Ken Bolton has published twenty books of poetry in the past thirty-five years, including a verse novel, The Circus (2010), and an earlier Selected Poems (1992), as well as seven often hilarious poetic collaborations with John Jenkins. An art critic, Bolton edited the seminal magazines Magic Sam and Otis Rush; and he has been a publisher with Sea Cruise and Little Esther Books. Bolton’s poems amusingly undermine any sense of affected certainty or closure – ‘with none of the confidence / of Samuel Johnson, // with none of the élan of Frank O’Hara, / with only a guilty and apprehensive grin // because in part / I belong to the school that says // if you see a leg pull it // I begin this tour of my attitudes ...’ (‘Lecture: Untimely Meditations (Tentative Title)’). Rather, his work is buoyed by indeterminacy, in which a blithe surface both collapses and embodies intellectual enquiry, most apparent in his spacious, extended poems, but also in more descriptive ones, such as ‘Kirkman Guide to the Bars of Europe’, from Sly Mongoose (2011), and one not included here, ‘Happy Accidents’, which unravels his influences. ‘Perhaps my oeuvre in / large part represents / a slur on the poetry of my betters – / whose example / allows me to go wandering off, / by the reeds, ankle deep / in mud, / mumbling inconsequently – / somehow ‘licensed’ by them, / by their example – / though heedless of it?’ (‘Poem (Up Late)’).
Ken Bolton: Selected Poems 1975–2010; and Four Poems
Selected Poems 1975–2010
by Ken Bolton
Shearsman Books, $25 pb, 209 pp, 9781848612099
by Ken Bolton
Little Esther Books, $9 pb, 55 pp, 9780975222414
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Gig Ryan has published six books of poetry and her New and Selected Poems was published in 2011 (Giramondo, Australia; and Bloodaxe, United Kingdom). She has reviewed Australian poetry over many years particularly in The Age and ABR, and has written extended articles on Les Murray, Judith Wright, and Indonesian novelist Pramoedya Ananta Toer. She has also written songs with her occasional band Driving Past, and has been Poetry Editor of The Age since 1998. (Photograph by Mia Schoen)
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