Lisa Gorton

Along with regular features, this bumper edition of the Poets’ Union journal, Five Bells, includes the proceedings of festival discussions in Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth: sixteen strongly argued, well-crafted papers by some of Australia’s best poets, variously considering the state of Australian poetry now. For all the individual interest of these papers, this collection’s strength lies in the way they set up parallels and contradictions, working together like a long, amiable argument.

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Lisa Gorton reviews 'Butterfly' by Sonya Hartnett

Lisa Gorton
Monday, 14 September 2020

Sonya Hartnett is one of the most various of good writers. In particular, she is good at creating atmosphere: a distinctive world for every story. As a consequence, every book she writes is a different style of book. Take some recent examples. The Ghost’s Child (2007), with its plot like a fable, reads like an old tale told in an outdated language of ‘sou’westers’ and ‘fays’. Its form, language and style are so consistent its oddity seems like part of its simplicity. In contrast, Surrender (2005), a horror story, has a style of calculated Gothic, playing narrative games to manufacture menace.

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How complex a task it is to write the biography of a writer. For writers, whose daily business is making things up, the truest experience may be one they have imagined. All biographers need to be storytellers and private detectives, but the biographer of a writer must also be a literary critic, must account for how the work relates to the life and escapes the life; beyond this, how the experience of writing it might change how the author apprehends those other parts of experience, called facts.

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Hostages to Fortune: Parents and Children

Lisa Gorton
Friday, 05 June 2020

At first, you find the claim that you resemble your parents implausible. Later, you find it unflattering. But there are moments when you glimpse someone in a mirror and only belatedly recognise yourself. These are the moments when you realise – it is in equal parts chastening and reassuring – that if you are moving through time as an image of your parents’ past, their image is waiting for you in mirrors: they are the ghosts that haunt your future, as it were.

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Imagining Australia collects nineteen essays from a 2002 conference on Australian literature and culture at Harvard University. Of course, as the proceedings of a conference, it is on occasion hard work. There is something about conferences – the dedication of their audiences, perhaps, or the vulnerability of their speakers – that encourages a somewhat defensive formality. That said, almost every essay in this collection repays a reader’s investment with interest: in describing the history of Australian literary journals; offering a new direction for Australian pastoral poetry; providing surprising perspectives on popular Australian myths; or looking at how contemporary poets use form.

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Lexicographers, not just newspapers and television, respond to disasters. Language is never fixed, never finished, never done. In recent months, language has been shaped by the coronavirus. In this episode, Amanda Laugesen, director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre at ANU and editor of The Australian National Dictionary, discusses coronaspeak, the language of lockdown. 

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Lisa Gorton began publishing in ABR in 2003. Since then she's given us several dozen review essays and poems. Lisa has published three poetry collections, most recently the acclaimed Empirical, a Giramondo publication. Her novel, The Life of Houses, shared the 2016 Prime Minister's Literary Award for Fiction. 

This month we published Lisa's long poem 'On the Characterisation of Male Poets' Mothers'. As Lisa explains, the poem almost entirely comprises a medley of quotes that describe famous poets' mothers – sourced all from Wikipedia.

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On the Characterisation of Male Poets’ Mothers

Lisa Gorton
Monday, 27 April 2020

I
Charles Baudelaire’s mother—
                       orphaned at seven—living
                       on the charity of friends—
                       at twenty-six married
                       an ex-priest, widower—     
After her husband died she married again
                       and was happy—

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2020 Calibre Essay Prize Judges

Australian Book Review
Tuesday, 08 October 2019

John CoetzeeJ.M. Coetzee was born in South Africa and educated in South Africa and the United States. ...

Lisa Gorton is Poet of the Month

Australian Book Review
Wednesday, 25 September 2019

It is strangely moving to learn how a reader thinks about something I’ve written. Mostly, I’ve been lucky to have reviewers who crystallise, for me, some pattern in my thinking or inchoate hope for the work. It helps me to start something new. I learn as much, perhaps, from reviews of other people’s work – other approaches, a sense of connection.

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