Accessibility Tools

  • Content scaling 100%
  • Font size 100%
  • Line height 100%
  • Letter spacing 100%

Australian Poetry

The ABR Podcast 

Released every Thursday, the ABR podcast features our finest reviews, poetry, fiction, interviews, and commentary.

Subscribe via iTunes, StitcherGoogle, or Spotify, or search for ‘The ABR Podcast’ on your favourite podcast app.


Anne Manne

Episode #186

Soul blindness: Clerical narcissism and unfathomable cruelty

By Scott Stephens

In this week’s ABR Podcast, Scott Stephens reviews a book by Anne Manne: Crimes of the Crimes of the Cross: The Anglican paedophile network of Newcastle, its protectors and the man who fought for justice. Why is narcissism a central theme for a book about child sexual abuse? Stephens writes: ‘without the capacity or willingness to be attentive to the humanity of another person’, unfathomable cruelty becomes possible. Scott Stephens is the ABC’s Religion & Ethics online editor and the co-host, with Waleed Aly, of The Minefield on ABC Radio National. Listen to Scott Stephens’s ‘Soul blindness: Clerical narcissism and unfathomable cruelty’, published in the May issue of ABR.

Recent episodes:


The final poem of this superb collection, ‘The Darkness’, identifies a primal scene. The young protagonist is a nascent poet, watching over the embers of a desert fire in early morning, awaiting the breath of a Pentecostal wind to rekindle the flames. It is a parable which emblematises the difficult task of transformation that is central to poetry itself: the boy contends with ‘fragments / that will not alchemise to song / that yield not / to the metaphrast’.

... (read more)

With a title like Ghosts of Paradise, it is no surprise that Stephen Edgar’s latest poetry collection is haunted by loss, mutability, and mortality – the great traditional themes of elegiac poetry. But Edgar’s poetry has long, if not always, been characteristically elegiac. In this new collection, Edgar’s first since winning the Prime Minister’s Award for poetry in 2021 (and his first for Pitt Street Poetry), the poems are haunted by the poet’s late parents, late fellow poets (especially W.B. Yeats, but also the Australian poet Robert Adamson, for whom there is an elegy), and ancient poetic forms, such as the sonnet. The collection also includes meditations on ageing, corpses, and photographs (including Roland Barthes’ ‘theory / That every photo is a memento mori’). An interest in the intertwining of memory, embodiment, and visual representation is powerfully realised in ‘Still Life’, in which the memory of a trip to Broken Hill is

... (read more)

parallel equators by Nathan Shepherdson & camping underground by Greg McLaren

by
January-February 2024, no. 461

'Poems reawaken in us,’ writes James Longenbach, ‘the pleasure of the unintelligibility of the world.’ They do so via ‘mechanisms of self-resistance’: disjunctive strategies that work, for Longenbach, to ‘resist our intelligence almost successfully’. What ‘almost’ means here is, of course, a matter of taste – and style. Nonetheless, this Romantic mandate – that poems achieve clarity by integrating opacity – invites a question fundamental to poetics: how much resistance is too much, or not enough?

... (read more)

Icaros by Tamryn Bennett & Moon Wrasse by Willo Drummond

by
November 2023, no. 459

Tamryn Bennett’s Icaros and Willo Drummond’s Moon Wrasse both use the natural as their central motif. Nature has of course always been a font of inspiration for poets. These two poets draw from that font in vastly different ways. Bennett’s title refers to a form of South American song that is chanted during rituals of cleansing and healing that involve plants. Drummond’s refers to a hermaphroditic fish, the moon wrasse, which acts as a symbol of transformation.

... (read more)

Jill Jones has given many interviews about her poetry where, inevitably, an interviewer asks her, ‘What is Australian poetry?’ In one of my favourite quips, Jones says, ‘Is it only Australians who worry about what is “Australian” poetry?’ Related issues are addressed in her pithy foreword to her second volume of new and selected poems, Acrobat Music. She states, ‘I realise, and others have said, my work doesn’t fit easily into a specified school, category or type of Australian poetry.’ This provides a fortifying manifesto to her oeuvre, reflecting Jones’s interest in ‘the possibilities of the poem … form, sound, connotation, address’. 

... (read more)

In her short life, Lesbia Harford (1891–1927) created a body of poems which have become increasingly important to scholars and poets in understanding both the impact of poetic modernism in Australia and shifting concepts of gender, class, and the tensions between a personal and a collective politics. While Oliver Dennis’s 2014 Collected Poems of Lesbia Harford presents Harford’s full oeuvre, the new Text Classics edition, selected and introduced by Gerald Murnane, brings a sharp and accessible focus on this seminal Australian poet, highlighting her key themes and demonstrating a literary style that straddled worlds: from the formal structures and decorous themes of late nineteenth-century poetry to the challenges to form, voice, and subject matter that characterised the emerging revolutions of literary modernism.

... (read more)

Alcatraz edited by Cassandra Atherton and Paul Hetherington

by
September 2023, no. 457

Alcatraz is an international anthology of prose poems which builds on the success of previous collaborations between the artist Phil Day and poets Cassandra Atherton and Paul Hetherington. Contributors include many outstanding poets from the United States (twenty-eight), the United Kingdom (ten), and Australia (thirteen), with smaller numbers of poets from India, New Zealand, Germany, Singapore, Vietnam and Hong Kong. The title with its alphabetical alpha and omega, was offered to the poets as an inspiration. I was halfway through the book before I realised the book itself embodies a multitude of jail breaks, vaulting over a range of conventions. These include its front and back cover – entirely taken up by a numinous painted image, the title on its spine the only printed word – and even the luxurious feel of its paper.

... (read more)

Shore Lines by Andrew Taylor

by
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.

... (read more)

I Have Decided to Remain Vertical by Gaylene Carbis & The Drama Student by Autumn Royal

by
July 2023, no. 455

There are striking parallels between I Have Decided to Remain Vertical by Gayelene Carbis and The Drama Student by Autumn Royal. Both are new collections from experienced Melbourne poets; both think through women’s places in social and material contexts; both display an intense interest in material things and material places; both engage with works of art beyond their own pages.

... (read more)

Spore or Seed by Caitlin Maling & Increments of the Everyday by Rose Lucas

by
July 2023, no. 455

Sharon Olds, author of twelve poetry collections including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Stag’s Leap, has said that when she wrote about motherhood forty years ago, she was advised by editors (‘very snooty, very put-me-down’) to try Ladies Home Journal. For Olds, now celebrated as a bold poet of the body, there is some Schadenfreude in the anecdote, like Bob Dylan’s in ‘Talkin’ New York’ as he recounts his arrival in New York, ‘blowin’ my lungs out for a dollar a day’, only to be told ‘You sound like a hillbilly / We want folksingers here.’ 

... (read more)