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Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Collected Verse of John Shaw Neilson 'The foremost poet of his generation.'


Edited and introduced by Margaret Roberts
UWA Publishing, $39.95

JOHN Shaw Neilson (1872-1942) is buried in the Footscray Cemetery, a kilometre or two from where I live. Every day, the length of a cricket pitch from his grave, thousands of trucks grumble past on Francis Street. This image captures something of Neilson's enduring legacy and suggests why, as time goes by, he is a writer to whom we need to attend more rather than less.

In a world of mundane asperity, Neilson is, so to speak, a figure of grave stillness. Along with Mary Gilmore and Joseph Furphy, he is one of a small number of contemplatives who have taken our literature to deeper and quieter places than either the driven tempo of our celebrated bush ballads or the gothic narratives of much of our early fiction could possibly negotiate.

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