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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Nominations for Poetry prize of Age Book of the Year

Not Finding Wittgenstein, J.S.Harry, Giramondo

Not Finding Wittgenstein is a spectacularly original work, sending Peter Rabbit ("Peter Henry Lepus") on a serio-comic quest in which he tries to write a rabbit History of Philosophers, converses with Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein, and crosses war-torn Iraq with a journalist, a huntsman spider, and a camel.

Not only does Harry manage to make all this make sense, but she also presents us with an utterly unique way of seeing the world in all its horror and complexity. Throughout, Harry offers some of her most innovative and lyrical work. This is, in my view, a master work. .

Shades of the Sublime & Beautiful, John Kinsella, Fremantle Press

Using Edmund Burke's A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757) as its ironic intertext, Kinsella's latest work takes a characteristically clear-eyed view of Australian landscape. Throughout the collection, Kinsella considers the relationship between history, landscape, violence and aesthetics.

His connections are often startling and always open to the complex ways in which "experience" and "poetry" are intertwined, so that his work is both profoundly sensate and deeply lettered, intensely political and powerfully personal. His poetry is, as ever, energetic, intense, original, and brilliantly inventive.

Bark, Anthony Lawrence, University of Queensland Press

Bark shows once again the peculiar power of Anthony Lawrence's vision. Attuned to the poetics of space and the quiddity of things and animals, Lawrence's poems repeatedly offer us new ways of seeing. By taking the usually unnoticed or unthought-of (marine stingers, the sport of luge, wombats) Lawrence fashions extraordinary poetic essays that involve his considerable wit, style, and formal skill.

Lawrence's fascination with landscape, seascape, and animals is unsentimental and bracingly aware of humans' ambiguous relationship to those things. As such, his poems move powerfully between the modes of praise and protest.

Typewriter Music, David Malouf, University of Queensland Press

David Malouf's late return to poetry (where his career began) is a welcome development in the career of one of Australia's best-known and most successful writers. Typewriter Music brilliantly illustrates Malouf's profound metaphorical skills. The collection's poems are poems of transformation, taking the details of everyday life and fashioning something rich and strange out of them.

Malouf's poems of love, ageing, and mortality are moving and insightful. Seven Last Words of the Emperor Hadrian is a minor masterpiece, showing Malouf's inventiveness and abundant linguistic talents.

Scar Revision, Tracy Ryan, Fremantle Press
Scar Revision is concerned with the literal and metaphorical scars of grief, parenthood, and love, tracing moments of intensity, and the long intensity of familial and personal history. Ryan's compelling poems are both direct and metaphorical, marked by their striking imagery and rhythmic skill, as well as their skilful blend of demotic and lyrical language.

They are also notable for the way they balance seriousness of purpose with an arresting sense of humour. The book is a powerfully coherent collection, offering brilliant poetic models of how we "revise" the scars caused by experience and loss.

Victorian Premier's Poetry Prize:

Event, Judith Bishop (Salt Publishing)

Judith Bishop's Event is distinguished by the sophistication and originality of its varied subject matter, its attention to craft and form, and above all by the intensity of its language, which confidently creates striking effects - sometimes dark, sometimes brilliant, often daring.

Press Release, Lisa Gorton, (Giramondo Publishing)
The consistent poise and thoughtfulness of Lisa Gorton' poetic voice in Press Release is remarkable, whether modulating into intellectual speculation, wry humour, or an elegiac tenderness utterly unsentimental or self-regarding. Many poets have written about the Mallee: Gorton's sequence manages to be original, technically varied, and at once witty and poignant.

As We Draw Ourselves, Barry Hill, (Five Islands Press)

Barry Hill has several earlier collections, but the judging panel found in As We Draw Ourselves the element of fresh directions we were privileging in well-known contenders. That poetry about art can be a way of exploring what it is to be human is a traditional enough theme, but Hill's tri-partite locating of his texts in China, Italy and Australia extends the thematic range, and, in particular, allows the admirable delicacy and elegance of the poems in the opening Chinese section to contrast strikingly with the morerobust quality of the Italian.

Thanks to Alison Croggon, herself a recently published poet with a new book THEATRE now vailable wherever SALT titles are sold in Australia - and, presumbaly, around the world - for all the above information.

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