I am sure, when Les started writing, that he didn’t really know what he would end up producing. Well now he has written it: a further contribution to the ongoing album of Sydney, a keen-eyed portrait gallery, a record of travels far and wide – and with the whole lot framed by questions we haven’t resolved yet, and almost certainly won’t, but which it’s essential to keep on asking.

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To paraphrase Alan’s own words, you can imagine what the publication of over five decades of work means to the author. For the reader, Near Believing is a timely opportunity to revisit, or to visit for the first time and hopefully be inspired to pursue, the work of one of Australia’s most celebrated poets – I was about to say ‘illustrious’ but could imagine Alan grimacing at that.

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Alex has often said that he likes to push language. In this collection, language and poetic form are pushed in particular ways. He has returned to the long poem, a feature of his first collection. The long poem gives the poet room to move. Let’s focus on that idea because travel, journeying—in the world, across time, and in the mind—is a major theme of this collection.

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In this multi-layered collection, poet and activist Louise Crisp details threatened species in the East Gippsland region of Victoria, and in doing so addresses the global environmental crisis. With uncanny clarity, tree gliders, brolgas, and other local creatures draw us into a network of ecological losses.

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There is no tranquillity in Claire Gaskin’s fourth poetry collection, Ismene’s Survivable Resistance. Though Gaskin draws on Sophocles’ plot and constellation of characters, this is not a tragedy. The tragedy has already occurred. As in Eurydice Speaks, Gaskin assumes the voice of the voiceless in a contemporary setting. Here Ismene is a poet grappling with her traumatic past. The reader of her poems is in the position of witness. 

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