The need for this book is self-evident in a way that a similarly historical anthology for New South Wales or Victorian poetry would not be. From many perspectives, Perth is one of the most remote cities in the world and there is no doubt that the state’s uniqueness is captured in this extensive, though tightly edited, selection. Despite its comparable treatment of Aboriginal people, Western Australia’s nineteenth-century history (with its brief experience of convictism and its relatively late gold rush in the 1890s) is different from that of the eastern colonies, about which Western Australians continue to feel a mild, justified paranoia.

Of course, Western Australia occupies about half the Australian continent, so there is also considerable regionality (likewise reflected in the selections here). John Kinsella and Tracy Ryan’s introduction to all this is suitably comprehensive and informative (if, occasionally, a little dramatic in its claims for the international status of some its poets).

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  • Custom Article Title Geoff Page reviews 'The Fremantle Press Anthology of Western Australian Poetry' by John Kinsella and Tracy Ryan (eds)
  • Contents Category Poetry
  • Book Title The Fremantle Press Anthology of Western Australian Poetry
  • Book Author John Kinsella and Tracy Ryan
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  • Biblio Fremantle Press $34.99 pb, 376 pp, 9781925162202 ­­
Wednesday, 24 August 2016 14:43

'Smartraveller' by Tracy Ryan

Just knowing those colours makes it safer
already and how they'll change anyway by the time
you, thirteen now, are old enough for elsewhere:

RED ORANGE YELLOW GREEN but not about weather
except for extremity and those are most finite
and fickle, cyclones though murderous rarely durable

as human cruelty. Where are you going?
the site prompts but you choose Browse countries
then List all countries, then run the current date –

not to miss anything – every day you check them
like a thing growing in the mind's garden
that needs tending, a world of worrying

for others under some degree of mastery; keep track
of flare-up, pandemic, earthquake, and ask me
sidelong, to define civil unrest, safety and security

though these are terms you know, as if rehearsing,
as if there could be something more the words don't
indicate, a further shade in my palette till now

held back, but I can only disappoint, being arms'-length,
and listen my best as you list the ten tallest mountains
while we head for the school bus because last night

and all this week it was Nepal, and pulling your quilt
around you to ready for sleep was rugging up
for Everest, and before that, another land, one day.

Tracy Ryan

Tracy Ryan won the Peter Porter Poetry Prize in 2009. Her latest collection is Hoard (2015).

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    Just knowing those colours makes it safer
    already and how they'll change anyway by the time
    you, thirteen now, are old enough for elsewhere: ...

Thursday, 18 December 2014 14:27

'Nuptial Bog', a new poem by Tracy Ryan

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    I am building my roof of turf   my peaty sheath
    a coveted blanket   roll me up in it and I go out
    like a light   like the wisp rising at night
    that country people swear they see and steer clear of

Monday, 15 December 2014 16:24

Tracy Ryan is Poet of the Month

Which poets have most influenced you?

Shakespeare, Donne, Emily Brontë, Dickinson, Hopkins, Hardy, Rilke, Dylan Thomas, Roethke, Plath, Hughes, Heaney, Judith Wright.

Are poems ‘inspired’ or mainly the work of craft?

Both. Craft alone might produce what is called verse, but without an inspired element it would be dull. Inspiration alone might wing it, but can also be pretty dull for the reader.

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Friday, 21 November 2014 09:09

'Lost Property', a new poem by Tracy Ryan

To be alone in the wide room
in the house’s crooked elbow, turning point
for extensions as the family grew
and grew – and grew – to be alone in the one room
nobody needed now, though it might be resumed
like land, for guests or blow-ins, at any moment,
without notice (and that was part of
the appeal, the very tenuous feel of the place) to play there
at five or six: to be immersed though not safe among the things
that preceded you, immediate and limitless,
everything already there, the way the world went on
before you were thought of, that flux, and your small-child
leisure for introspection while others shinnied trees for the same
sense of endless outlook, here,
in this would-be attic brought down to earth, whose breath
was frosty as Mother Shipton’s well, holding the tossed refuse
of older siblings, stages shrugged off: limp tutus, pink as dropped
gum blossom, too big, though you stepped
into them and stood, as if in a fairy ring you might animate;
satin and tapshoes, toe-shoes from a sister’s long gone bit-part
in Hans Christian Andersen, poems called Off The Shelf
that you avidly grabbed for your own, puzzled
at faded marginal doodles in real ink;
dark ocarina whose holes you could never master,
bakelite cracked, spookily fake-organic,
as if a new kind of reptile had laid it,
and a distant, shadowy instrument, lipped, where fingers should sit,
with verdigris your father later chastised you for rubbing –
an oboe perhaps – resisting your grip, but venting
a slow corruption in you as descant,
its distant kin in this vast orchestral silence:
strange octagon you toyed with that would never quite close or open,
squeeze box, little lung resisting pressure, push and draw, your hands
impeded from fully parting or meeting, stretching
in musical secretion, cat’s cradle, ectoplasm,
crimped membrane so vulnerable to puncture,
it made you wince, lantern-thin but giving sound
for illumination. At last: harmonica, cupped, bracketed but not
for all that an afterthought, heart of the whole unpeopled
space, for the way it moulded to your own small wheeze
and gave it a different life, if a pleasure to the player only,
pleasure to make your mouth water, metal, felt, and papery
velvet, though your brother might shudder
at the old spit he imagined pooled there,
to you it was honeycomb,
striving to isolate each note, then giving up,
as if you had many voices at once, speaking in chords,
and could make yourself heard.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013 17:34

'Carousel', a new poem by Tracy Ryan

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    Because in a foreign city even at eight
    he needs the familiar nearby, to hitch
    the gaze like the reins of that lacquered
    horse to a fixed spot, in order to let loose,

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