There’s a new anthology of Australian poetry just hit the decks. I think the official publication date was early January, but there were plenty copies in bookshops before Christmas. I bought one in one of my favourite bookshops, Kinokuniya, in Sydney, in December.
There’s some discussion about it going on Laurie Duggan’s blog, especially about the cover. I’m not so keen on the cover but others I know think that it’s fine.
And there is always going to be the usual argument about who is in and who is out, and why. I've been left out of enough anthologies and been in a few (I'm in this one, for instance), and have said my piece on that a few times too many in the past, so perhaps it's not the place to join that discussion for the moment.
I’m more interested in John Kinsella’s comment in one of his introductory essays (you can read all of this essay on the Penguin website):
I would question that experimentation is the expectation within the mainstream of Australian poetry. I still mainly see the free verse attachment to anecdotal ‘sincerity’ wrapped up in the unified ‘I’, a lot of overworked and over-romanticised metaphor, not a lot of formal experimentation, a fear of difficulty (rather than obscurity), and a real avoidance of anything to do with digital writing and the internet in general. Sure, there’s plenty of people doing the ‘experimental’ things, including a number of the poets I hang around with, but it isn’t the norm, and why would you expect it to be so? (I, like Kinsella, do question what ‘experimental’ now means.) And, of course, you can prove anything with examples so I can be proved wrong. It’s not my core point.
“The publication or presentation of innovative verse-novels, prose poetry, hypertextual poetry, multimedia and performance poetry, installation poetry, concrete poetry and many other cross-generic forms is standard in Australia now. Experimentation is the expectation rather than the departure, but this surely leads us to question what actually constitutes the experimental, and to begin looking elsewhere for what is truly working against the status quo.”
I’m really interested in the ‘elsewhere’ that Kinsella is positing, wondering where that is. And in my mind it's not a one ‘elsewhere’, but the many ‘wheres’, that are here and now. That's the beginning of a discussion it would be good to have in Australia.