About the Poets
Alan Wearne, publisher of Grand Parade Poets and editor of With the Youngsters writes: The 23 sestinas and 22 villanelles contained in this volume are the result of group work involving my poetry classes 1998-2016. And if they started as teaching exercises showing students how to construct the highly formulaic sestina and villanelle, this initial reason was soon shed and the imagination gained control. For at their best these verse forms aren’t so much rule-bound as possessed of rules made for bending and breaking.
As snapshots of what collections of people were thinking and imagining at a particular time, a lot of virtually useless artifacts may have been created, except for this: they were written to entertain and when entertainment is imaginative and challenging it’s nothing like useless.
Indeed, how do we know that group participation wasn’t the basis for the ballads and epics of earlier times? Are these poems ‘the future’ of poetry? Probably not, though they may be more of ‘a future’ than plenty of verse being practiced today in Australia let alone throughout the English writing world.
After two decades-plus of quiet yet pointed observations in both Australia and the United States, The Blue Decodes is poetry by a woman speaking for herself and just as importantly about her generation, a generation whose ambitions and emotions have become very fractured and fragmented. Yet, as Cassie Lewis advises throughout her work, all that optimistic blue we once saw beckoning can be regained, decoded if you will, that we may become our original, authentic selves.
Evan Jones is a notable senior Australian poet whose underrated status deserves to be rectified. This volume contains a generous selection of his published work, spanning more than half a century. Marked by clarity, formal versatility and technical command, Jones’ poetry celebrates family, love, friendship, the ordinary and extraordinary in daily living – and does so with honesty, wit and panache. An astute observer, he can also be a challenging political poet, as witnessed by his strange, visionary narrative ‘A Dream of Barricades’ published here in full.
Unpredictable and boisterously entertaining, Cassandra Atherton’s Exhumed is a collection of interconnected prose poems exploring the reanimation of canonical texts against a backdrop of popular culture references. Atherton’ s appeals to humour noir and the politicisation of the poet’s private spaces make for an exhilarating and intoxicating read.
The nature of Sydney and the nature in Sydney, these are the foundations for much of Michael Aiken’s plain-speaking poetry, a verse that can be spare or lush as the city itself or as the city requires.
Michael Aiken’s poems are minimalist in style and expansive in scope. He has the ability to infuse a poem with menace and tenderness, often within the same line, and he does so with a quiet yet potent confidence.
Sacred kingfisher in a dead gum
beats a butterfly to pieces
These poems reveal a fierce ability to take risks with shape and form, image and breath. Here is a poet prepared to look under the skin of common ground and to offer us amazement. — Anthony Lawrence
Aiken has carved out his own patch of ground to observe and reflect upon … the work … gets increasingly stronger as the pages get turned. The ‘Sydney’ sequence … is a great achievement. This book is held together by the recurrent trope of ‘the security man’, constantly vigilant, alert to all that passes, finding potential threat in the fragments (detritus) of city existence, and yet open to glimpses of beauty and wonder which occur: so many unexpected epiphanies. The natural world and its law-of-the-jungle amorality is a constant point of reference; a reminder of how thin a veneer civilisation really is. — John A Scott
Unaligned with any of Australian poetry’s factions, yet well aware of his audience, Rob Wilson enjoys writing his risk-taking, for-the-hell-of-it poetry.
In an era of often overly-informative maximalism, Rob Wilson is succinct and measured − half-turned towards the world while auguring some newly burgeoning creation. Within the cathedral of Modernism, these poems are constructed like little chapels, cool and tenebrously illuminated. − John Hawke
Rob Wilson’s (great) titles, like little bold brains, direct poems of surprising image and syntactical direction, as if to say hey, think like this: it’s (tough) fun. A cloud in tight black jeans. − Michael Farrell
Benjamin Frater was born in 1979 the eldest child of a hotel licensee, and raised around Campbelltown and other south western Sydney suburbs, this area becoming both the fore and background to much of his poetry. From his teens he was attracted to the tradition of Spencer, Milton, Blake, Whitman and Ginsberg, the latter poet together with the Symbolists, the Russian Futurists, and Artaud being the poles around which his unique visionary work gradually assembled. During his years as a greatly loved personality at the University of Wollongong he was acclaimed the leading student poet.
In 2003, with the help of his friend Rob Wilson he brought out Bughouse Meat, it being part of an ambitious ever-expanding edifice which would be his life’s work. His public readings were electrifying events, culminating in his appearance at the 2006 Mad Pride Festival. He died in July 2007 as a result of a misadventure with the medication used to treat his schizophrenia.
Pete Spence was born, Ringwood 1946, into a poor and struggling family I survived Pink’s Disease to have a childhood that dreams are made of. I started writing in my early teens, destroying such novice work years later, now to my regret. I was first published in Makar magazine (early 70’s) then for ten years I did no writing whilst attending to numerous adventures (e.g. sapphire mining in Queensland and New South Wales). In the early 80s find me published in Meanjin with a poem written during a New Years Eve party (as-it-is-happening, à la Frank O’Hara who in my view then was top dog!).
In 1984 I began Post Neo Publications a fiasco that produced a handful of good books by Australians and an American (Hannah Weiner). You cannot do publishing financed via forklift driving! Three main areas developed in my art at this time: Visual Poetry, Mail Art, & traditional writing. The writing split into three different styles one inspired by the New York School, one by the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E School, and an odd group of things that don’t fit into any school. My first published book was FIVE Poems (Nosukomo 1986).
Through 1989 to 1996 I made a number of films, some screened internationally at Oberhausen (Germany) Viper (Switzerland in a programme with Stan Brahkage) and festivals in Australia, with 2011 screenings in UK and Melbourne. My recent adventures include learning to paint (very Rothko!) and making small three-dimensional works with wood à la Louise Nevelson and Ben Nicholson. I live in Kyneton, Victoria with my partner of many years Norma Pearse and our son Perren.
Kelly Pilgrim – Byrne
Kelly Pilgrim-Byrne was born in 1969 in Perth, Western Australia. She grew up in that city’s Western Suburbs and took her first job at the age of fourteen in a local veterinary clinic, where she stayed part-time for seven years. As an adult, she has never owned fewer than three dogs and currently has five, although at one stage had fifteen. Kelly has been with her female partner Sam for eighteen years (and one day would like to marry her). After four and a half years of IVF treatment, their daughter Charlotte was born in 2007, but not before having to swap wombs! Thus they became one of the first samesex couples to access IVF in Western Australia after the laws were changed (a change for which they had been leading campaigners).
Kelly’s first book, People from bones , a joint collection with Bron Bateman, was published by Ragged Raven Press in the UK in 2002, prior to the completion of her undergraduate degree. Kelly enjoys a wide range of poetry and tends towards favourite poems rather than poets per se, though she finds herself returning to trusted ‘friends’ such as Sappho, Emily Dickinson, Wilfred Owen, Dylan Thomas, Sylvia Plath, and Dorothy Porter’s verse novels. She has both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Creative Writing from Curtin University where she is Executive Officer of the Australian Sustainable Development Institute. ‘This collection’ Kelly tells us, ‘has been ten years in the making and aims to take you on the journey of infertility and out the other side with your optimism left firmly intact.’
Liam Ferney was born in Brisbane in 1979. He grew up in Tarragindi in the shadow of Toohey Forest and started writing poetry in 1991. Two years later BR Dionysius, the founding Director of the Queensland Poetry Festival, heard him read at the Chalice Poetry Cup in Woolloongabba on Grand Final day. Dionysius subsequently programmed the young poet at a number of readings over the next couple of years including the Brisbane Writers Fringe Festival. Ferney would go on to join Dionysius on the programming committee of the Queensland Poetry Festival in 2000 and 2001.
He studied English, Journalism and Philosophy at the University of Queensland, graduating in 2001 with an Honours thesis on unreliable narration. At University he discovered the work of Arthur Rimbaud, John Forbes, Frank O’Hara, Marcel Duchamp and Martin Heidegger. His first collection Popular Mechanics collects poems written at university.
After graduation Ferney travelled to South Korea to watch the 2002 World Cup. After spending six months as an English teacher in Hanam-si, a fast-growing commuter town north of Seoul, he returned to Brisbane working in public relations and media management. He took up in the role of Poetry Editor with Cordite in 2004, continuing in the role until he moved to London at the end of 2005. In 2007 he returned to live in Brisbane travelling overland through Romania, Ukraine and Russia en route to Kuala Lumpur.
Since 2008 he has lived in Brisbane working in media relations and politics. His passion is life.
Rae Desmond Jones
Rae Desmond Jones was born in the mining town of Broken Hill, in western New South Wales. He migrated to Sydney at the age of 17, but still maintains contact with his origins. He published four books of poetry through the 1970s, and several novels in the 1990s. After a career as a community activist and councillor he became Mayor of Inner-Western Sydney’s Ashfield Council retiring in 2007.
Reading Longfellow’ s The Song of Hiawatha at the age of eight (under the covers with a torch) then onto ‘Banjo’ Patterson and Fitzgerald’s The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, Rachael Munro obtained that very fortunate gift, ‘a gifted English teacher’, through whose encouragement and example she was able to journey onto a wide variety of substantial poets including Donne, Hopkins and Eliot; Gwen Harwood, Fay Zwicky, Margaret
Attwood and Dorothy Porter; Brian Patten and Allen Ginsberg ‘who so confused me at first, I was put in a place where I had to start all over again.’
Brought up in the Hawkesbury and Snowy Mountains regions of New South Wales, she has since lived in Sydney (for twenty years) the Southern Highlands and now the Northern Rivers. With an Honours Degree in History and Philosophy of Science (in which she lectured and tutored) and a Masters Degree in Creative Arts, challenging people’s preconceptions is very high on Rachael’s priority list. She terms this ‘a very positive scepticism’ and delights in anticipating that ‘look on their faces’ moment.
Her first book Dragonshadow was published in 1989.