Monday musings on Australian literature: Supporting genres, 6: Poetry

As with the last post in this series, which was on novellas, poetry isn’t so much a genre as a form. However, to repeat what I said then, when I started this sub-series, I couldn’t find one all-inclusive word to cover all the types of literary works I thought I’d cover, so settled on “genres”. With August being National Poetry Month, it seemed a good time to do the poetry post.

I’ll start by saying that over the years of this blog, I have written several posts that could be seen to cover ways in which poetry is supported in Australia … so I’m going to begin with some of those posts, all Monday Musings:

  • Australian Poetry Library: In 2011, I wrote on a wonderful initiative, the online Australian Poetry Library which was launched that May. Unfortunately, as those of you who have read last week’s Monday Musings comment trail will know, the site is off-line at the moment. It’s a fabulous site, and we believe the hiatus is technical rather than permanent. We urge that “fixing” it be given priority.
  • National Poetry Month: This has to be a major initiative for supporting Australian poets and poetry and I have written two Monday Musings posts on it, one in 2021 and one in 2022.
  • Poetry Awards: In 2014, I wrote a Monday Musings on Poetry Awards, in which I listed many of Australia’s best-known poetry awards.

Publishers

In my 2021 National Poetry Month post (linked above), I mentioned two publishers which focus specifically, or heavily, on poetry – Giramondo and Pitt Street Poetry – so you can read more about those there. Other more general publishers also support poetry. There are too many for me to include here, but I will exemplify with a few:

  • Black Inc: an independent Melbourne-based publisher which supports poetry, with a focus (I’d say) on established poets. They have published annual Best Australian poems anthologies (though not since 2017 it seems); they publish The best 100 poems of [poet, like Dorothy Porter] series, and they also publish poetry collections, including, most recently the posthumous Les Murray collection, Continuous creation.
  • Fremantle Press: an independent Western Australia-based publisher which publishes poetry regularly, both as single poet collections (including John Kinsella and Tracy Ryan) and anthologies.
  • UQP: a university-based publisher in Queensland, which is also a strong publisher of poetry. Not surprisingly, given their track record in publishing First Nations writing, they are a major publisher of First Nations poets, like Evelyn Araluen, Tony Birch, Jazz Money, and Ellen van Neerven, alongside many other new and established poets.

I have reviewed poetry from all of the above. For more publishers, check out this Poetry Sydney page which includes these, plus more, like Ginninderra Press, Magabala Books, and Wakefield Press.

Awards

I covered several of Australia’s significant poetry awards in my dedicated Monday Musings post linked above, and Wikipedia has a useful list too. I love that the majority of poetry awards are named for poets. Here I will share a few that I didn’t include in my 2014 post:

  • Anne Elder Award has gone through some changes since its establishment in 1976 by the Victorian Branch of the Fellowship of Australian Writers. It goes to the best first book of poetry published in Australia, and since 2018 has been managed by Australian Poetry.
  • Biennial Helen Anne Bell Poetry Bequest Award is a more recent poetry prize, with the inaugural award being made in 2013. The original prize was $7,000 but it’s now described as Australia’s richest poetry prize, with $40,000 going to the 2021 winner. It is “dedicated to celebrating women poets”, with, says AustLit, the award going to “an Australian woman poet for a collection of previously unpublished poems”. It is managed by the University of Sydney.
  • Mary Gilmore Award has gone through a number of permutations and slight name changes since it was established by the ACTU (Australian Council of Trade Unions) in 1956. Love this. It is currently an annual prize for a first book of poetry published in Australia, and is managed by the Association for the Study of Australian Literature. The 2022 winner was Jelena Dinic’s In the Room with the She Wolf published by Wakefield Press.

Festivals

Many writers festivals include a poetry panel or two, and those of you who attend folk festivals will know that these festivals often include poetry sessions (mostly, in my experience, of the bush verse variety).

However, there are some specialist poetry festivals, like the following:

  • Perth Poetry Festival, is an annual festival with this year’s being its 18th. Its webpage is brief but you can read more about it there. It is run by WA Poets Inc.
  • Poetry on the Move is a festival that was established in Canberra in 2015 by the University of Canberra. Its website describes its aims as being “to promote poetry as a vibrant art form through the engagement with international, national and local poetry communities”.
  • Queensland Poetry has operated as an incorporated association, the Queensland Poetry Festival Inc, since 2007. Their aim, according to their home page, is “Supporting poets on page and stage across Queensland”. Check out their website for the range of their activities, but as far as I can tell, this year’s festival, Emerge, ran from June 3rd to 6th.
  • Red Dirt Poetry Festival has already appeared on this blog, through Glen Hunting who often comments here. As its website says, it is a “4-day International poetry and spoken word celebration in Mparntwe/Alice Springs”. It’s a hybrid festival offering both in-person and digital sessions, and involves national and international poets. The sessions include “presentations, workshops, showcases and exclusive commissioned works”.
  • Tasmanian Poetry Festival is a longstanding festival which started in 1985 ran its 37th event in 2021.

It goes without saying that many festivals, including these, have been significantly affected by COVID and so what were annual, in-person events, have in some cases missed a year or two, recently, and/or become hybrid events. Some are run by poetry associations which offer many more programs than “just” the festival. You can find out more by navigating the links I’ve provided.

Do you like poetry and, if so, how do you engage with it?

Previous supporting genre posts: 1. Historical fiction; 2. Short stories; 3. Biography; 4. Literary nonfiction; 5. Crime; 6. Novellas.

23 thoughts on “Monday musings on Australian literature: Supporting genres, 6: Poetry

  1. Just to update you a little further (and thanks for mentioning it), this year’s Red Dirt Festival wound up here in Alice (Mparntwe) yesterday, and it was superb from start to finish. All the cosiness of a small festival, and an eclectic and brilliant line-up of artists, readings, slams, workshops, and panel discussions. And all done on a shoestring. There was a strong emphasis on First Nations, queer, gender diverse, and international voices and works, and the line-up included the current and three previous Australian Poetry Slam champions. A lot of the events were livestreamed and recorded, and have since been uploaded to the festival Facebook page.
    My only other update is that Australian Poetry have taken over the “Best Australian Poems” name (since Black Inc have stopped using it) and have embarked on producing a similar annual collection of poems from around Australia. Their first effort was last year, and it was edited by Ellen Van Neerven and Toby Fitch. This year’s will be edited by Jeanine Leane and Judith Beveridge, and has been slated for release on 1 December.

  2. All these poetry posts, and Bron’s too, are stretching me. I just spent 15 minutes down rabbit holes reading Alan Wearne reviews just to be able to say he has/had a poetry publishing company Grand Parade poets (which I think published PiO’s magnum opus two or three years ago).

    • Oh wow, I didn’t know that about Wearne or had even heard of his company. I wonder where the title comes from – a play on an address and the concept of a grand parade of poets?

  3. Sue, I don’t know of many of these poetry awards or festivals. I do like poetry, and for the first time last week I loaned a poetry book to one of my friends. It was Opening the Windows to Catch the Sea Breeze by Geoff Goodfellow. For me, I have many favourite poems, and they are all different. My mood dictates which poem I will read.

    • I wouldn’t have known many of these without blogging either Meg. And yes, I have quite varied favourite poems too, though I probably gravitated to the melancholic in my past so those types probably dominate.

    • Probably mine too for now Brona, though from school and university my loved were more the Romantics and Modernists, rather than the Metaphysicals who Donne, Marvell, and co!

      • I’m a big fan of anthologies in the U.S. that break down the sections into different identities: Latin, African American, Native American, LGBTQ, etc. That way, you can read several poems by people from the same culture and compare. Lately, I tend to like Button Poetry Press, which is in the U.S., because they publish stuff that most of us would simply deem “readable” vs. some of the horribly abstract stuff that needs a ten-minute backstory when the author does a public reading.

        • Ha ha Melanie, love your description of “horribly abstract stuff that needs a ten-minute backstory when the author does a public reading.” I agree that poetry can be so terse and so image-dense that it can take too much work to comprehend.

          I agree that anthologies on theme (environment or love, for example) or idea (like identity) can be great.

        • I’ve been to so many poetry readings (they were required when I was in grad school) where the person gives this huge story about why they wrote a poem, what inspired them. Then they read the poem and it’s WONDERFUL. So, I would buy the book and none of the other poems made sense. I’m half convinced that poets should be required to write about what inspired their poem and include that in their books, too. Just a little one-page essay for every poem.

  4. What a useful roundup. Earlier this year I determined I would read more poetry than usual, thinking ahead to the kind of chaos that surrounds a household move, and indeed I have read more than usual. But the unfortunate reality is that although the short form and dip-in-and-out of poetry does lend itself to times when it’s hard to focus, it’s also harder to absorb the names of many new-to-me poets, so now it’s difficult to recall them without checking my log (and, indeed, they are probably not recognisable over in your corner of the world anyhow). Which leads to the age-old query “Is there any point to reading when one doesn’t remember what she’s been reading”? Hee hee Which applies to both poetry and prose of course. 🙂

  5. Reading all of this is terribly exciting and brings me renewed hope and a sense that if I venture beyond my four walls with my poems, I might actually find an oasis. I used to do a lot of readings when I was at uni and self-published an anthology at Snap printing back in the day. This all culminated in doing a solo reading at Shakespeare and Company in Paris in August 1992 where I had to sell myself in effect to the inimitable George Whitman to get my spot. I went corporate after that and had kids and have posted the odd poem on my blog, and keep meaning to enter competitions. I have done two readings in the last 20-30 years. It is hard to justify your existence as a poet, even though we actually play a very important role in trying to understand what’s going on in the world and expressing thoughts and emotions which usually remain silent.
    So, I might have to venture out there again soon.
    Best wishes,
    Rowena

    • Oh, good for you Rowena. Poetry Month activities and challenges maybe a good way of you to actively re-engage with Australian poetry. If you are on lnstagram, you could follow Red Room Poetry. I agree with you that poets have a lot to offer.

Leave a Reply to Grab the Lapels Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s