Puncher & Wattman

For Mark Tredinnick, best known so far as a nature poet employing distinctive and often ingenious imagery, A Gathered Distance is a brave book – even a risky one. It’s essentially the diary of a family breakup or, more accurately, its immediate aftermath. As with most poetry in the confessional genre, the poet is explicit about some people and reticent about others.

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If I were to make gauche generalisations about the poetics of MTC Cronin, Jordie Albiston, and Michael Farrell, I might respectively write conceptual, technical, and experimental. But these established poets – each in their fifties, highly regarded – display fluency with all these descriptors, especially in their latest books.

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Any definition of what constitutes ‘outsider art’, or art brut, is elusive. The boundaries of this ‘category’ are notoriously porous. There is no manifesto, no consistent medium, nor is it especially tied to any single period in time. However, it can be argued that outsider art is often regarded as art created by those on the margins of society, such as people in psychiatric hospitals, in prison, or the disabled. Outsider artists are also usually self-taught. For several decades, Anthony Mannix has been at the forefront of Australian outsider art, his particular qualification for the label being serious mental illness (though the term ‘illness’, as The Toy of the Spirit implores, is problematic). Mannix was diagnosed with schizophrenia in the mid-1980s, and spent periods as a patient in psychiatric hospitals over the next decade. Now based in the Blue Mountains, he has been free of schizophrenic episodes for many years.

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Andy Kissane, who (with Belle Ling) shared the 2019 Peter Porter Poetry Prize, is one of Australia’s most moving poets. He is unfailingly empathetic, a master of poetic narrative – and of the ‘middle style’ where language is not an end in itself but an unobtrusive vehicle for poignancy (or, occasionally, humour or irony). The Tomb of the Unknown Artist ...

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Judith Rodriguez, who died in November 2018, was a champion of other people’s causes: the right to be heard, the right to freedom from persecution, the right to refuge when such freedom is denied. She was also a champion of poetry and gave generously of her time and energy to fighting its corner ...

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Perhaps the most encouraging sign in this Puncher & Wattmann collection of critical essays on contemporary Australian poets is the prominent ‘1’ on its front cover, promising that this will be the first in a series. Given that last year’s Contemporary Australian Poetry anthology by the same publisher featured more than two hundred poets ...

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2018 Publisher Picks

Nathan Hollier et al.
Tuesday, 18 December 2018

To complement our ‘Books of the Year’ feature, which appeared in the December 2018 issue, we invited some senior publishers to nominate their favourite books of 2018 – all published by other companies.

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Sarah Day’s début collection, A Hunger to Be Less Serious (1987), married lightness of touch with depth of insight. In Towards Light & Other Poems (Puncher & Wattmann, $25 pb, 108 pp, 9781925780024), Day continues this project in poems concerned with light, a thing presented as both ...

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In The Resistance to Poetry (2004), James Longenbach claims that ‘Distrust of poetry (its potential for inconsequence, its pretensions to consequence) is the stuff of poetry.’ The Australian poet Laurie Duggan has based a career on a creative distrust of poetry, or at least a certain kind of attitude to ...

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Peter Kenneally reviews 'Rawshock' by Toby Fitch

Peter Kenneally
Monday, 24 September 2012

As a result of the public works of Puncher & Wattmann, it has been established yet again that a book of poetry can andshould combine meaning and design in a shock of pleasure. Toby Fitch’s first full-length collection, especially the central title poem, does this in spades. Orpheus returns to ...

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