Australian Poetry Library

I’ve had a long held dream to promote some means for teachers to get hold of contemporary Australian poetry, for classroom use, and this week I learned that the Australian Poetry Library was attempting to do just that.

Funded by the Australian Copyright Agency, there’s none of my poetry there, but there is a pretty good range of poets with extensive range of poems: 1600 from Les Murray, over 700 from Peter Porter, nearly 500 p oems from Diane Fahey. Downloading is a little clunky (PDF by PayPal) and maybe they might have been better going for a broader spread of poets (they’ve closed the site to new poems I see) and spent a little more time on better searching, but it’s a pretty impressive start.

Peter Porter (1929-2010)

In all the busy-ness of the ANZAC Day long weekend I didn’t hear until today that poet Peter Porter died on Friday. I’ve admired Porter for a long time, not so much for his poetic landscape – it’s not really my interest – but for the body of work he created and his truth to his vision.

Porter’s work is a bit too urbane for my taste, almost too civilized and too classical in its literary basis. I sometimes wonder what kind of poet he might have become had he stayed in Australia? Better?

But Porter’s body of work is commanding and undeniable and I heard him read a couple of times over the years and always enjoyed that experience. Some critics say he’s the best poet since Auden. Big call! But it’s undoubtedly a big loss to poetry.

Sydney Morning Herald article on Porter’s death

Guardian article on Peter Porter’s death

Daily Telegraph article on Peter Porter

Peter Porter profile at the Poetry Archive


I just finished reading ‘Rivers’, (Fremantle Arts Centre Press) a collection of poetry by three very different poets: Peter Porter, Sean O’Brien and John Kinsella. I must admit that the concept of a ‘celebration of rivers by three of the most eminent voices in contemporary poetry’ was one that immediately drew me; my own most recent book is largely about rivers.

However, I was a little disappointed, especially in the Peter Porter section, which I wanted to like so much. He’s lived in London too long I think, and even then there’s nothing as moving as say, Roni Horn’s gorgeous photographs of the swirling Thames in his book ‘Another Water’ (Scalo Press), which I bought at the New Tate a couple of years ago. Porter seems at his best now writing in ironic quatrains like an early Auden. I liked:

When Caesar led his troops across the Rubicon,

They thought: ‘This guy’s no Marius or Sulla,

He’s number One,’ and shouted out his song,

‘I am the Very Hungry Caterpillar’

John Kinsella’s were better I thought, especially the ‘dry flow interludes’ but my favourite part was Sean O’Brien’s sections especially the polluted and choked city rivers in ‘Eating the Salmon of Knowledge from Tins’ and especially these lines from ‘A Coffin-Boat’:

This place

will be nothing, was nothing, its tenses

Sold off one by one until at last the present stands

Alone like a hole in the air. But still

This is history, this silence and disuse…

Speaking of swimming in shark-infested waters…

Speaking of swimming in shark-infested waters, I received the ‘Rivers’ poetry collection by Peter Porter, Kinsella and O’Brien from the Poetry Foundation yesterday, and am looking forward to reading it, after having read the review in ABR earlier in the year. That was the one that included the review of my collection, loosely grouped together under the theme of rivers, but my review was very much the minor one. I met another writer who saw it later, who said, ‘I felt sorry for you’, which was nice, but worrying also. Was it that bad?

At least the TAIN Review, which was just as short, was more directly positive.


The first review…

The first review (written by Geoff Page) of ‘The State of the Rivers and Streams’ appeared in ‘Australian Book Review’ this week, which was exciting and scary, especially when I saw it was put against a book called ‘Rivers’ by Peter Porter, Sean O’Brien and John Kinsella, a couple of important names in Australian poetry there! The review itself was short, but quite positive, if not the enthusiastic, over-the-top setting the world on fire review you might hope for. I’ll need to think about it for a couple of days. But I’ve put it online below>>>

Geoff Page Review from ABR