Geoff Page

Just over fifty years since the death of the great American poet William Carlos Williams, it ispleasing to see so much of his spirit still alive in Cameron Lowe’s third collection, Circle Work. Williams was often short-changed by poets who, mistakenly, thought his short, ‘photographic’ poems easy to imitate. Lowe, by contrast, fully understands the impo ...

Todd Turner’s first collection, Woodsmoke, evolves intriguingly. It starts in the ‘anti-pastoral’ mode founded by Philip Hodgins. Here the poet, long since relocated to the city, looks back with tellingly evocative detail but a divided sensibility on the life he (it’s normally a ‘he’) has now abandoned.

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Radiance by Andy Kissane

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August 2014, no. 363

Andy Kissane’s fourth collection, Radiance, is a heartening answer to those who, like publisher Stephen Matthews, lament that ‘many modern poets choose to shroud their work in point-scoring obscurity at a time when clarity and accessibility might encourage more people to read poetry’. Kissane doesn’t address this issue directly, but his book is an imp ...

Personal Weather by Peter Bakowski

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May 2014, no. 361

Personal Weather is Peter Bakowski’s seventh collection, yet he remains impossible to categorise. His is a distant relative of Ken Bolton’s conversational style, while also a close cousin to central European poetry. His poems can be three-page narratives or urbanised haiku. Above all, Bakowski is a poet of wonder – wonder at the contradictions and compl ...

Mark Dapin’s anthology, From the Trenches, is a timely but not opportunistic book. At more than 400 pages, it is long enough to suggest the sheer scale of the war and its centrality to European (if not world) history ever since. It samples all the relevant genres (letters, memoir, journalism, fiction, poetry) and offers a multiplicity of viewpoints (senior ranks, subalterns, NCOs, priv ...

150 Motets by Homer Rieth

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April 2013, no. 350

Although the Melbourne publisher Black Pepper has a stable of major Australian poets (Stephen Edgar and Jennifer Harrison among them), it is also a house that likes to take chances. The favourable reception accorded Homer Rieth’s 359-page epic poem, Wimmera, in 2009 was defin ...

1953 by Geoff Page

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March 2013, no. 349

Geoff Page’s 1953 is set in the town of Eurandangee, which, we learn, is about 650 kilometres north-west of Sydney ...

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David McKee Wright is a curious figure in Australian poetry – and in New Zealand poetry, for that matter. As editor of the Bulletin’s Red Page from 1916 to 1926, he was a well-liked and -respected figure in his own time (1869–1928), but he has seriously faded since. He is thinly represented in a number of anthologies, both here and in New Zealand, and was omitted altogether from Robert Gray and Geoffrey Lehmann’s anthology Australian Poetry Since 1788 (2011).

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There has been something of a fashion in recent years to dismiss what might loosely be called ‘rural’ poetry because the vast majority of Australians live in cities near the coast. Nevertheless, ‘rural’ poetry keeps appearing, and not just in the works of Les Murray. A considerable number of Australian poets are only one generation away from the land (even John Tranter was born in Cooma), and their childhood memories can often be a rich resource. Admittedly, there are not many actually working it; the reasons for this are often at the core of their poetry. A few perhaps are inclined to be nostalgic (even sentimental) but there is also, as Craig Sherborne has observed, an ‘anti-pastoral strain in Australian poetry’. Among the more recent exponents of this tradition are the late Philip Hodgins, John Kinsella (in his wheat belt poems) and, to judge from A Paddock in His Head, the Victorian poet Brendan Ryan.

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Geoff Page’s latest poetry collection is a wide-ranging survey of some of the issues affecting contemporary Australian life. Underpinning Page’s poems of cafés, apartments, classical music, outback murders and domestic violence is a meditation on approaching mortality and the very idea of belief. In Page’s previous collection, Darker and Lighter (2001), the troubling nature of belief was hinted at in ‘Credo’: ‘The dark-night-of-the-soul-agnostic / prefers the right to doubt. / The world’s too much beset by those / who know what they’re about.’ Five years later, Page’s reflections on belief and the loss thereof return like echoes from a bell. In the fine poem ‘At Tosolini’s’, Page contrasts the diners’ penchant for coffee with the sound of bells ringing at a nearby church: ‘The sound of bells in autumn air / has long since been a thing / that we can never quite believe / and yet we don’t despair.’ Page’s use of the inclusive pronoun ‘we’ assumes much, and perhaps speaks for those who no longer believe.

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