Pete Spence (1946-) has achieved an enviable international acclaim for much of his work in painting, experimental film, visual poetry and of course the exuberant, engaging lyric verse. Pete has been one of the undiscovered heroes of Australian literature, for over four decades he has been quietly pursuing his own direction in this multiplicity of art forms but in particular in his witty, idiosyncratic, entertaining poetry. Perrier Fever is his first largescale collection and we believe it to be an important milestone in Australian poetry.
With an inheritance from Ginsberg and the Beats, the Symbolists, the Russian Futurists and Artaud, Benjamin Frater (1979–2007) applied their traditions to his vision of the suburbs of south-west Sydney, producing, with his unique, visionary work, both on the page and in performance, some of the most total and committed poetry of his generation. 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. 6am in the Universe is the posthumous publication of a selection of his works edited by those who knew him (and his poetry) best – his peers and fellow poets Rob Wilson, Elle Demuro, Tim Cahill and Alan Wearne (Grand Parade Poets publisher). The volume includes a DVD featuring a recording of Frater’s performance at Mad Pride (2006) as well as audio recordings of other readings.
He is a truly unique poet, one who will appeal to those interested in Australian poetry but especially to those of his generation and the generations of readers to come. His poetry exhibits the furious energy of youth but this is tempered by Frater’s erudition and absolute commitment to his craft. He conjures a suburban gothic landscape marrying the visions of Greek and numerous other cultures’ myths and legends with the linguistic experimentation of his poetic forebears and elements of mainstream and alternative Australian culture.
Steel worker, jackhammer labourer, crane dogman, student, employment bureaucrat, high school teacher, community activist, local government councillor and ultimately Mayor of Ashfield, Rae Desmond Jones (1941-) has had a life parallel to poetry like very few in Australia. He may write in a realist tradition but one very much on his terms. This volume features new and selected poems from Rae’s four decades of verse.
Scourge of Brisbane’s poetasters (indeed of all that breed) Liam Ferney (1979-) is an irascible risk-taking entertainer who earns his living as a PR flak, who from the age of 14 was involved in poetry readings and festivals. Boom captures the fabulous combative nature of Ferney’s experience & poetry; this is language to be confronted head-on and devoured whole.
With one previous credit to her name for a volume in the late 1980s, Rachel Munro (1953-) has been diligently ‘ploughing her own field’ in Australian poetry for decades. Her verse is keenly observed and shot through with wry quips and wryer subtlety. Munro’s is a brave voice but not overbearing, rather it takes courage in its stride, something perhaps owing to the poet’s recent battle with leukemia. She is donating her royalties from sales of the volume to the Leukemia Foundation.
Kelly Pilgrim-Byrne lives in Perth, Western Australia, with her female partner of eighteen years and their four-year-old daughter. Centred on the universal themes of family life and on issues of fertility/infertility, her poems are public works of plain speaking vigour. ‘For if we are a modern family,’ she says, ‘my poetry also shows we are breathtakingly similar to most families on earth.’
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.