John Kinsella

Pushing Back by John Kinsella

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April 2021, no. 430

Comprising more than thirty works of poetry, fiction, memoir, and criticism, John Kinsella’s prolific output is impressive, and this figure doesn’t include his collaborations with other artists. Here is a writer who swims between boundaries, experiments with form and content, and eludes easy categorisation. His most recent novel, Hollow Earth (2019), was a foray into science fiction and fantasy, and his most recent poetry volume The Weave (2020), was co-written with Thurston Moore, founder of NYC rock group Sonic Youth.

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Dislocations is a product of the Irish diaspora. Its editor is a Western Australian who claims his Irish heritage from Carlow and Wicklow; its subject was brought up on the border between counties Armagh and Tyrone in Northern Ireland, and emigrated to the United States in 1987. There is, then, a biographical precedent for John Kinsella’s sharp characterisation of Paul Muldoon’s work as ‘a liminal poetry that lives both sides of any given border … in an ongoing state of visitation with its roots in linguistic and cultural reassurance’.

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John Kinsella tends to be a polarising figure, but his work has won many admirers both in Australia and across the world, and I find myself among these. The main knocks on Kinsella are that he writes too much, that what he does write is sprawling and ungainly, and that he tends to editorialise and evangelise. One might concede all of these criticisms, but then still be faced with what by any estimation is a remarkable body of work, one that is dazzling both in its extent and its amplitude, in the boldness of its conceptions and in the lyrical complexity of its moments. An element that tends to be overlooked in Kinsella, both as a writer and as a public figure, is his compassion. What it means to be compassionate, rather than simply passionate, is a question that underpins Kinsella’s memoir Displaced: A rural life.

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Hailstones in misshapen formation pound on roof corrugations,
distorted in scrying before reaching their target,
feathers and leaves stripped, birds and trees in transition.

To taste the ...

Astronomer Edmond Halley (also known as Edmund, debate still rages over which spelling he preferred) may be best known for the comet that passes through our solar system once every seventy-five to seventy-six years (next sighting due in 2061, set a reminder in your iCal), but in 1692 he proposed an intriguing theory: that the Earth was hollow.

Halley suggest ...

To complement the reviews and commentaries in our Environment issue, we invited a number of writers and scholars to nominate a book that will give readers a better appreciation of the environment.

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Lachlan Brown 800x500 monoLachlan Brown is a senior lecturer in English at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga. He is the author of&nbs ...

According to the online resource Climate Action Tracker, Australia’s emissions from fossil fuels and industry continue to rise and are heading for an increase of nine per cent above 2005 levels by 2030, rather than the fifteen to seventeen per cent decrease in ...

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I’d ask you to reappear from behind the wet blanket, Sun,
But the ozone has been eaten by refrigerants
And we can’t take your glare. We are people
Of the skin cancers, tuned by solar flares ...

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Renga: 100 poems by John Kinsella and Paul Kane

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March 2018, no. 399

Poets aren’t generally known for being great collaborators. Wordsworth and Coleridge’s 'Lyrical Ballads' (1798) is a rare example of a co-authored canonical work of poetry. 'Renga: 100 poems', by John Kinsella and Paul Kane, has some similarities to 'Lyrical Ballads'. Like those of its ...

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