Melbourne often seems an indeterminate place, with one flat suburb leaching into another. Writers tend to use place as local colour, the places themselves having little to say, in most cases. Kevin Brophy is an exception, and, especially in this ‘new and selected’ collection, a revelatory one. John Leonard have done great work in putting so many of Brophy’s poems back into print, alongside new work. (For typography buffs, ‘Walking,’ also has a superb cover, looking at which has exactly the same effect as reading the poetry.)
Brophy has lived his life, for the most part, in a corridor barely ten kilometres long, stretching from unlovely Coburg in Melbourne’s inner north, through Brunswick to the leafy precincts of Melbourne University. It is a world that inhabits his poetry, and the poetry in turn beats its bounds and treads its laneways, by turns discovering and adding layers of meaning. It is also, in his work, strangely timeless, so that it is a surprise to realise that the earliest poems here date from 1992 – it all feels much older.