Issue 1 November – December 2011 Contents

The Beautiful Dead – THIRTEEN POEMS FROM THE DEAD by Rae Desmond Jones

Thirteen Poems from the Dead by Rae Desmond Jones, Polar Bear Press 2011

First impressions are always important and in the case of Thirteen Poems From the Dead, first impressions create very high expectations. This is a beautiful book, printed in a very limited run of less than one hundred. It is printed, we are told, on Magnani Velata Avorio and set in Minion and Gill types. And if that isn’t enough there is apparently a deluxe edition on its way – twenty six copies “lettered a-z”, signed by the poet and artist and each with an original print by Michael Fitzjames.

But while it’s all too easy to be seduced by the way this book looks and feels I have, after all, come for the poetry – and fortunately I was not disappointed. Rae Desmond Jones has led a rich and varied life. I first became aware of him as a poet courtesy of Robyn Archer’s 1978 LP The Wild Girl in the Heart. On this album Archer put the poetry of a number of Australian poets to music – among them was Jones’ ‘The Deadshits’. This poem is a fairly graphic account of a pack rape at a suburban party and, at the time, resulted in calls for the entire album to be banned. Jones’ was already an established poet in 1978 and over the ensuring years released a number of books of poetry, two novels, a book of short stories as well as a video. In addition he found time to become involved in local politics, being elected to Ashfield council and serving as mayor from 2004 to 2006.

Jones’ of course is no longer a young poet. Born in 1941it is perhaps understandable that many of the poems in this small collection deal with issues of aging, mortality and death:

body when it is young:

how lush it is when in decay

hanging from the bush too long

‘How sweet the layered blossoming rose’

Like the rose in the title of this poem, Jones’ poetry in this collection is multilayered and and rich. The rose, traditionally a symbol of love, in this poem becomes a metaphor for an aging body that can still remember that it “once tingled/ to the eager hungry touch”.

With age comes the richness of memory and in ‘The Fairies of 520 Williams Street” there is the memory of a childhood home – images of a history that can only exist in the poet’s mind, now committed to the page:

I write to bequeath my part of this history to you –

remake it in images you own.

‘The Fairies of 520 Williams Street”

‘Ash Wednesday’, dedicated to the poet Kerry Leves who died in May 2011, is a stunning poem. Combining a rich Catholic/Christian imagery with everyday observations of Darlinghurst, the poem recalls a visit to the dying Leves at the Scared Heart Hospice. Jones’ states in the poem that he is not Catholic: (forgive me,/ Irish Grandfather), but one suspects that the poet’s grandfather would have found much to appreciate in this poem. The poem opens with the striking imagery of:

the moving stairs at Kings Cross station

groan upwards from deep beneath Victoria street

but to finally leave the darkness of the underground station and emerge into the light of Kings Cross the poet has to pass the barrier, in the same way as a Catholic has to accept the sacraments:

I have a ticket, which allows me

to pass an unlikely Angel at the gate,

a heavy middle aged man in blue

who glowers as the machine

chews my ticket like a broken biscuit

(Give us this day our daily bread)

The unexpectedness of the ticket machine becoming a metaphor for the communion sacrament is effective and surprising and prepares us for the imagery that continues to build up, layer on layer, as the poet nears the Hospice. There is the man with the “Satanic tattoo on the back of each leg” and the “demons revving engines.”

While the sadness that accompanies the process of dying is all to apparent

but you wait with your mind

sharp as ever even while your body

collapses softly, elegantly into the ash

on your forehead

There remains a sense of optimism in the almost Audenesque conclusion:

around us hover those we have helped

& a little distant, those we have failed

their lives assemble quietly,

clothed in light.

Of course the irony is that neither Jones, or Leves was/is Catholic (See Pam Brown’s memory of Leves in The Overland Memorial) adds yet another level to this already rich and complex poem.

While there are only fourteen poems in this collection they are of such quality that it is possible to spend hours reading and reading them. The richness of the imagery, the almost virtuosic display of poetic technique coupled with a beautifully design and produced book makes this limited edition collection one to queue up for.

Mark Roberts

To enquire about availability contact: books@nicholaspounder.com

Blending into the Buddha Tree – Chris Mooney-Singh’s THE BEARDED CHAMELEON

Chris Mooney-Singh THE BEARDED CHAMELEON  Black Pepper Books (Melbourne), red wheelbarrow books (Singapore).

There is little wonder that there is a sense of ‘otherness’ running through Chris Mooney-Singh’s second major collection The Bearded Chameleon. As in his first collection, The Laughing Buddha Cab Company, Mooney-Singh is very aware that it is impossible not to stand out in either India or Australia when you are a turbaned, bearded westerner. Having converted to Sikhism in 1989 his poems reflect an inspiration which is perhaps unique to Australian poetry.

But If Mooney-Singh is unique among Australian poets, his position in India is also slightly complicated. A number of times in this collection he comments on how he is perceived in his adopted land. In the first poem in the collection, ‘Punjab Pastoral’, for example, he begins by describing how much he blends into the Indian landscape:

“This cotton shawl is pulled up round my ears

keeping out the fog as I defecate

on fallow field like any other farmer.

I wear a turban, bobbing like a sunflower’

But there is a fundamental difference here:

“Yes, they all want to leave and yet I’ve come

to squat and shit and chew on grass and spit

like village elders by the panchayat tree.”

Punjab Pastoral

The fundamental difference, of course, is that Mooney-Singh has a choice. He can stay, leave and come back:

“For what? A cultural look and see and then

to fly back when the travel cash runs dry?”

This is a theme he returns to in a later poem, ‘Apartment of a Bombay Millionaire’. This poem begins in a mock deferential tone “Sir, you have wide windows, facing West/to the Arabian Sea”.  But the trappings of wealth can’t hide the reality of every live for the vast majority:

yet I find it hard to talk of ‘higher things’

seeing the tin shacks of the servant slums

directly below these apartment blocks.

At the same time as the poet feels disgust at the hypocrisy of the millionaire donating to the temple while ignoring the slums, he also releases that there are points where both them are more similar than he would like to admit:

                                                “It’s all too easy

to invent tidy aphorisms. It is high time

I was gone. Mine are also the words of privilege

Speaking.”

But there is hope in the ending as the poet understands that he must ‘escape’ back into reality. As he is washing his hands he realises:

                         “I must take myself far away from

Your sparkling unblemished rose standing in this vase,

And make them into useful hands.”

Apartment of a Bombay Millionaire

The strength of this poem lies in its almost spiritual sense of temptation. From a western tradition one thinks immediately of Satan’s role in tempting ‘virtuous men’. In the same way in this poem Mooney-Singh is escaping the temptation to cut himself off from the reality of his adopted land by retreating into an Indian version of the West.

While he is aware of this ‘difference’ Mooney-Singh can also see a way out. In the title poem of the collection he sees himself like the chameleon adapting and fitting in so that, over time, the ‘differenceness’ fades away:

“My sun-cracked soles have drawn some sap

from green Punjab. An Aussie chap,

I chew on sugarcane each week

and sport this beard – a convert Sikh”

but in the end his skill at disguising his difference is not as good as the chameleon:

“Perhaps, I will, one day, be free

to blend in with the Buddha tree”

The Bearded Chameleon

One of the surprising strengths of this poem, at least for me, was the poet’s use of rhyming couplets. While initially a little wary of the use of the form through a fairly long poem, Mooney-Singh manages to pull it off with remarkable skill – for the most part the poem maintains a strong internal rhythm mostly avoiding any forced rhymes that could disrupt the flow of the poem.

The other strength of this collection is the way that Mooney-Singh can turn the everyday into poetry.  From the stark contrast of the imagery in a poem like ‘Indian City’ – “satellite dishes    on a temple sky-line” and “fresh cow pats   on the new overpass” – to the wonderful juxtaposition of the astrologer in ‘The Thirteenth House’ with the Stock Broker in ‘Mr Chopra’ , we begin to sense that the poet has, perhaps almost a unique insight into the day to day functioning of Indian life.

In the final instance the contradiction of an Australian trying to blend, like a chameleon, into the everyday of Indian life provides the major strength of this collection. Mooney-Singh has become very close to India, but he still brings the cultural baggage of the West with him. Like the Chameleon, no matter how still he stands, no matter how much he tries to blend in, we can still see the outline of a previous life if we look closely.  There is much to enjoy in this book and I look forward to Mooney-Singh’s next collection.

Mark Roberts

KINSELLA JOINS T. S. ELIOT PRIZE BOYCOTT

Normally the yelling, screaming and bad blood surrounding literary prizes  starts after the winner is announced, when civilised discussions around who won and  why may become a little heated. For the UK based Poetry Book Society’s ‘2011 T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry’ the drama has begun well and truly before the winner is announced – and the turmoil appears to be spreading.

The T S Eliot Prize for Poetry was inaugurated in 1993 to celebrate the Poetry Book Society’s 40th birthday and to honour Eliot as the Society’s founder. All shortlisted poets receive £1,000 and the winner £15,000 and the prize is awarded to “to the author of the best new collection of poetry published in the UK and Ireland each year.” The fact that eligibility is based on publication and not the poet’s nationality means that poets from outside the UK are eligible as long as their collection was published in the UK or Ireland – hence John Kinsella was on this year’s short list for Armour published by Picador and the 1996 winner was Les Murray for Subhuman Redneck Poems.

While the prize money itself is funded by Eliiot’s widow ,Valerie, and the T. S. Eliot estate, the administration costs of the prize are met by the Poetry Book Society. Unfortunately for the Society, along with many other arts bodies in the UK, it has had its Arts Council funding slashed from the end of this year.

The trouble for the T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry began in October when the Society announced it had secured a ‘substantial’ three year sponsorship deal with Aurum  Funds Management. On its website Aurum describes itself as “a specialist asset manager that emphasises stable, long-term investment performance” – in short they are a hedge funds manager.

Unfortunately for the Prize, not all short listed poets where happy with the Society’s choice of Sponsor and on 6 December British poet Alice Oswald dropped a bombshell by withdrawing her nominated collection Memorial  from the short list saying  “I’m uncomfortable about the fact that Aurum Funds, an investment company which exclusively manages funds of hedge funds, is sponsoring the administration of the Eliot Prize; I think poetry should be questioning not endorsing such institutions and for that reason I’m withdrawing from the Eliot shortlist.” What made this more uncomfortable for the Society was that Oswald was a previous winner of the award in 2002.

But worst was to come….even before the ink (physical and digital) was dry on articles around Oswald’s withdrawal in The Guardian and other UK media, another bomb burst in the shape of Australian poet John Kinsella. Kinsella, in stating his support for Oswald’s stance, also withdrew his collection, Armour, from the prize. His reasons were even more direct: “My politics and ethics are such that I can’t accept money from such a source. I fully understand why the Poetry Book Society has looked elsewhere for funding, given the horrendous way they were treated, but as an anticapitalist in full-on form, that is my position.” He further elaborated by saying “Hedge funds are at the very pointy end of capitalism.”

While poets John Burnside, Carol Ann Duffy, Leontia Flynn, David Harsent, Esther Morgan, Daljit Nagra, Sean O’Brien and Bernard O’Donoghue still remain on the shortlist, I would imagine that prize organisers are anxiously waiting and checking the backgrounds of the remaining poets for an indication that they may jump ship as well.

While the immediate crisis is obviously throwing a cloud over the 2011 T S Eliot prize there is a larger issue here concerning the ethics of accepting ‘sponsorship’ from corporations whose activities some may find ‘questionable. These dilemmas are set to increase as governments around the world slash arts funding in the face of what could be a  second round of a Global  Financial Crisis caused by, many believe, the very corporations arts organisations will be forced to approach, cap in hand to replace their lost government funding. I just wonder what an old ex-banker like T.S. Eliot would have made of it all….

Mark Roberts

MICHAEL WILDING – THE WOOLLEY YEARS

Wild & Woolley: A Publishing Memoir. Michael Wilding. Giramando Shorts. 2011

Michael Wilding’s account of how he meet Pat Woolley and how Wild & Woolley began: “Pat and I went back to my place in Balmain where the poets had already entered through the bathroom window and were sitting around writing poems on my typewriter and eating and drinking what ever they could find…” immediately made me recall a Nigel Roberts poem from his first collection In Casablanca for the Waters (published, of course, by Wild & Woolley):

.

sometime / during 67
i read his poems /& he read
mine / & that we knew of someone
up the road / who wrote
that we should visit
& did / &
he read ours / & we read his / then
had a smoke
talked of why
& where……………………………….
          to publish
& then……………………….
of OUR OWN MAGAZINE
that / we would publish
who / or whatever
we dug.

                    – ‘For the Little Magazines’

While there may have been a world of difference between Nigel Roberts’ Free Poetry and the vastly more ‘professional’ looking publishing venture Wild and Woolley eventually became, there is a hint of a shared experience here, a creative spontaneity driven by a belief that Australian literature was changing and the old methods of publishing were not going to cut it anymore.

Before I go much further I have a confession to make….I was an undergraduate student majoring in English and Australian Literature at Sydney University between 1978 and 1981. From memory I also took Wildings Utopian and Anti-Utopian fiction class in either 1979 or 1980 (though if you can remember a Michael Wilding class you probably weren’t really there…). While at Sydney Uni I slowly became involved in the local poetry scene so I knew many of the writers documented in Wilding’s memoir. So while I enjoyed Wilding’s account of the Sydney writing scene of the mid to late 1970’s I suspect that at least some of my enjoyment was because I knew many of the poets and writers he was writing about.

Wilding’s account of his time at Wild & Woolley is, obviously, a very personal account. I had the feeling at times, that WIlding was like a child in a chocolate factory. He was involved in bringing some of the most important contemporary writing to Australia “…our project was to bring the margins to the centre and for a while we succeeded. We got these important books around. It was a major intervention into the cultural map of the nation…”. Reading between the lines, however, I got the impression that, at least at a commercial level, Wilding must have been a little difficult at times to work with. At times for example he seemed to treat the Wild & Woolley warehouse as almost his personal library. Soon after they established their first warehouse he talks of walking “along the shelves picking up a sample copy here, another there. My library swelled as I added the new arrivals week by week”. At another point he talks about raiding the rubbish bin in the warehouse to retrieve damaged copies of books that could not be sold “One day I noticed the entire staff, all two of them, were sitting laughing at me. Knowing my obsession, they had been deliberately putting books into the garbage bin when they heard me arrive”. He was billed for all these books however, and when he left the business he was faced with a considerable bill.

At times I did feel a little sorry for Pat Woolley. While Wilding obviously understood the cultural and political aspects of their grand publishing adventure, it was Pat Woolley, one suspects that kept the books moving, the dollars circulating and the Press afloat “The financial details, as ever, I shied away from. As Pat put it, ‘You didn’t have anything to do with the finance’. Wilding eventually leaves the business and I had the sense that there were some things that maybe he felt didn’t need to be raised again.

What I found more interesting was Wilding’s view on how Wild & Woolley slotted into the cultural and social history of the time. He talks of the “considerable cultural optimism’ of the early 70’s – the Lady Chatterley’s trial was in the past, censorship was being relaxed and of course young poets and writers in Australia had started to look to the US for ‘inspiration’. Wilding also adds another important mix into the equation, the ending of the Vietnam War “And a release from all the anti-war protests that had taken up so much time and energy and emotion…..They had been a necessary activity, but now we could return to what life should properly be about: writing, reading, and the arithmetic of publishing”. This is a theme he returns to a number of times during the book. I found his thoughts on the rise and fall of the Sydney Association for the Studies in Society and Culture particular interesting. He places the publishing activities of the Association in the context of the general attack on humanities in Australian Universities as “the new world order directed the young into economics, law, business studies and computer science”. In this context the Association’s publications were run very much on an amateur basis – making whatever use they could of the University’s resources until “it all came to an end. The reforms in tax laws, the introduction of the GST, and the ABN, made it all unfeasible”. Wilding sees this as part of the “law of unintended consequences”. There wasn’t a direct attack on the small press ethos it was just collateral damage “Voluntarism was now to be replaced by professionalism; except that in many cases it was not replaced, it simply ceased to exist.”

Another strength of this book is in the individual portraits Wilding paints of some of the different people he encounters during the Wild & Woolley years. In particular the sections on Vicki Viidikas, Christina Stead and Jack Lindsay stood out for me – indeed I was sent scurrying to my bookshelf to confirm that, yes my copy of Decay and Renewal was indeed a Wild and Woolley edition.

In the final instance it is probably important to understand why Wilding has called this book a “Memoir”. Probably the best description of a memoir I have come across was from Gore Vidal “a memoir is how one remembers one’s own life, while an autobiography is history, requiring research, dates, facts double-checked.” (Palimpsest). As I have noted previously, Wilding’s account of the adventures of Wild and Woolley are a very personal account and I am sure that other players in the drama may very well have a different view of some of the incidents captured in this book. But given the constraints of the genre, Wild & Woolley: A Publishing Memoir is a fascinating account of a critical period of Australian Literature from the perspective of one of the more cutting edge publishers. What made it an important book, in my opinion, however, was Wilding’s ability to trace the social and political impacts on writing and publishing from the mid seventies through to event of the GST and the moves to subject writing and publishing to forces of the free market.

Mark Roberts

Kris Hemensley on Pete Spence’s new collection ‘Perrier Fever’. Grand Parade Poets 2011.

The following is a slightly edited version of Kris Hemensley’s speech to launch Pete Spence’s latest collection Perrier Fever at the “Poetry and the Contemporary Symposium”, held at the Bella Union, 54 Victoria Street, Carlton as part of the Grand Parade launch; Thursday, 7th July, 2011.

Perrier Fever Grand Parade Poets. 2011

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Pete Spence is an old friend & colleague; a member of our Collected Works Bookshop collective in the mid to late ’80s, (which included such luminaries as Robert Kenny, Jurate Sasnaitis, Des Cowley, Ted Hopkins, Rob Finlayson, amongst many others); a fellow little mag editor (who’ll ever forget Post Neo?), gallery buff, international traveller.



He was first mentioned to me by the late Geoff Eggleston as a poet friend he’d like me to meet –circa ’82, ’83… Ah Geoff : author of this memorable couplet, “No man is an island / and no woman is a clipper-ship” — I still dont quite know what it means! Likewise, Pete’s line always in my head : “relaxing on a Li-Lo reading Li Po” –the entire verse is, “a parenthesis ladles the tune / relaxing on a Li-Lo reading Li Po / under some amended weather / tumbling sunshine”…

*

James Schuyler said you’d never get New York poetry until you realized the gallons of paint flowing through it –painting & painters. Following that thought, Pete’s book abounds in names (Pam, Ken, John, Corny et al), references to painting, to poetry & to poets, & to music, composers –as though a record is always playing –a symphony, perhaps, he shares with Alan Wearne, his friend & publisher. Spence is a poet of fraternity –which includes conviviality & melancholy… No wonder his recent poem in progress is called The Kynetonbury Tales, and a delight it’s been to read via e-mail. And, therefore, what a coup that Alan Wearne has pinned this pilgrim down long enough to make a cohesive book out of a vast & errant production –this book out of many possible compilations. And Alan is to be heartily congratulated on his Grand Parade Poets publishing project, & this particular volume.



It’s such a good looker… Designed & set by Christopher Edwards, — who shares with Pete similar ‘adventures in poetry’, –the chance & play –the relishing of words as though a different species of artist –painter, sculptor, composer.



And Alan himself along this track, whose Otis Redding poem way back in Public Relations (published by Gargoyle Poets in 1973), advances his share of Pete’s kind of fun:

“Redding, Redding, remorse will smash any epilogue chance, / any sweat-liturgy you sang and I might have attempted / once I walked in the rain until one once / to shout O, ’tis (forever!) Redding” …

*

So, a poet of fraternity –which tag can deal with correspondence & address (the given social world a poet inhabits) and the matter of influence. And if I can use the French ‘chez’, thus “with” (which Paul Buck gave me decades ago) : “with” in preference to “after” with its misleading implication of “imitation” –, then we can say Pete Spence’s poems stay with the effects of his long lasting affections… He revisits them, he calls upon them –they are become motifs –they are his muses, they are his amusements –elegy, ode, sonnet, City, Landscape, Weather, the Sun, the Sky…

*

I opened his book at random the other day, on page 105, –the poem entitled Shop :

“i thought the shop / was called SLIDE / until i walked into the door!”

I’m still visualizing a kind of Jacques Tati cartoon, or Charlie Chaplin, or Rowan Atkinson. The jokeyness transmutes or elevates from ha-ha to Surrealist smile in the poem Drawing:

“i muscled in / all the angles / crosshatched in / the shadows / only to realise / i’d drawn / a horse without / neck or head / and its tail / was a cloud / in the sky” —

*

Perhaps this collection, Perrier Fever (and I reiterate, one possible selection of many –notwithstanding the attrition, the loss & destruction of poems along the way, allusion to which I recall from conversation 25 or 30 years ago), perhaps it is his humourous selected poems (different kinds of humour)… But even so it’s informed by the totality of his poetry. Remember, Pete is no Spring-chicken. A different personality would have seen him vying for volumes & anthologies many times over.

*

Pete Spence’s poetry has all the exclamations of the New Yorkers, all the happenstance & hutzpah –which is another way of saying all the spontaneity & presence —which is another way of saying that more often than not the Pete Spence poem is both written in an ideal space, called the poem, and enacts the ideal poem, a doing that’s simultaneously done –which is another way of saying that whatever happens in the poem is the poem, informed or inspired by the insight that anything might enter the poem –because it can and because it is the poem… What does your poem mean, Mr Stevens? asks the earnest correspondent. Stevens replies : Mean? Mean? The poem means nothing more than the (–and we can interpolate, nothing less) than the heavens full of colours & the constellations of sound! Which is another way of saying that Spence, like Wallace Stevens, can be poet as painter, poet as musician, poet as inventor & conjurer of effects –of sensations which course the mind, tickle the tongue…

*

But who is Pete Spence?
As scholarship, let alone the insatiable curiosity of the reader like Pete himself, as it expands its purview, so outsiders are claimed for the vast continuum; so peripherals are identified, brought in from the cold, –not that the cold isn’t a legitimate or even desirable place to be.
Alan’s told us a little about Pete. Pete’s written a little about himself here in his book. I’d like to add one story to the biography.
It’s the story of a possible history, had a manuscript for an anthology around 1971, actually transpired. In 1973 I was given custody of the mss. of Dark Ages Journal. In 1984, in my H/EAR magazine, dedicated to a ’40s/’60s/’80s chronicle of the ‘New’, I described that anthology’s perspective. It was a Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, New Zealand compendium. Its editors had included Charles Buckmaster, probably Garrie Hutchinson & either Richard Tipping or Rob Tillett. Students of the ’68-’71 or so period will recognize many of the names –Michael Dransfield, Charles Buckmaster, Terry Gillmore, John Jenkins, Vicki Viidikas, Garrie Hutchinson, Frances Yule, Ian Robertson; New Zealanders like Alan Brunton, Murray Edmond, Gary Langford. But the unusual Melbourne names are Walter Billeter, Robert Kenny, David Miller, Robert Harris & Pete Spence.

I licked my lips relishing the different history this coincidence promoted back then. The La Mama [Poets Workshop] ’60s style become conventional even as it was being hailed in the anthology edited by Tom Shapcott, Australian Poetry Now, suddenly had the possibility of rejuvination! I like it very much that Spence is part of that potential history. As he is now in the present day.
Without further ado, in launching Perrier Fever, may I introduce to you : Pete Spence…

______________________________________________________________________

The original version of this speech can be found at http://collectedworks-poetryideas.blogspot.com/2011/10/merri-creek-poems-pieces-25october-2011.html

Comments on Mike Ladd’s review of Australian Poetry Since 1788, edited by Geoffrey Lehmann and Robert Gray, UNSW Press, in The Sydney Morning Herald ‘Spectrum’ November 12-13 2011.

From time to time we will make some brief comments on reviews which have appeared in other publications which we feel are interesting or which, in our opinion, deserves to be revisited for whatever reason. The first review we would like to draw to your attention to is Mike Ladd’s review of Australian Poetry Since 1788, edited by Geoffrey Lehmann and Robert Gray which appeared in the SMH of November 12-13.

While it is unlikely that I will end up spending close to $70 for another anthology of Australian poetry (and given the size of this collection – 1,108 pages – I doubt my aging bookcases could support another large anthology), Ladd did make a number of interesting points about this new addition to the pantheon of Australian Poetry  Anthologies.

One of the interesting points Ladd makes is in relation to the reasons behind the anthology, quoting the editors saying that the anthology is not meant to be “representational” but based on “literary quality, accessibility and enjoyment”. Ladd also makes the comment that some may view this anthology as “conservative collection, selected as it is on the pleasure principle and favouring poems that show control and craft.” Ladd then goes on to say that the conservative tag is somewhat unfair as the collection includes Jas H Duke, Alan Riddell, Alex Selenitsch and π.0.

Later in the review Ladd returns to this issue when he makes his major criticism of the anthology for leaving out Michael Dransfield “I must say the decision not to include anything by Michael Dransfield seems cavalier, almost an attempt to rewrite our literary history.” For Ladd the omission of Dransfield appears to be the anthology’s major fault. Of course without seeing a complete list of who’s in it is difficult to determine the exact seriousness of Dransfiled’s omission but it is interesting Ladd spends so much time on it – even suggesting in his conclusion that if you do buy this anthology you should also seek out a copy of Voyage into Solitude just to ensure you have the last 223 year of Australian poetry covered.

One other point worth noting is that in a number of comments on various discussion sites the point has been made that if you start Australian poetry from 1788 you exclude all Aboriginal song cycles etc that pre-date European Australia. Ladd does make the point that the collection does include Aboriginal Song Cycles that pre-date 1788, but they are placed in the chronology under the date they were translated – which is, I guess, an interesting way of getting around the title.

All in all an interesting review by Ladd of an anthology which I probably wouldn’t have gone out of my way to chase down. Given some of the contradictions and issues Ladd has raised, however, I may check it out when and if it arrives in my local library.

 Mark Roberts November 2011

While I couldn’t find a copy of Ladd’s review on line here are some other reviews of Australian Poetry Since 1788 (if anyone can find Ladd’ review online please let me know):

http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/1788-and-all-that-verse-20110930-1l0x4.html

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/latenightlive/australian-poetry-since-1788/3589088

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/arts/poetic-justice/story-e6frg8n6-1226145770823