Saturday, December 03, 2005

ho ho hum

It's that time of year again, for the 'best of ...' lists to be trotted out. The Sydney Morning Herald did its 'best books of 2005' today and, going on the comments below, you'd think no Australian poet under 40 (under 40 doesn't have to mean 'new talent') and hardly any women of any age had published a worthwhile book in 2005. Mind you, over at The Australian, no books of Australian poetry even rate a mention in their 'best of ...' list.

"In a strong year for Australian poetry, the durability of seasoned performers has been more notable than the breakthrough of new talent. Kevin Murray's Geology (Domain) is an astringent account of loneliness in old age. John Millett's The People Singers (Five Islands Press) comprises vignettes of denizens of Surfers Paradise. Murray is in his late 70s, Millett in his mid-80s. The latter's career was given early impetus by service in World War II, as was that of Michael Thwaites, whose fine final book of verse, Unfinished Journey (Ginninderra Press), was published last year. Thwaites died last month, aged 90. The verse novel has a small but potent presence in the story of Australian poetry. Geoff Page has written three of them, most recently Freehold (Brandl & Schlesinger). This is a bracing and complex narrative of abiding racial misunderstandings in the Clarence River region. Driven by another story of violence is Philip Salom's challenging The Well Mouth (Fremantle Arts Centre Press). Both he and Page have had long, rich and varied careers, without the measure of recognition they deserve. Recognition has never been in short supply for the prolific John Kinsella, whose latest effort, The New Arcadia (Fremantle Arts Centre Press), meditates bleakly on the human blighting of a landscape. Less acclaimed is one of Australia's most confronting writers, Jennifer Maiden, whose Friendly Fire (Giramondo) is by turns acrid and tender. Also published this year was The Past Completes Me: Selected Poems 1973-2003, by the fine all-round writer Alan Gould (UQP). All these authors searchingly traverse the natural and social terrain of Australia. It is our good fortune they have found a number of publishers to back them. Peter Pierce"

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