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.... (read more)
I must admit to being intrigued by any self-proclaimed ‘Histories of Everything’, so I leapt at the prospect of a dense history of my favourite creative art and how it flourished in our past centuries, right down to a couple of writers who died in 2019. And occidental only: that is, apart from a sidelong glance at Hafez, Tagore, and Li Po’s fellow poets. Unless you regard the Russians, that is – bridging East and West.... (read more)
ABR asked a few colleagues and contributors to nominate some books that have beguiled them – might even speak to others – at this unusual time.... (read more)
We play because we kow-tow and are free;
a set of guidelines activating choice
or so we hope. The mineral poet wrote,
‘By loss of memory we are reborn’,
but memory’s the root of active power:
we grab the minute and we grasp the hour
hoping that such engagements prove us free.
As physical as he was metaphysical, his playful courtesy equal to his reflectiveness, Alec Hope has mortally gone from us now. In his time, which was far from short, he was like nobody else in our literary landscape. Coming from an age in which subject matter mattered, Hope became a poet of astonishingly wide range, as of remarkable intensity. His burning star has been clouded a little in recent decades because of his investment in masculine sexuality, but he survives powerfully: sometimes hilariously. We won’t forget his Red Riding Hood devouring the wolf. Among his recent forebears, he rejoiced in Baudelaire, Yeats, and early Auden, the latter an overpowering figure when the young Australian sailed to Oxford.
T.S. Eliot’s brand of juxta-positional modernism meant little to Alec, who found it all a bit shifty, but he did share the St Louis master‘s ideas about poetic impersonality: a poem was the Ding an sich, not the shadow of its writer within it. Once, indeed, he poked mullock at Eliot by citing his putative play, Merd, or In the Cathedral.... (read more)
At last, books about Such is Life and its endearingly attractive, quixotically sophisticated author, Joseph Furphy, are coming out. Three in the last few months is a welcome harvest, certainly a happier response than Furphy got during the prolonged Wilcannia showers of his life.... (read more)
Peter Goldsworthy, doctor and poet, is a writer of significant style and concision. This new selection of his lyric poetry lives up to its jaunty, graffitied, lavender cover; it bespeaks lightness. And lightness is damned hard work. You don’t get there just by smiling and going to book launches ...... (read more)
Who is, or rather who was, André Gide? I ask this because a distinguished editor warned me, on hearing that I was about to review Robert Dessaix’s enticing new book, that nowadays nobody would remember who Gide was. Ah, the years, the years! It was another story in the time of my youth ...... (read more)
Relations between the public arena and the private are what the novel is all about. This loose, generous prose form was developed in early-modern Europe to enable a vigorous bourgeois imagination to ask the question: what is public, in fact, and what is private ...... (read more)