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Stephen Edgar

With a title like Ghosts of Paradise, it is no surprise that Stephen Edgar’s latest poetry collection is haunted by loss, mutability, and mortality – the great traditional themes of elegiac poetry. But Edgar’s poetry has long, if not always, been characteristically elegiac. In this new collection, Edgar’s first since winning the Prime Minister’s Award for poetry in 2021 (and his first for Pitt Street Poetry), the poems are haunted by the poet’s late parents, late fellow poets (especially W.B. Yeats, but also the Australian poet Robert Adamson, for whom there is an elegy), and ancient poetic forms, such as the sonnet. The collection also includes meditations on ageing, corpses, and photographs (including Roland Barthes’ ‘theory / That every photo is a memento mori’). An interest in the intertwining of memory, embodiment, and visual representation is powerfully realised in ‘Still Life’, in which the memory of a trip to Broken Hill is

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'If Looks Could Kill', a new poem by Stephen Edgar.

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Two poems

by Stephen Edgar & Judith Beveridge
March 2023, no. 451

Two poems in memory of Robert Adamson (1943-2022).

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'The Time Machine', a poem by Stephen Edgar ... (read more)

Here is a production that most poets would die for. Peter Steele’s new book is a spectacular hybrid beast, a Dantesque griffin in glorious array: it is a new volume of poetry and an art book, with superb reproductions of works of art spanning several centuries, from collections all over the world. Paintings most of them, but also statues, sculptures, objets d’art, a toilet service, the figured neck of a hurdy-gurdy, a hoard of Viking silver and a diminutive six-seater bicycle. And the reason for this pairing is that these are all ekphrastic poems, ‘poetry which describes or evokes works of art’, as Patrick McCaughey glosses it in his introduction. How Steele brought off such an ambitious venture I can’t imagine.

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Diamond Beach        

Heads down and shoulders hunched, we set off, trampling
The footstep-gripping sands of Diamond Beach,
Into the flat refusal of the gale,
Squinting into a distance we would fail,
Surely, ever to reach ...

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Stephen Edgar, over the past two decades or so, has earned himself an assured place in contemporary Australian poetry (even in English-language poetry more generally) as its pre-eminent and most consistent formalist. His seemingly effortless poems appear in substantial overseas journals, reminding readers that rhyme and traditional metre have definitely not outlived their usefulness.

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First light beside the Murray in Mildura,
Which like a drift of mist pervades
The eucalypt arcades,
A pale caesura

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After Stephen Edgar’s nine collections of poetry, the last seven of which are distinguished by an extraordinary control over metre and rhyme, a reviewer feels bound to ask how this new book ...

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In one of the poems in Summer Requiem, the most recent of the books in this capacious volume, Seth recalls when he decided to write, 'What even today puzzles me ...

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