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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Like all good poetry, Kathryn’s writing has instant delights, but it also offers rewards which do not fade with each revisiting. As well as the pleasures in particular poems, though, this book is remarkable for the scope of its content. There are decades of knowledge and experience behind this poetry, and although Kathryn has a very light touch, her spirit is unfailingly generous as she moves us through a kaleidoscope of topics, all of which have somehow sprung from her own “simply extraordinary business of being” (to quote from her poem ‘On William Robinson’s Later Harvest’).

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Judith Nangala Crispin is an artist and poet living near Lake George on unceded Ngambri-Ngunnawal Country. She has published two collections of poetry, The Myrrh-Bearers (Sydney: Puncher & Wattmann, 2015), and (New York: Daylight Books, 2017) and is currently completing an illustrated verse novel for publication in 2022. Her visual arts practice is centred around lumachrome glass printing, a combination of lumen printing, chemigram, cliché verre, crystalogram, as well as drawing and painting.

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Daragh Byrne is an Irish poet living on Gadigal land (Sydney). He has published in The Honest Ulsterman, The Blue Nib, Crossways Literary Magazine, The Canberra Times and Westerly, amongst others. In 2021, he was runner up in the Allingham Poetry Prize, was awarded Highly Commended in the Winchester Poetry Prize and won 1st prize in the inaugural Rafferty’s Return Arts Festival poetry competition. His chapbook And What of Love? was Highly Commended in the Fool for Poetry International Chapbook competition. He is the convener of the Sydney Poetry Lounge, a long-running open mic night.

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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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And the IRA campaign in Britain was intense in the West Midlands at that time. I learned to play the button accordion in lessons I took at the Kerryman’s Club, which was a big gathering point for the Irish in Coventry. The only tune I ever really learned off by heart was Roddy McCorley, also sometimes called Sean South of Garryowen. I only played the tune, and the words weren’t sung. The original words of Roddy McCorley were replaced by those of the new version Sean South, in memory of an IRA volunteer of that name who was killed in a clash with the RUC during the IRA’s unsuccessful 1957 border campaign. I am sure I must have played that tune for at least a couple of MI5 agents who had to have been in attendance at the Kerryman’s Club in those years, if they were doing their job.

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Walking on a beach on the far south coast I found a metaphor for Anna Couani’s “Local” — a deep ocean shell, cast up from the sea, weathered to reveal its interior spirals. At the apex, a perfect miniature of mature shell- the mollusc’s first home—succeeded by whorls revolving outwards. The creature inside carries its past on its back and all its history is simultaneously present— past and present touch one another.

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