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Andrew Taylor

Shore Lines by Andrew Taylor

August 2023, no. 456

Andrew Taylor has been an important figure in the Australian poetic landscape since his first book, The Cool Change, appeared in 1971. Identified with no particular group or aesthetic tendency, he has worked as poet and academic in Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth, and is now retired from teaching and based in Sydney.

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Green House by Dorothy Hewett

June 1980, no. 21

In a talk she gave recently at Writers’ Week in Adelaide, Dorothy Hewett praised Gwen Harwood as:

Working in isolation as the woman hero, charring like a cartographer the uneasy, shifting, violent, broken world of Australian women and finally, in the teeth of all opposition. proclaiming the right to love and be a hero.

Dorothy Hewett identified several other roles or figures for women writers of poetry in Australia, most particularly:

The woman as loser, lover, bleeder, the victim figure, at once perverse and self-exacting, who refuses to be second-best.

But it’s clearly Harwood’s heroic proclamation of ‘the right to love’ that Hewett admires.

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'Visiting Peter', a new poem by Andrew Taylor

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Selected Poems by Andrew Taylor & New and Selected Poems by Philip Martin

July 1988, no. 102

Reading these three collections, I was struck by the recurring feel of travel and the great and traditional themes of love, death, and history. These books would not yield much for a study of regionality! As two of the books are selected poems and include work written over nearly thirty years by poets who have spent a lot of time overseas, the sense of history is perhaps not unusual. All the poets have spent time in Europe and America. But the way they view history shows how they differ as poets. Philip Martin seems constantly to feel the history of Europe and Scandinavia in his blood, both in his references back to origins and customs and in his exploration of love and mortality through these.

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Sandstone by Andrew Taylor

May 1995, no. 170

On my most recent visit to Warrnambool in December 1994, the newspapers carried a tragic story about some local youths who had been digging in the coastline dunes and sandstone cliffs outside the town. One of them had died when their cave collapsed. It is this wild, unpredictably dangerous but attractive coastline that features in the title sequence to Andrew Taylor’s new book. In Sandstone, the blurb on the back cover tells us, Taylor returns ‘to the sight [sic] of his childhood’.

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The Internet doesn’t tell me
where they’ve gone, my predeceased
contemporaries. It’s
a lengthening list though the more

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Andrew Taylor’s latest book reprises themes common to many of his earlier poetry collections – movement between the antipodes and Europe; the natural landscape; affinities with music – but also, as the title suggests, themes of haunting and unhaunting, visitation and absence. Taylor was ill with cancer in 2003, and his confrontation with death has strongly informed The Unhaunting. The book is divided into five sections, and while the trajectory is far from linear, a sense of moving from darkness to light, from threat to release, unfolds.

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So much activity outside
where sunlight spills across the snow
like cream –

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And midway through the first course
of pickled fish in the restaurant
by the river that night
slid a black on black
under the brilliantly lit

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Götterdämmerung Café by Andrew Taylor & Russian Ink by Andrew Sant

June 2001, no. 231

Wallace Stevens once remarked: ‘One of the essential conditions to the writing of poetry is impetus.’ It’s a statement worth keeping in mind when confronting a new book of poems, because thinking about impetus helps us locate the concerns of the poet and the orientation of the book. Since poems are not objects so much as events, what drives a poem helps govern how it arrives at its destination – how, in fact, it is received by that welcoming stranger, the reader. Poems reveal their origins, whether they intend to or not. What Emerson says of character, that it ‘teaches above our wills’, that ‘we pass for what we are’, is true for poems as well. So it is not an idle question to ask of these books – these poets – their impetus, remembering that ‘impetus’ derives from the Latin ‘to seek.’

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