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Thomas Shapcott

Thomas Shapcott
Thomas Shapcott is an Australian poet, novelist, playwright, editor, librettist, short story writer and teacher. He has received numerous rewards and accolades for his work, and in 1989 was appointed an Officer (AO) of the Order of Australia.

Thomas Shapcott reviews 'The Model: Selected writings of Kenneth Seaforth Mackenzie' edited by Richard Rossiter

October 2000, no. 225 01 October 2000
This is both an exciting and a sad collection. Kenneth Mackenzie, like those later Western Australian writers Randolph Stow and Tim Winton (and, I might add, Griffith Watkins), first appeared in print with work composed at a remarkably young age and which was extraordinary in its poetic intensity and command of language. And like Stow and Watkins (but not, fortunately, like Winton) the early achie ... (read more)

Thomas Shapcott reviews 'Lyrebird Rising: Louise Hanson-Dyer of l’Oiseau-­Lyre, 1884–1962' by Jim Davidson

May 1994, no. 160 01 May 1994
One of the defining features of recent years in Australian ‘literature’ (as I suppose we must call it), in tandem with a perceived growth in the quantity of fiction and poetry by women, titles reflecting the ethnic diversity of origin in more and more writers, and a growth industry in Aboriginal studies, has been the remarkable increase in sophistication of approach to biography. Perhaps more ... (read more)

Thomas Shapcott reviews 'Nowhere Man: Stories, 1984-1992' by John Irving

December 1992, no. 147 01 December 1992
These stories are well written and rather depressing. That makes them, I guess, rather representative of what one might call the current state of short-story writing by urban males. One thinks immediately of recent collections by Garry Disher and Nick Earls. There seem to be a few basic starting off points, the most notable being in the delineation of defensiveness and insecurities that give the m ... (read more)

Thomas Shapcott reviews 'Remember Me, Jimmy James' by Steven Carroll

December 1992, no. 147 01 December 1992
A first novel written with fine-honed discretion and linking three generations of very ordinary Australians, this book has a satisfying sense of the continuities and disjunctions within families. The story is rich in small, telling details and wonderfully laconic verbal exchanges (if that is not too heady a word) between couple whose feeling towards each other have been long eroded by habit. Yet ... (read more)

'Festival Days' by Tom Shapcott

August 2001, no. 233 01 October 2001
Attending a poetry festival is not normally considered a life-threatening event (not even if you are prone to deep vein thrombosis from constant sitting) but when I told my family I was going to Struga, I was greeted by worried looks and expressions of deep concern. Struga is in the Republic of Macedonia. Just days before, Macedonian hotheads had set fire to a mosque in Prilip (not that far from S ... (read more)

Thomas Shapcott reviews 'Double Take: Six incorrect essays' edited by Peter Coleman

April 1996, no. 179 01 April 1996
I approached this collection of essays with some sense of anticipation, thinking ‘Do David Williamson, Beatrice Faust, Jamie Grant, Frank Moorhouse, Les Murray, and Christopher Pearson have something in common? If so, what?’ When I read Peter Coleman’s introduction with its language of battle lines and militarist imagery, I was certainly aware of an Us vs Them program, with the demon as Pol ... (read more)

Thomas Shapcott reviews 'To the Islands' and 'Tourmaline' by Randolph Stow

December 2002-January 2003, no. 247 01 December 2002
Before the age of thirty, Randolph Stow had published five novels and a prize-winning collection of poetry. In Australia, only Kenneth Mackenzie, another Sandgroper, had made a similar youthful impact. Mackenzie’s first book, The Young Desire It, was published in 1937, though I believe drafted some time before that. Stow’s The Haunted Land (1956) was written when he was only seventeen. When an ... (read more)

Thomas Shapcott reviews 'Collected Poems' by Ern Malley

September 1993, no. 154 01 September 1993
The poems of Ern Malley must be on the way to becoming the most reprinted collection of twentieth-century Australian poetry. As Max Harris says in his essay, one of the pivots of this book: More than forty years on, after his death from Graves’ disease and his burial at Rookwood Cemetery in 1944, after twelve editions of his collected poetry in the intervening years, Ern Malley is alive and w ... (read more)

'Commonwealth Writer’s Week, Brisbane, 1982' by Thomas Shapcott

November 1982, no. 46 01 November 1982
For the previous Commonwealth Writers’ Week associated with the Commonwealth Games at Edmonton, a large if not necessarily lively anthology of writing from all countries of the Commonwealth was produced. Brisbane produced a twelve page ‘Guide to Participants’ which showed that only eighteen of the sixty-three listed participants were not Australian or Australian born. Not all of the eighteen ... (read more)

'Smell', a new poem by Thomas Shapcott

March 2014, no. 359 27 February 2014
Underneath everything we touch is the smellOf something too obvious to expressAnd yet we say there is nothing, nothing at all. We have learned to live with a multitude of smells,They simply do not bother us, they are everydayAnd part of the natural world we have inherited. There is nothing more obvious than the smell of living,It is like movement, and, like movement, it is everywhere.Like sweat ... (read more)
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