Just have to say I was surprised and shocked (happily) to hear I was on the following shortlist. The Age, of course, is published down south in Melbourne (a very fine town, if I do say so) and, though it's available online, I never thought to particularly read it today. I'm spending the weekend by myself (Annette being away in Wollongong) and have been 'pottering without guilt' (as Patrick Cook once said) all day. I was especially and deeply immured tonight watching England's second innings on the telly tonight and just picked up an email by chance after midnight from Alison Croggon detailing the list.
If I may be allowed ... woohoo!
In his judge's comments (see below), Kris says I have an 'obvious affiliation with "language poetry"'. "Yeah but no but ..." - this make me a just a tad uncomfortable. 'Language' is a movement, grouping, what have you, of its time and place, and I would never dream of making any claims to affiliations. But, yes, I certainly have an affinity for innovative US and, to a lesser extent due to lesser knowledge, British poetries. There's always genealogies stretching in various directions. And, hey, I was just browsing Ron Silliman's anthology In the American Tree tonight, between Warne and Lee's overs and Flintoff's brave and stunning batting (he had injured his shoulder, poor love).
Anyway, I'm honoured to be in amongst my fellow Australian poets. The truth will out later this month. Now, all cross fingers.
Judge's comments - Kris Hemensley
In 2005 the new poets of the '70s and '80s are now comparatively well known; even the emerging poets of the '90s have names. Newer and less publicised poets will regard the former as the establishment but in truth its hold is as tenuous as that of poetry itself in the Australian literary scene.
Well known among whom and for whom? Wearing both my poet's and bookseller's caps I can say that there is an increasing readership for Australian poets and that contemporary poetry itself is buoyed by traditional poetry's status in the prolonged moral and political crisis we recognise as Our Time. The discipline of the bottom line, which apparently excused the majors from even nominal poetry publishing a decade ago, hasn't dissuaded the small presses, all of whom are hereby thanked and blessed.
What can one say anew of the themes and styles of the 2005 shortlist that isn't already known of poetry at large? Perhaps, simply, reiterating a postmodernist axiom, language and not land is the site of this poetry and its abiding concern, and that subjects and subjectivities are alive and well.
More or Less Than 1-100
More or Less Than 1-100 is astounding as much for its structure, rising from one line to 50 lines and back again through a sequence of a hundred sections, as for the hypnotic flow of its language. The poems' conjunction of end and beginning might seek to emulate the famous "a' long the / riverrun" of Finnegans Wake. Cronin's "ice follows water follows / not simply the stream but they who thought of following" , more like channelling than story-telling, immediately establishes a dense and heightened poetry. While the purpose and identity of both speaker and addressed is withheld, her language-world is marvellous and open.
Broken/Open courts the great themes of modern poetry notwithstanding Jill Jones' obvious affiliation with "language poetry", a practice often implying the abandonment of traditional subject and object relations and the dislocation of syntax and grammar. In her case the celebration of language itself is variously grafted to her poems of romantic love, the experience of nature, evocations of the city. Writing that calls attention to itself by deformation of narrative or extreme elision often jeopardises the beauty of shape, sound and perception, yet many of these poems are riveting examples of poetry's pure pleasure.
Five Islands Press
The title poem is a swastika in the middle of the page, constructed with multiples of the word "domain". Another poem repeats its title in the shape of the sinister double "s". Such visual poems punctuate McBryde's history of Nazism's rise and fall but also puncture the expectation one might have of history as the fact of the matter. The poems are cameos in a nightmarish newsreel inhabited by spectres rather than reliable persons. Beyond the horror and, of course, heroism, one's left with poignant paradox and the darkest mystery.
The crucial contradiction suffusing Blister Pack is between the authoritative style of its language and the vulnerability or natural limitation of its anxious subject. David McCooey's opinions and observations are so cleanly spelt out they might be omniscient epigrams rather than the partialities of the typical citizen the poetry supposes. Although he plays with language, building poems out of conversational habits to represent the speech of the day and describe processes of representation, his poetry is determinedly social and, such is his gift, charmingly sociable.
Five Islands Press
The poems in The Colosseum are startlingly bare. The poetry is strenuously autobiographical, which is always a burden for lyrical language and one that postmodern work readily relinquishes. Yet this collection could be described as a postmodern confessional, it being discursive even in the midst of its often rueful, albeit wryly amused testimony. It keeps its wits while baring its soul. The inventory of oscillating exultation and despair, recorded with as much worldly-wise as world-weary self-criticism, traverses Dipti Saravanamuttu's islands of origin, yearning and ultimate settlement.