Australian Poetry

'Happiness' may seem like an odd word for the title of a book of poetry, and given the circumstances of Martin Harrison's final years – his illness, the tragic death of his younger Tunisian lover, Nizar Bouheni – the title is rather ironic, but the poems in this posthumous volume are rich, bountiful, full of the same 'worshipful attention', the same sense of ope ...

Babel Fish by Jillian Pattinson

November 2015, no. 376

Halfway through her first full-length collection, Babel Fish, Jillian Pattinson quotes Borges's famous argument: 'Myth is at the beginning of literature, and also at its end.' Her whole book does its best to embody this idea.

As its title 'Waterline' implies, the first group of poems here is loosely unified by water references, from the semi-scienti ...

All writers need good bookshelves, but the poet, perhaps more than any other writer, is charged with the involuntary dispensation and relentless accumulation of reading material. This is partly due to the proclivities of the producers and partly due to the characteristics of the form itself. As the notable cultural critic Pierre Bourdieu remarked, poetry's effects d ...

Contemporary Australian poetry has a complex and ever-evolving relationship with the land, both at home and abroad. Almost twenty-five years post-Mabo and entrenched in ongoing ecological crises, Australian poets explore new ways of experiencing and defining place. Where misguided nationalism sought to limit Australian poe ...

People who go in for the arts are often advised Don’t give up your day job. But what’s a suitable day job for a poet? A century ago many Australian poets made a meagre living as freelance writers for newspapers and magazines. Some even took up journalism full-time, writing their verses on the side. The old Bulletin, one of the wellsprings of Austra ...

Outcrop: Radical Australian Poetry of Land edited by Corey Wakeling and Jeremy Balius

March 2014, no. 359

Radical histories often balance political ideas and actions on a see-saw of progressive liberal ideology on the one hand, and a thumbs-down rejection of the ‘old guard’ on the other – a challenge to perceived obsolete, lazy, or contaminated ways of seeing, doing, or being. When I encountered the word ‘radical’ in the title of Outcrop, its rich polit ...

Bronwyn Lea has chosen ‘Beginnings’ as the theme for the first issue of Poetry Australia’s new journal. The Editor has some interesting things to say about a poem’s ‘beginning’ in her Foreword, but the journal doesn’t as yet have the feel of something fresh, lively, and distinctive that a beginning promises ...

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Starlight: 150 Poems by John Tranter & The Salt Companion to John Tranter edited by edited by Rod Mengham

October 2010, no. 325

John Tranter has published more than twenty books since 1970. They include long dramatic monologues, a type of verse novel (The Floor of Heaven, 1992), prose poems and traditional verse forms. Starlight, his new collection, continues his ‘evisceration’, as he calls it, of other poets.

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This is John A. Scott’s sixth collection of poems since 1975. The volume is slim but not thin. Each poem encompasses its observation, reflection, or moment from which departures are measured, as the positives and negatives of ‘delicious solitude’ are weighed. Amid urban blues, bar-speak, team games and the distorting foci of others’ projections, the ‘predicate adjective alone’ evokes either dignity, pathos, or something in between. Scott considers the prospects.

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I have never met Vivian Smith but respect him awfully. The remarkable thing about his editing of this new anthology of Australian poetry is that his own work is not in it. This is unprecedented among recent anthologies, and may of course be a printing error. Even that excellent poet of Buddhist leanings, Robert Gray, was unable to achieve such perfect nirvana some years back in his Younger Australian Poets. I think Vivian Smith could at least have included here his very fine poems ‘The Names’, which appeared in the most recent Mattara Award anthology.

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