Puncher & Wattmann

If I were to make gauche generalisations about the poetics of MTC Cronin, Jordie Albiston, and Michael Farrell, I might respectively write conceptual, technical, and experimental. But these established poets – each in their fifties, highly regarded – display fluency with all these descriptors, especially in their latest books.

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Any definition of what constitutes ‘outsider art’, or art brut, is elusive. The boundaries of this ‘category’ are notoriously porous. There is no manifesto, no consistent medium, nor is it especially tied to any single period in time. However, it can be argued that outsider art is often regarded as art created by those on the margins of society, such as people in psychiatric hospitals, in prison, or the disabled. Outsider artists are also usually self-taught. For several decades, Anthony Mannix has been at the forefront of Australian outsider art, his particular qualification for the label being serious mental illness (though the term ‘illness’, as The Toy of the Spirit implores, is problematic). Mannix was diagnosed with schizophrenia in the mid-1980s, and spent periods as a patient in psychiatric hospitals over the next decade. Now based in the Blue Mountains, he has been free of schizophrenic episodes for many years.

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Andy Kissane, who (with Belle Ling) shared the 2019 Peter Porter Poetry Prize, is one of Australia’s most moving poets. He is unfailingly empathetic, a master of poetic narrative – and of the ‘middle style’ where language is not an end in itself but an unobtrusive vehicle for poignancy (or, occasionally, humour or irony). The Tomb of the Unknown Artist ...

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Judith Rodriguez, who died in November 2018, was a champion of other people’s causes: the right to be heard, the right to freedom from persecution, the right to refuge when such freedom is denied. She was also a champion of poetry and gave generously of her time and energy to fighting its corner ...

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Feeding the Ghost 1: Criticism on contemporary Australian poetry edited by Andy Kissane, David Musgrave, and Carolyn Rickett

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January-February 2019, no. 408

Perhaps the most encouraging sign in this Puncher & Wattmann collection of critical essays on contemporary Australian poets is the prominent ‘1’ on its front cover, promising that this will be the first in a series. Given that last year’s Contemporary Australian Poetry anthology by the same publisher featured more than two hundred poets ...

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To complement our ‘Books of the Year’ feature, which appeared in the December 2018 issue, we invited some senior publishers to nominate their favourite books of 2018 – all published by other companies.

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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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Kevin Brophy’s latest book is a record of the year he spent living in the remote Aboriginal community of Mulan. The community is home to predominantly Walmajarri people, and is on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert, sixteen hours’ drive from Broome. He was given a decomposing house to ...

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Fragments by Antigone Kefala & A House by the River by Diane Fahey

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June-July 2017, no. 392

Antigone Kefala’s Fragments, her fifth book of poems and first since Absence: New and selected poems (1992), is often menaced by the past, like her first collection, The Alien (1973). Here too are some subtly demolishing portraits, as well as buoyant poems such as ‘Metro Cellist’ and the slightly brooding ‘Summer at Derveni’: ‘ ...

Poetry as the solidifying of memory, poetry as a survivor's sanguine amusement, takes a lifetime. Louise Nicholas relates autobiography through strongly considered moments ...

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