The list of contributors to The Best Australia Poems 2015 has been announced. I'm there (yay), amongst a big crowd. I'd prefer to call it a Big Crowd of Australian Poems, or something, rather than 'the best', because it's never gonna be that, because it can't. Still, that's an argument that's been rehashed a number of times. 'Best' is marketing speak, as we all know.
There's a few names on the list that I don't know and some poets whose work I'm not yet well-acquainted with. That's all to the good.
There's six (only!) South Australian poets - Steve Evans, Thom Sullivan, Geoff Goodfellow, Rachael Mead, Jude Aquilina, Jill Jones - unless one of the unknown-to-me folks is also living here. Slightly surprising, given I'm aware of good stuff published in the last year by other SA poets, or at least written, going on what I heard at the Lee Marvin readings I was in town for during 2014-15. I mean pretty damn good. But editors make choices and Geoff Page, editor of this and last year's volume, has made his. From memory, the call-out, like last year's, asked for poems that were 'reader friendly' (which reader?), or something along those lines, as well high quality (which is, obviously, debatable - we debate it all the time). And not over 60 lines.
It'd be interesting to see what would happen if Black Inc ever chose a South Australian to edit rather than someone from the primarily Melbourne-Sydney axis (Geoff Page is from the ACT, I know, but that's along that axis, only a three hour drive to Sydney). Or another woman editor - there's only ever been two, Dorothy Porter and Lisa Gorton, and then, they only edited one volume each. Or someone on the much younger side. Lisa Gorton did double duty in 2013 as the youngest editor so far (I presume I am right in guessing near enough her age), as well as being female.
Simply looking at the list of poets, it has a very mainstream even conservative-leaning feel. Although, there I am (and a number of others who don't lean that way). Or have I gone soft in my old age? Heaven forfend. Certainly, my poem isn't the accepted imagey/metaphory, deep and meaningful, 'elegant' piece. But, neither is it, on the surface at least, syntactically complex. For me, indeed, it was an experiment, but that's a story for another occasion. And, of course, it is hard to know what to make of the selections until one actually reads the book, stating the obvious. So, although I'm doing a bit of a prejudge (but who ever doesn't?) and I have a niggling feeling I know what will be said by reviewers about this depending on which side of the various poetry fences they stand (that's pretty much the case for most Australian poetry book reviews anyway), I am always prepared to be surprised, by my reading of the book itself and its reception. Besides, 2016 will roll around soon enough, and who knows what surprises (or not) that will bring.