Remembering Hans Magnus Enzensberger

I was saddened to hear late last year of the passing of the German poet Hans Magnus Enzensberger (1929-2022) and I thought I should note that even here.

I’m no expert on post-war German poetry, but Enzensberger, along with W.G. Sebald seemed to me one of the great post-war German writers as that country tried to emerge from World War II and deal with its past.

It was my Monash University tutor Philip Martin, who first alerted me to Enzensberger’s work and I was grateful. In retrospect, the European sensibility and awareness of history and the past, was a good fit with Martin’s own preoccupations in his writing.

I’ve blogged about Enzensberger before here in reference to his long poem The Sinking of the Titanic , a poem that for me rival’s Thomas Hardy’s great poem on the subject The Convergence of the Twain.

His collection A History of Clouds was also my poetry book of the year in 2010, a book summed up as a celebration of the ‘tenacity of normality in everyday life’.

Enzensberger’s death barely rated a mention in the Australian press but seems to me the passing of a fine mind. The poems live on

NOTE: I updated this post with some better quality images from some of the Enzensberger books I have.

The Sinking of the Titanic (a poem)
A History of Clouds (2010)
Selected Poems
Selected Poems (title page)
Selected Poems (back cover)

Robert Adamson and the Spirit of Place

I was saddened to hear last week of the passing of Australian poet, Robert Adamson at the age of 79.

Adamson was a force in Australian poetry, part of the ‘new poetry’ push in the 1960s and 1970s and edited New Poetry magazine for fourteen years. By the time I came across his work, in the early 1980s, he was well established as an important voice in Australian poetry.

Personally, I was particularly drawn to the spirit of place in Adamson’s work, the belief in the importance of the ‘local’ that I have found so often in writers I admire, particularly in his case, the Hawkesbury River region. His writing about landscape and birds has been something I’ve enjoyed most in his work.

This week, after the news, I pulled some of the Adamson books from my collection and re-read some of those poems. I also re-read his memoir of prose and poetry, Wards of the State. They remain impressive work, grounded in the real world, but ‘fishing in a landscape for love’

Selected Poems (A&R, 1978)
The autobiographical memoir, ‘Wards of the State’ (A&R, 1992)
‘Waving to Hart Crane’ (A&R, 1994)
‘The Golden Bird – New and Selected Poems’ (BlackInc 2008)

Sea Scale

It was nice to hear about the release of a new and selected volume from Australian poet Brook Emery, launched recently in Glebe, NSW, available now from the poetry section of the Puncher and Wattman site. When I had a look recently I was surprised and impressed with the range of Australian poetry they’re publishing currently.

With a particular focus on memory and the sea, this new book brings together new poems and selections from his five previous volumes; themes that particularly appeal to me.

I’ve been reading and enjoying Brook’s work for a long time now (proof here with my post about attending his 2012 launch of ‘Collusion’, way back in 2012!), so I’m looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of this significant release.

iamb – Poetry Seen and Heard


In my eyes (or ears) poetry is meant to be heard as well as seen. I love hearing author’s read their own work, and the subtle rise and fall of intonations or nuance.

So, I was pleased to hear about iamb (poetry seen and heard), a site for contemporary poetry. They say: ‘Part library of poets, part quarterly journal, iamb is where established and emerging talents are showcased side by side. Not just their words, but their readings of them. Expect new poems, every three months, free to your device of choice’ and ‘auditions’ are open at limited time periods.

It’s a simple premise. Each online ‘issue’ features fifteen or twenty poets, each poet gets three poems and the poems are there as text as well as audio form. They freely admit that the basic concept is inspired by The Poetry Archive

There’s plenty to enjoy here, and the audio format just gives the work another dimension.

In Celebration of John Shaw Neilson

I’ve written here before about the poet John Shaw Neilson (1872-1943); in terms of him being a poet I see as undervalued but also in Speaking to Blue Winds, Lines for Birds and The Lure of the Local.

I feel I have multiple connections to Neilson’s work, from the big-sky landscape of the Wimmera that spawned both him and my grandfather to the lyric beauty of his writing. He is a poet that was doing something very different to his contemporaries.

So, I was pleased to see the local gallery, the MPRG announcing an April event as a ‘jubilee celebration of Australia’s great lyric poet’. The even will feature some of Neilson’s poetry set to music and an outline of his remarkable life.

I’m looking forward to both.

John Shaw Neilson Jubilee Celebration
John Shaw Neilson

On Philip Martin and criticism

I was talking to my Year 12 Literature class this morning about Heart of Darkness, its initial critical reception and the polarising re-evaluations since, by Achebe largely, and others as well.

It’s a part of the course called Literary Perspectives, that I initially had lots of reservations about (can we just stick to the text) but I’ve actually enjoyed teaching it and seeing familiar texts in new light.

Later, as I was looking online for post-colonial and feminist readings I thought of a conversation I had with the poet and teacher Philip Martin a long time ago. Martin taught me at Monash University and I’ve written about him here before.


On this occasion we were talking about the value of critics and I think I said that I liked it when a critic said something that I’d thought or felt, but said it in a way that I never could.

He considered that and replied that, sometimes a good critic can make you see or feel things that you could never have thought of yourself. I liked that answer, and I liked teachers who do that too.

All this made made me think again about Martin and his work. I’m the proud owner of three of Martin’s books, but they’re hard to find, and there’s not much available online.

There is an interview from In Other Words: Interviews with Australian Poets by Barbara Williams available onlinefrom Google Books and a brief biography of Martin on the UNSW site as a guide to his papers. It reads:

Philip John Talbot Martin was born in Richmond, Victoria on the 28 March 1931. He was educated at Xavier College, Kew, 1937-1950, and graduated with a B.A. from the University of Melbourne in 1958. Prior to his teaching career Martin worked at the Titles Office, Melbourne, 1953-1956, and as a Publication Officer at the University of Melbourne, 1956-1960. His teaching career began, firstly as a Tutor in English at the University of Melbourne, 1960-1962, followed by a position as a temporary Lecturer in English at the Australian National University, 1963. In 1963, he returned to Melbourne as a Senior Lecturer in English at Monash University where he worked until his early retirement due to ill health in 1988. During his teaching career he was also a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Amsterdam in 1967, Visiting Professor, University of Venice in 1976, and Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota in 1983. He was a member of International P.E.N., Fellowship of Australian Writers, Association for the Study of Australian Literature, member and former Chair of the Poet’s Union of Australia, Melbourne Branch, 1978-1979 and 1981-1982 and Amnesty International.

From 1962 Martin was a frequent broadcaster of poetry and features on Australian and overseas radio. He read poetry in Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, Hobart, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Yugoslavia, England and the United States, and conducted several poetry workshops. He began publishing poems as a student at the University of Melbourne and his poems, articles and reviews were widely published in Australia, Europe and the United States in journals and anthologies. He broadcast both as a critic and poetry-reader, and wrote the scripts for several television features produced by the Australian Broadcasting Commission.

Martin’s publications include:

  • Voice unaccompanied : poems (1970)
  • A bone flute (1974)
  • From Sweden : translations and poems (translated by Martin, 1979)
  • Strava : poems on Attila and the Huns (photocopied from Southerly and published by the author, 1980)
  • Directory of Australian poets 1980 (edited for the Poets Union of Australia by Philip Martin … 1980)
  • A flag for the wind (1982)
  • Shakespeare’s sonnets; self, love and art (1982)
  • Lars Gustafsson (translated by Martin, 1982)
  • A season in Minnesota : poems (1987)
  • Lars Gustafsson : the stillness of the world before Bach (translated by Martin, 1988)
  • New and selected poems (1988).

Philip Martin died in Victoria on 18 October 2005.

I remember Martin as a gifted, articulate, generous teacher who surprised me by revealing that poets really did live in the world.

Some scans from my books of his are below

The cover of A Bone Flute (ANU, 1974)

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A Flag for the Wind, 1982


My copy signed by Philip

philip_martin 1

Back cover of A Flag for the Wind

philip_martin 2

The cover  of New and Selected Poems (Longman Cheshire 1988)

philip_martin 7


philip_martin 9

Back cover with brief biography.

philip_martin 8

‘Bequest’, the final poem in A Bone Flute, and fitting farewell.

philip_martin 5