Pam Brown

Home by Dark is Pam Brown’s seventeenth book. She has also published ten chapbooks, including two collaborations. Brown’s poems are mostly elliptical, pithy, hewn into slight lines that imply or jest. Each poem manoeuvres and collects the everyday. It is an aesthetic of accumulation, a bricolage that ...

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Since her début in 1971, Pam Brown has been a consistently intelligent and engaging presence in Australian poetry, if too often under-represented in those reputation-establishers, the anthologies. One pragmatic reason for this may lie in a further element of consistency, the formal structure of her poems. Poems that spin their way down the page, resolutely short-lined, or ones that fragment lines and thought into zigzag patterns across the breadth of the page, are faithful to the characteristics of the New Australian Poetry celebrated in John Tranter’s 1979 anthology of that title. They are characteristics that Brown has honed finely over the years. They are also, from the point of view of anthologists and, more powerfully, their publishers, wilfully heedless of that most brutal constraint, the number of pages available for any given anthology.

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As a preliminary I must say, frankly, that I am hardly interested in canonised literary culture. And having known for a long time that it is absurd to criticise the conventional literary establishment and then expect its attention or affection, I can also say that canonical inclusion has never been a personal aspiration. However, I am alert to the ramifications of the processes of historicisation. I don’t want to sound high-falutin’ but I’ll begin with Nietzsche who began his enquiry into the value of history with a gem from Goethe: ‘In any case I hate everything that merely instructs me without augmenting or directly invigorating my activity.’

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