David McCooey

Having spent two decades or more writing massive verse novels – The Nightmarkets (1986) and The Lovemakers (2001, 2004) – it may seem that Alan Wearne, with his latest book of poetry, The Australian Popular Songbook, has finally returned to smaller forms and, as suggested by the title, a more lyrical idiom. But, as always with Wearne’s work, things aren’t that simple. The smaller forms were already present in the verse novels in the form of sonnets, villanelles and other verse forms buried in the sprawling architecture of the works’ narratives. The ‘lyrical idiom’ of The Australian Popular Songbook is ambiguous at best, offset as it is by Wearne’s characteristic attraction to the dramatic monologue, satire, vernacular culture and wrenched syntax.

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Jennifer Strauss reviews 'Blister Pack' by David McCooey

Jennifer Strauss
Friday, 11 October 2019

If I hesitate to declare delight in Blister Pack, David McCooey’s first volume of poetry, it may be because McCooey himself casts a shadow over the word in ‘Succadaneum’, a sequence of sardonically sad glimpses of the failed love that constitutes the theme of Part II of this collection – ‘Delight, it turns out, / is a lawyer / staying back at work / kicking off her shoes / and opening a bottle of red’, abandoning clients’ disasters to files ‘locked / in metal cabinets’.

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David McCooey reviews 'Empirical' by Lisa Gorton

David McCooey
Wednesday, 25 September 2019

In her latest collection of poems, Empirical, Lisa Gorton demonstrates – definitively and elegantly – how large, apparently simple creative decisions (employing catalogues or lists; quoting from the archive; engaging in ekphrasis or description) can produce compelling and complex poetic forms.

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David McCooey reviews 'Hoi Polloi' by Craig Sherborne

David McCooey
Friday, 07 June 2019

A laughing man, according to Flaubert, is stronger than a suffering one. But as Craig Sherborne’s extraordinary new memoir of childhood and youth shows, the distinction isn’t that simple. There is much to laugh at in Hoi Polloi, but this is also a book suffused with pain and suffering ... 

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Louis Nowra was born in 1950 and is – as he presents himself in this memoir – that very mid­-century thing, an outsider. An outsider in terms of class, mental constitution, and sexuality (for a time), Nowra suffers a worse, and originary, alienation from his mother. Being born on the fifth anniversary of his mother’s shooting of her father ...

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Rarely does one come across a book that is both intensely ‘literary’ – stylised, sophisticated, deeply engaged with its antecedents – and achingly moving, so viscerally raw that it takes one’s breath away. A Passing Bell: Ghazals for Tina – an elegy-sequence for Tina Kane, to whom Paul Kane was married for thirty-six years – is such a work ...

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Books of the Year 2018

Michelle de Kretser, et al.
Monday, 26 November 2018

To celebrate the best books of 2018, Australian Book Review invited nearly forty contributors to nominate their favourite titles. Contributors include Michelle de Kretser

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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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State Editor's Introduction by David McCooey

David McCooey
Tuesday, 05 June 2018

In an age when the news is relentlessly bad, it is tempting to think that we can turn to poetry as either a flight from the pathological politics of our time, or a higher commentary on it. As the poets in this year’s Victorian States of Poetry Anthology show, poetry’s relationship with the news of the day is more complex than that.

So, who reads poetry? American military cadets, that’s who. And medical specialists. Also, songwriters, journalists, and philosophers. And don’t forget (ex-) poets, priests, and politicians (to quote Sting). But let’s get back to those military cadets. What does poetry do for them? Who Reads Poetry gives us a number of ...

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