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Philip Mead

Books of the Year 2023

by Kerryn Goldsworthy et al.
December 2023, no. 460

What the authors of these three wildly different books share is a gift for creating through language a kind of intimacy of presence, as though they were in the room with you. Emily Wilson’s much-awaited translation of The Iliad (W.W. Norton & Company) is a gorgeous, hefty hardback with substantial authorial commentary that manages to be both scholarly and engaging. The poem is translated into effortless-looking blank verse that reads like music. The Running Grave (Sphere) by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling), the seventh novel in the Cormoran Strike crime series and one of the best so far, features Rowling’s gift for the creation of memorable characters and a cracking plot about a toxic religious cult. Charlotte Wood’s Stone Yard Devotional (Allen & Unwin, reviewed in this issue of ABR) lingers in the reader’s mind, with the haunting grammar of its title, the restrained artistry of its structure, and the elusive way that it explores modes of memory, grief, and regret.

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Déjà Rêvé, a new poem by Philip Mead.

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I thought I recognised Sorley Maclean / walking towards me down Niagara Lane. / As he came alongside he said look up, / you can see our friend the sky where the tall buildings / lean in towards each other. I can see some glyphs

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Georgina Arnott’s 2016 biography The Unknown Judith Wright was an absorbing exercise in discovering the facets of Judith Wright’s early life and formative experience that were unknown, hidden, or forgotten, by biographers as well as by Wright herself. It was a revealing study of a writer who had a love-fear relationship with the projects of biography and autobiography. In the 1950s, Wright wrote loving, admiring histories of her pioneering family, but in her autobiography, Half a Lifetime, published in 1999, the year before her death, she began: ‘Autobiography is not what I want to write.’ There were good reasons for this. There were the formal challenges of life writing – the person writing is not the person written about – but also what Wright had discovered, in her archival research for her rewriting of her family history, about her Wyndham colonial ancestors’ role in Aboriginal dispossession, and violence.

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To an older generation of Australian poetry readers, David Campbell (1915–79) was perhaps the best-loved poet of Douglas Stewart’s post-World War II ‘Red Page’, appearing there with what would become iconic poems of the new Bulletin school like ‘Windy Gap’, ‘Who Points the Swallow’, and ‘Men in Green’. Despite his frequent publication in that heritage venue, Campbell published his first collection, Speak with the Sun (1949), in England with Chatto & Windus, through the good offices of his Cambridge mentor E.M.W. Tillyard. After that, he joined the ancien A&R régime of poets like Rosemary Dobson, R.D. FitzGerald, Francis Webb, James McAuley, and Judith Wright, who took up much of the middle ground of Australian poetry in the 1950s and 1960s. A lifelong friend and supporter of Campbell, Stewart was also influential in this group’s prominence, along with Beatrice Davis, his editorial co-adviser at Angus & Robertson.

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A Kinder Sea by Felicity Plunkett

by
April 2020, no. 420

Felicity Plunkett has being doing good works in the poetry sphere for some time now. She has edited for UQP a recent series of new and established poets; she reviews a wide variety of poetry in newspapers and magazines, as well as writing evocatively, in this journal, about influential figures in popular Australian poetics like Nick Cave and Gurrumul Yunupingu. Valuably, she has also made practical contributions to poetry teaching in the secondary English curriculum. Now she has published a second volume of her own poetry, a varied collection of highly accomplished poems.

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Paul Giles is a critic for whom it is important where he lives, although not so much in terms of location as of literary and imaginative perspectives. He began as an Americanist literary scholar, in voluntary exile from the United Kingdom, where he was trained, writing about the global remapping of American literature and, more recently, having moved to Australia, about Australasia’s constitution of American literature. He likes redrawing the critical maps of literary study, but also following the reverse and inverted orbits of writers themselves. Part of this impulse includes rethinking the hemispheres. Giles’s book about Australasia and US literature, for example, was titled Antipodean America (ABR, August 2014). If it wasn’t too much of a mouthful, you’d say he was a serial re-territorialiser.

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John HawkeJohn Hawke is a Senior Lecturer, specialising in poetry, at Monash University. His books include

Michael Hofmann’s home territory is language, while his life is extraterritorial. He was born in Germany, went to school in England, now lives in Germany, but teaches in North America. He has also made a living out of working between languages, translating scores of texts from German into English ...

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In 1916, the 300th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death coincided with the first anniversary of the Gallipoli landings, thus providing the impetus for this absorbing study of memory and forgetting, and what the authors call a specifically ‘antipodal’ dynamic of asymmetrical commemorations across ...

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