Best Emerging Australian Poet

I think with Sophie on board we’ll have to start a Troppo Literary Award! Stimulated by Sophie’s post on Les Murray, I’ve been pondering the lack of popular or media recognition of some for our excellent emerging and young poets. This is no doubt partly explained by the economics of publishing, and the priorities of the mainstream media, and partly also probably (and sadly) explained by the political rhetoric of “anti-elitist” cultural backlash diminishing the space for arts in the media.

Troppo readers may or may not know that Brisvegas is a thriving hub of culture and creativity. Far from the days when the daggy Warana was our only Festival (though free jazz at twilight by the river was always very welcome), we now have an almost constant smorgasbord of festivals to enlighten our cultural and social lives. Incidentally, Brisbane residents or visitors to our city may like to check out SOOB (Straight Out of Brisbane) next month – featuring a range of blogging related panel discussions.

Anyway, a few years ago I was surprised and delighted to find that Brisbane hosts the excellent Queensland Poetry Festival. At that stage we had an avid poetry-reading Arts Minister, Matt Foley, who could be relied upon to entertain, and also to secure the beautiful Legislative Council Chamber of the Parliament for readings. But one definite highlight was discovering the work of Bronwyn Lea.

Bronwyn is a Lecturer in Poetics at The University of Queensland, Poetry Editor for UQ Press, and co-editor (with Martin Duwell) of the series The Best Australian Poetry. She’s also my nomination for Best Emerging Australian Poet…

I met Bronwyn a few years ago at a wonderful night at the Terminus Hotel in South Brisbane – she was reading at Whirlpool, an initiative of the Queensland Writers’ Centre… along with historian and former Keating advisor Don Watson. Bronwyn is an engaging, wry, witty and intelligent woman, as well as a fabulous reader of her poetry.

Rush out and buy her book Flight Animals, published by UQP (before she joined the editorial team) and recipient of seven awards and nominations.

To give you a taste of her work, here’s one of my favourite poems, and one I remember her reading on that rainy August 2002 night in South Brisbane in a crowded pub:

Cheap Red Wine

After Galway Kinnell’s ‘Oatmeal’

Most nights I drink cheap red wine.
I drink it alone.
I drink from a Baccarat crystal wine glass
of which I have only one and that is why I must drink alone.
Popular wisdom tells me it is not good
to drink alone.
Especially cheap red wine.
The dank and cloying aroma is such that a feeling of sorrow
can too easily twist into despair.
That is why I sometimes think up an imaginary companion
to drink with. To ward off the despair.
Last night, for instance, I drank with Charles Baudelaire.
He drank from the bottle
owing to the single Baccarat wine glass.
Charles (he begged me to be familiar) said he was grateful
for the invitation.
He hadn’t been getting out as much as he used to.
I apologised for not thinking
to invite him sooner and asked after Jeanne Duval,
if he had seen much of her lately.
He sighed. Dans l’amour il y a toujours un qui soufre
pendant que l’autre s’ennui
. In love,
there is always one who suffers while the other gets bored.
I nodded and refilled my glass.
Charles read to me from Fleurs du Mal,
as the evening breeze blew through the open window,
and I confessed to him my anthophobia,
how sometimes the scent of flowers can fill me with unshakable dread.
He nodded gravely.
Such a feeling, he said, inspired him to write
the lines: arrangements of flowers encoffined in glass exhale their ultimate breath;
and, I prefer the autumnal fruits over the banal blooms of Spring.
He shuddered and finished off the bottle.

Deep into the night Charles read to me,
and as I fell asleep in his arms I had the idea
that communing with the dead needn’t be a mystical activity.
It may require no more than a glass
or two of cheap red wine
and listening, intently, to the bodily meanings
of ghostly words.

About Mark Bahnisch

Mark Bahnisch is a sociologist and is the founder of this blog. He has an undergraduate degree in history and politics from UQ, and postgraduate qualifications in sociology, industrial relations and political economy from Griffith and QUT. He has recently been awarded his PhD through the Humanities Program at QUT. Mark's full bio is on this page.
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sophie
sophie
2022 years ago

A very nice poem indeed..and about the wonderful Charles Baudelaire too! I love Les Fleurs du Mal–used a verse from l’Albatros as an epigram for one of my novels. He was a great essayist too, on all kinds of subjects..

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Sorry Darp. Amusing in a gross sort of way. But I’ve worked too hard for too long to lose it all in a lay down misere defamation action. Publish it on your own blog if you like.

David Tiley
2022 years ago

Hey Mark – that’s a good idea.

I wonder if Darp is reminding us that chunkyfunky Les has been known to be a teeny bit unlike the Left in his political opinions?

Normally we can separate art and personality and politics pretty easily, but it is probably hardest with poets because they are so personal. Nonetheless, you gotta love the man’s work – and Bob Ellis is his mate.

TimT
2022 years ago

I hereby nominate myself as the best emerging Australian poet.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

David

Darp’s poem had nothing to do with Les Murray, or anything else connected with the post, except that it was a poem of sorts. But not the type of poem you’d post on someone else’s blog unless you were a complete fucktard and a rude, inconsiderate arsehole to boot. On reflection, I was being excessively generous in describing it as even grossly “amusing”. It was just gross and utterly unacceptable. Darp might well find himself the first blogger ever to be IP address-barred from Troppo unless I hear from him soon with an explanation and apology.

TimT
2022 years ago

You’re all missing the point. I am clearly the best poet in Australia at the moment.

Francis Xavier Holden
2022 years ago

I’d like to plug my off line mate Frank Faust as a worthwhile emerging [australian] poet. If you visit Frank’s web site Tales of Faust you can see hundreds of poems. You can also see and feel Frank emerging as a more and more powerful poet through the last few years.

Click on The Journey button on top left to see drop down index to poems.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

TimT, I haven’t forgotten your parody of Wheldrake! Have you secured Ken’s consent for the third prize yet, though?

Francis, thanks for the link – your mate Faust is good value indeed – I like this one (if we end up setting up a category for political poems, it’s an early favourite – don’t send it to Dolly, though, after his astute “deconstruction” of Midnight Oil lyrics, who knows what he’d make of it?)…

Nabakov
Nabakov
2022 years ago

Call me old fashioned, conservative if yer like
but when it comes to vers libre, I’m on me bike.
True, turning a hemistich can be a bit of a bitch.
but a bit of structure can so improve what you utter.

trackback
2022 years ago

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