Anthology

You can’t write a review of millenarian ‘time-pieces’ without showing your hand. I hereby declare that the first thing I do on looking into such a collection is a simple calculation, to which the answer in this case is 16:25.

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The assertion that ‘love is strong as death’ comes from the Song of Solomon, a swooning paean to sexual love that those unfamiliar with the Old Testament might be startled to find there. Songwriter and musician Paul Kelly has included it in this hefty, eclectic, and beautifully produced anthology of poetry, which has ‘meaningful gift’ written all over it. 

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Ashbery Mode edited by Michael Farrell

by
November 2019, no. 416

The recent death of Les Murray can be likened in its significance to the passing of Victor Hugo, after which, as Stéphane Mallarmé famously wrote, poetry ‘could fly off, freely scattering its numberless and irreducible elements’. Murray’s subsumption of the Australian nationalist tradition in poetry, including The Bulletin schools of both the 1890s (A.G. Stephens) and 1940s (Douglas Stewart), has delineated an influential pathway in our literature for more than fifty years. Yet the death in 2017 of the American poet John Ashbery might be viewed as equivalent in its effect, given the impact of his work on several generations of local poets, which has in many respects constituted a counter-stream to Murray’s often narrowly defined nationalism. Ashbery’s voice has been infectiously dominant in English-language poetries over several decades, in a manner similar to T.S. Eliot’s impression on poets of the earlier twentieth century. Critic Susan Schultz, the publisher of this volume, has charted the dynamics of its transcultural influence in her aptly titled collection, The Tribe of John (1995)

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In 1942, Elio Vittorini managed to circumvent the Fascist censors and publish Americana, a landmark anthology of thirty-three American authors. The aim of this massive project – over a thousand pages with translations into Italian carried out by ten significant literary figures of the time, including Alberto Moravia, Cesare Pavese, and Nobel Laureate poet Eugenio Montale – was to introduce iconic American voices to Italian readers. In assembling her substantial collection of forty Italian short stories, Jhumpa Lahiri set herself the same objective but in reverse: to introduce Italian authors to American readers. Lahiri declares Vittorini was her ‘guiding light’, not only for the general design of the work but also ‘in writing the brief author biographies – intended as partial sketches and not definitive renderings – that preface each story’.

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In his infamous 1955 review of Patrick White’s The Tree of Man, A.D. Hope’s dismissal of the book as ‘illiterate verbal sludge’ focuses on a perceived confusion between the categories of poetry and prose. White ‘tries to write a novel as if he were writing poetry, and lyric poetry at that’, writes Hope ...

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The late historian Patrick Wolfe did not pull any punches when he wrote that colonialism seeks to eliminate and replace the Indigenous cultures holding sovereignty over the lands and resources that colonisers wish to claim ...

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A new anthology of bite-sized New Zealand poems is freshly out from Victoria University Press. VUP is the Wellington-based publisher closely associated with the University’s renowned creative writing school, known affectionately (or pejoratively, depending on your affiliation) as ‘The Bill Manhire School’ ...

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In 2004, New York-based publisher Akashic Books released Brooklyn Noir, a collection of short fiction written under a specific brief. Stories had to be set in that neighbourhood and feature noir themes: simmering familial revenge, cheating and double-crossing, sexual betrayal, domestic discord, murderous trysts, down-at-heel detectives ...

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The narrator of David Malouf’s virtuosic ‘A Traveller’s Tale’ (1982) describes Queensland’s far north as ‘a place of transformations’ and unwittingly provides us with an epigraph for this collection. Without doubt, every story selected from ....

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So, who reads poetry? American military cadets, that’s who. And medical specialists. Also, songwriters, journalists, and philosophers. And don’t forget (ex-) poets, priests, and politicians (to quote Sting). But let’s get back to those military cadets. What does poetry do for them? Who Reads Poetry gives us a number of ...

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