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Pitt Street Poetry

Pitt Street Poetry is a fine and well-established poetry publisher. However, its 101 Poets series is a somewhat puzzling phenomenon. It was started in 2016 and, according to the publisher’s website, aimed to be ‘a new series of selected poems … bring[ing] together the best work of Australia’s leading poets as collectable, definitive editions’. Yet, in eight years, it has only included volumes by John Foulcher, Anthony Lawrence, Geoff Page, and Ron Pretty. These are established figures, but they do not constitute a broadly representative sample of Australia’s leading contemporary poets.

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Shore Lines by Andrew Taylor

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August 2023, no. 456

Andrew Taylor has been an important figure in the Australian poetic landscape since his first book, The Cool Change, appeared in 1971. Identified with no particular group or aesthetic tendency, he has worked as poet and academic in Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth, and is now retired from teaching and based in Sydney.

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101 Poems by Ron Pretty

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May 2023, no. 453

Ron Pretty has published eight collections of poetry and five chapbooks over his long career. His latest and perhaps last book, 101 Poems, from Pitt Street Poetry’s Collected Works series, includes pieces from his previous collections, as well as some new work. We start with The Habitat of Balance (1988) and go all the way through to his most recent collection, The Left Hand Mirror (2017), before encountering a selection of new poems.  

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Ragged Disclosures by Paul Hetherington & Dancing with Stephen Hawking by John Foulcher

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March 2023, no. 451

Paul Hetherington’s Ragged Disclosures (Recent Work Press, $19.95 pb, 112 pp) choreographs its prose poems carefully, which is unsurprising from the co-author and co-editor, respectively, of a scholarly book on prose poetry and Anthology of Australian Prose Poetry (both 2020). His new collection employs a lyric-dramatic mode, which Fernando Pessoa described as ‘lyric poetry put into the mouths of different characters’. It features a ‘he’ and a ‘she’ with a ‘shared / Australian vernacular’, in a long, glancing dialogue. These appear most direct in nine ‘Ragged Disclosures’, each comprising three square poems which are bordered and interlinked. ‘Ragged Disclosures 1’ offers a clue to the text: ‘Their ragged / intersections make an unjoined, / searching rapport.’  The poems between these seem to represent this ‘searching rapport’ through shared experience in Rome, Venice, and various other locales, with pronominal shifts to ‘I,’ ‘we’, and ‘you’.

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This is Sarah Day’s ninth collection and one of her most thematically diverse to date. She brings to the poems a thoughtful mix of environmentalism (particularly the unruly yet quiet presence of Tasmania’s natural beauty), her British roots (some of the best poems in the collection refer to the poet’s grandmother’s incarceration in an asylum), and a teacher’s precision with free verse. The poems are not overly experimental in terms of lineation, metre, language, or punctuation, and yet freshness of perspective and authenticity arise inevitably from the poet’s liquid observational engagement with the world’s affairs, whether this be with landscape, the global pandemic, racism, or science (planetary, oceanographic, microscopic).

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Mark Tredinnick’s latest collection of poetry, Walking Underwater, continues his exploration of the relationship between individual experience and the natural world that was visible in volumes such as A Gathered Distance (2020), Blue Wren Cantos (2013), and Fire Diary (2010). Tredinnick is well known for his writing of place, notably his innovative local history-cum-memoir The Blue Plateau (2009), a book that traces the lives, histories, and natural systems of the Blue Mountains, where he lives. His writing in both poetry and prose is noticeably belletristic, and his stance broadly romantic. This occasionally droops into piety, but Tredinnick also conjures moments of muted and moving transcendence: ‘A balcony and a morning and a lassitude / Of fog. A sky blindfolded and bound and flogged; a night-time’s / Pleasure only halfway spent. Awake early, I hear a band / Of correllas come. Chaste bandits, their flight a quiet riot, a lewd and holy throng / Of unhinged song.’ 

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Ordinary Time by Anthony Lawrence and Audrey Molloy

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December 2022, no. 449

These strange years of pandemic and lockdowns certainly brought challenges and unusual experiences – those of constraint but also, surprisingly, of opportunity and richness. The curious spaces we occupy in the ether have become a seedbed for conversation and exchange; for connections that otherwise might not have found a field in which to prosper. Despite or perhaps because of the limits of the digital, perhaps even because we were undistracted by physical proximity, these spaces seemed to offer the potential for a raw honesty – lacunae of sotto voce conversations which brought us ironically into a form of seemingly unmediated communication. From the hermetically sealed bubble of lockdowns, digital connect took on the intensity of embodied dialogue, the intimate voice in the ear.

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Tony Page’s Anh and Lucien is an intricately plotted verse novel set in French Indochina during World War II. It centres on an unlikely same-sex love affair between Lucien, a colonial bureaucrat, and Anh, a young Vietnamese communist who supports Ho Chi Minh’s independence movement.

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Hard Horizons by Geoff Page & The Left Hand Mirror by Ron Pretty

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June-July 2018, no. 402

I have no idea if Pitt Street Poetry is located in Pitt Street, in the centre of Sydney’s CBD, but it has certainly made itself central to poetry publishing in Australia. Its list includes such fine poets as Eileen Chong, John Foulcher, Jean Kent, and Anthony Lawrence; that reputation will be added to by these books from Geoff Page ...

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The last two lines of Tony Page's Dawn the Proof (Hybrid Publishers, $25 pb, 87 pp, 9781925272239) ask 'how to seize / the grains of now'. One of Page's (implicit) ...

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