s title is an important supplement – shades as variations, colourings, but also shadows, undertones.

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'Hailstone Villanelle'

John Kinsella
Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Hailstones in misshapen formation pound on roof corrugations,
distorted in scrying before reaching their target,
feathers and leaves stripped, birds and trees in transition.

To taste the ...

Chris Flynn reviews 'Hollow Earth' by John Kinsella

Chris Flynn
Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Astronomer Edmond Halley (also known as Edmund, debate still rages over which spelling he preferred) may be best known for the comet that passes through our solar system once every seventy-five to seventy-six years (next sighting due in 2061, set a reminder in your iCal), but in 1692 he proposed an intriguing theory: that the Earth was hollow.

Halley suggest ...

‘We’ll be going this earth’: an environmental survey

Lynette Russell, et al.
Wednesday, 25 September 2019

To complement the reviews and commentaries in our Environment issue, we invited a number of writers and scholars to nominate a book that will give readers a better appreciation of the environment.

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2021 Porter Prize Judges

Australian Book Review
Monday, 15 July 2019

Lachlan Brown 800x500 monoLachlan Brown is a senior lecturer in English at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga. He is the author of&nbs ...

Francesca Sasnaitis reviews Lucida Intervalla by John Kinsella

Francesca Sasnaitis
Thursday, 17 January 2019

According to the online resource Climate Action Tracker, Australia’s emissions from fossil fuels and industry continue to rise and are heading for an increase of nine per cent above 2005 levels by 2030, rather than the fifteen to seventeen per cent decrease in ...

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