1788 and all that

Photo of Australian Poetry book cover

Geoffrey Lehmann (BA ’60 LLB ’63 LLM ’82) and Robert Gray co-edited Australian Poetry Since 1788 for NewSouthBooks. The aim of the 1080-page anthology is to showcase the very best Australian poetry with an international audience in mind; hence the detailed biographical notes.

Lehmann said, “We also wanted to interest readers in the poets themselves, and encourage them to read the poets’ work sympathetically and in a context. Many of the references in Dorothy Hewitt’s long and marvellous Secret Journey could be incomprehensible to readers born after the Cold War, and we have included detailed notes on the many Russian literary figures referred to in this great poem.”

He notes: “We did not treat our target length of 900 to 1000 pages as an invitation to include a large number of poets. We initially had a target of about 120 poets, and were surprised and pleased when this grew to about 170. Our aim with a 1000-page book was to include substantial representations of the selected poets and allow some longer poems.”

With the timeline of all of modern Australia, there are, of course, many Sydney alumni. One is celebrated here:

On Removing Spiderweb

Like summer silk its denier
but stickily, o icklier,
miffed bunny-blinder, silver tar
crepe when cobbed, crap when rubbed,
stretchily adhere-and-there
and everyway, nap-snarled or sleek,
glibly hubbed with grots to tweak:
ehh weakly bobbined tae yer neb,
spit it Phuoc Tuy! filthy web!

Les Murray (BA ’70 DLitt ’01