John Mateer, over a long career, has been a poet of distance and locale, working with a continental sense of poetics, traversing land and sea in an inquiry into the nature of an historically-framed instant.
'How then to deal with this vast collection of poems? Synecdoche may be the best approach. I’ve long asserted both privately and in print, and not always light-heartedly, that it is only by the poet’s best fourteen poems that he or she is remembered. Of course, the number is arbitrary; it could be thirteen, fifteen or twenty but certainly not forty. A few poets have had to be posthumously content with one or two. Over time, however, due mainly to the work of successive anthologists and a few scholars, the poems that may once have filled six collections, or thirty, are filtered back to the fourteen or so that will reappear in anthologies every few years for the next century or two. This is not just laziness among compilers. There are good reasons why these fourteen should be re-run. Which then are Murray’s fourteen? I'
Whittaker uses English as both an object of ridicule and a tool of empowerment. In subverting the conventional rules of usage, she makes it her own. In her hand, English does and says and tells a different story. Audre Lorde said that the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. And they won’t. But Blak writers like Whittaker use these tools to carve out their own spaces to build other story – to re-story Country with the old stories, and to create new ones.
Pam Brown’s poems are not inimical to close reading, but they do resist it. What they seem to encourage, however, is a new mode of conceptual criticism: one that thinks about the conceptual on the line – and even the word – level (rather than that of the project, say). The short poetic segments that make up each whole provide (potentially infinite) new takes on the matter at hand: as extensions, corrections, additions, relocations. Brown’s poetry suggests reading as an active process: the poem being made as you read, not the poem waiting for your interpretation.
Beveridge’s fascination with the tactility and suggestiveness of names is really only a part of her interest in the sounds of the language themselves. It’s something we expect from lyric (or lyrical) poets but it isn’t always as overt and developed as it is in Beveridge’s poems.
Smith’s biggest achievement in Wade in the Water is her effort to stay true to all the different music she heard through writing the book and to reflect that in the sound of this book. The book is a gathering, and a chorus.
Sarah Rice’s poems both advocate a poetry that is attuned to the heart, the body, and the spirit, along with the brain, and embody this poetics in richly metaphorical, euphonious, descriptive, and synaesthetic language.
I first met Lachlan at Gleebooks in Sydney in 2014, at the launch of Judith Beveridge’s Storm and Honey. I remember speaking with him, and being confounded when he gave me his business card. He didn’t look like a ‘Brown’ – Lachlan is half-Chinese, and I had immediately assumed he would have a Chinese surname. In Lunar Inheritance, he explores the complexities of ethnic origin and identity as sited on his body and in his explorations of suburban Ashfield as well as the city of Guangzhou in China.
For most people, the great adventures of their lives are births, love affairs, illnesses, bereavements, starting businesses or changing jobs. Insights into our selves and our loved ones come through the difficult enough business of living together. Fay Zwicky writes about the way in which daily practices connect with deep struggles, the way culture lives, not in grand gestures and ritualised moments, but in commonplaces and taken for granted ways of thinking about things.
'Like some austere ancestor, venerated, often denigrated, notoriously difficult and spiky, philosophy has the reputation for being rational and analytic, seeking an entirely objective account of things as they are. Poetry is, for many, the most subjective form of writing, heavily reliant on emotion rather than cool reasoning.'
'The title Fragments refers to more than just the extent of the poems; it also hints at broken-ness, loss, the passage of time that takes us out of life. This is confirmed by the themes Kefala tackles in this collection, most of them pitched in a minor key.'
'In this new work, Peter Boyle looks away from the centres of Anglophone poetry that so often form the tradition with which Australian poets place themselves in conversation, and instead seeks alternate points of correspondence. The eleven ‘fictive’ poets that he conjures for his reader here are poets that are exist in ‘translation’, from non-existent bodies of work in Spanish and French... The twelfth voice that stitches them together, that of the ‘translator’ we may as well call Peter Boyle, is equally fictive, equally real.'
'It would seem then that, after fifty years or so, the so-called ‘Canberra School’ is still loosely ‘conservative’, though that single and somewhat pejorative adjective massively oversimplifies the variety to be found here. These new collections by Alan Gould, John Foulcher, Paul Cliff and Melinda Smith are all fine examples of the strength and diversity of poetry to be found in our capital city (and its regions) at the moment. The ‘Canberra School of Poetry’ may never have quite existed but clearly something substantial has.'