Of all the books published in the United States last year, only three per cent were of foreign origin. This year is hardly likely to be any different. So it is something of a wonder that this considerable and imaginative collection of modern Australian poetry was produced in the unlikely setting of the University of Louisiana. Professors Jack Heflin and William Ryan, who direct the creative writing program there, have a longstanding interest in international literature, and John Kinsella was the natural, if not inevitable, choice as editor of this anthology, which, with 123 poets spread over almost 600 pages, is the most comprehensive collection of contemporary Australian poetry ever published in the United States.
The book looks and feels weighty. One’s first thought is that it will have some burden to carry, whether of nationality, history, currency, or ‘bestness’, and that this weight will impress itself on the reader, as it so often does in anthologies of Australian poetry. Surprisingly and refreshingly, this is not the case. The book has a lightness, a kind of shrugging off of the usual, that makes it feel especially contemporary.