Michael Farrell

We bring the horses back to their own fields because we like / To see them among purple hay as if they signify black seeds / A hoof can break any kind of feeling along a dramatic stretch / The gate is where I go to then proclaim my woes to his street ...

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John A. Scott’s Shorter Lives is written at an intersection between experimental fiction, biography, and poetry. It inherits aspects of earlier works, such as preoccupations with sex and France. As the title indicates, it narrates mini-biographies of famous writers – Arthur Rimbaud, Virginia Stephen (Woolf), André Breton, and Mina Loy – and one painter – Pablo Picasso – with interludes devoted to the lesser-known poet Charles Cros and the art dealer Ambroise Vollard. The narratives are largely distilled from more conventional prose sources. Scott gives himself poetic licence to fictionalise, and anachronise: Paul Cézanne’s collection of twentieth-century American paintings, for example.

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If I were to make gauche generalisations about the poetics of MTC Cronin, Jordie Albiston, and Michael Farrell, I might respectively write conceptual, technical, and experimental. But these established poets – each in their fifties, highly regarded – display fluency with all these descriptors, especially in their latest books.

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Ashbery Mode edited by Michael Farrell

November 2019, no. 416

The recent death of Les Murray can be likened in its significance to the passing of Victor Hugo, after which, as Stéphane Mallarmé famously wrote, poetry ‘could fly off, freely scattering its numberless and irreducible elements’. Murray’s subsumption of the Australian nationalist tradition in poetry, including The Bulletin schools of both the 1890s (A.G. Stephens) and 1940s (Douglas Stewart), has delineated an influential pathway in our literature for more than fifty years. Yet the death in 2017 of the American poet John Ashbery might be viewed as equivalent in its effect, given the impact of his work on several generations of local poets, which has in many respects constituted a counter-stream to Murray’s often narrowly defined nationalism. Ashbery’s voice has been infectiously dominant in English-language poetries over several decades, in a manner similar to T.S. Eliot’s impression on poets of the earlier twentieth century. Critic Susan Schultz, the publisher of this volume, has charted the dynamics of its transcultural influence in her aptly titled collection, The Tribe of John (1995)

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Writing a line, as if from bed, on a lovely, handmade

organ based on Gerald Murnane, the Goroke novelist

last seen pouring a glass of amber silk and swaying

imperceptibly enough to be called coincidental to Hot

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He went down to the shed to look for a chook
a particular one he’d seen earlier that morning
one he realised he’d never seen before, and
that seemed to have disappeared. It was brown
with white markings, distinctive, like wallpaper ...

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ABR is pleased to present the shortlist for the 2022 Peter Porter Poetry Prize, which this year received 1,328 poems from thirty-four countries. Congratulations to those who reached the shortlist: Chris Arnold, Dan Disney, Michael Farrell, Anthony Lawrence, and Debbie Lim. Each of their poems is listed below in alphabetical order by author. For the full longlist, click here.

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Walking the streets, reading his books
in the cafés and bars, this was his over-
riding question: would he be liked in

He was not particularly bad, or good, or
graceful, or skeptical. He reckoned he
belonged to the median when it came to
the smokers of Lwów: but would he be
liked in prison?


In this episode of Australian Book Review's States of Poetry podcast, Michael Farrell reads 'C.O.U.N.T.R.Y' which features in the 2016 Victorian anthology.

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In this episode of Australian Book Review's States of Poetry podcast, Michael Farrell reads 'Fancy' which features in the 2016 Victorian anthology.

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