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Modern Australian poetry

Modern Australian poetry seeks to tell Australian stories and truths with a poetic significance, so that, 'they sear into the soul and can never be untold' (Dorothy Porter). The aim for clarity is central. Following early intense debate about the meaning of modern poetry for Australia – its essence, innovation and international context – today, it is seen as cosmopolitan as well as laconic but still lucid.

John Tranter with his Manchester Terrier 'Tiger', Sydney 2007. Image by and courtesy of Susan Gordon-Brown.

The richness, strength and vitality of Australian poetry is marked by its prodigious diversity. Yet themes persist through this diversity. An abiding interest is the Australian landscape and how to relate to it – its presence and its visual power. Significantly, a great deal of modern Australian poetry has been innovative and experimental, whether consciously or not. The search for modernism itself had an urgency in its explorations. (John Kinsella).

During the 1930s and 1940s there was much debate about modernist poetry and what it meant. In the 1930s, in Adelaide, two poetry movements emerged: the Jindyworobaks and the Angry Penguins.

The Jindyworobaks encouraged Australian writers to express themselves in language indicating their essence as Australians. On the other hand, the Angry Penguins wanted Australian poetry to become more innovative and international by using surrealism.

Max Harris, poet and owner in Mary Martin's bookshop, image by Samela Harris. Courtesy of AdelaideNow

The influence of the two movements on modern Australian poets and poetry was profound. In combination with the search for essentially Australian qualities, modernism has contributed to the unique character of Australian poetry. National, urban and social issues have been explored with great lucidity using realist as well as surrealist traditions.

Judith Wright believed out of all our poets, A D Hope has thought most about the task of poetry. In his poem Australia, the country may be 'the Arabian desert of the human mind', he wrote, but he hoped that 'still from the deserts the prophets come'. And so he turns 'gladly home' … [to]…

a landscape lost in its thoughts, as I in mine.
Places and names that echo and remain,
Knancoban, Kosciusko, Tom Groggin, Jindabyne,

concluding this poem, Beyond Khancoban, with this telling quatrain:

Man is made by all that has made the history of man,
But here the Monaro claims me; I recognise
Beyond Khancoban the place where a mind began
Able to offer itself to the galaxies.
Ralph Elliott, Hope, Alec Derwent (A. D.) (1907–2000), Obituaries Australia

When once asked what poets do for Australia, Hope replied that 'They justify its existence'. (Kevin Hart).

Dorothy Porter, author of nine collections of poetry and five verse novels, no source

It can be argued that the debate that began in Adelaide over modern Australian poetry helped define modern Australian literary publishing, raised the standard of literary discussion in Australia, supported the wide spread expansion of quality book shops for the next half a century as well as lead the first studies in Australian literature. These studies were first taught at Adelaide and then the Canberra University College, later the Australian National University with A D Hope appointed to lecture.

'Relaxed cosmopolitanism' is a term that can be used of current Australian poetry. Today the standpoints of poets can range from the internationalist to the romantic, or just as likely be surrealist, and/or confessional.

The form of modern Australian poetry ranges from sonnets and centos through free verse and prose poems to the highly successful verse novel. Today, there is also performance poetry and poetry slams. Influences come from the street-wise and the high-brow. From their earlier minor role, female poets have ascended to an equal or leading role. (John Tranter, In praise of poets with PhDs in The Australian, 22 October 2011)

The Jindyworobaks

Rex Ingamells, image by Hammer and Company. Courtesy of SLSA B 6795

In the 1930s a group of poets led by Rex Ingamells called themselves the Jindyworobaks. Ingamells had written two volumes of verse, Gumtops (Adelaide, 1935) and Forgotten People (Adelaide, 1936) before he published Conditional Culture (Adelaide, 1938) as a manifesto.

The Jindyworobaks wanted to develop a distinctive Australian poetry which described the unique Australian landscape, such as the bush and the desert, in Australian terms which incorporated and appropriated elements of Aboriginal culture and the Aboriginal relationship to the landscape and natural environment.

Ingamells set out three conditions: '1. A clear recognition of environmental values, 2. The debunking of much nonsense and 3. An understanding of Australia's history and traditions: primeval, colonial and modern'. (Jindyworobak – Towards an Australian Culture)

Roland Robinson's, 'Legend and Dreaming (1952), cover

The Jindyworobak movement continued the spirit of literary nationalism inherited from the early Australian poetry, especially the 1890s. The Jindyworobaks described European culture as a 'conditional culture'. The Jindyworobaks maintained that in the oldest of continents, European culture could only be localised with an acceptance of 'place', and then renewed on a higher plane.

Ian Mudie, a founding member of the Jindyworobaks, published a selection of poems Unabated Spring in 1942. The Arrente word 'Alcheringa' (spirit of the place) is used more than once amongst his poems.

[Ingamells] as an editor and publisher, through his Jindyworobak movement … was responsible for at least forty-four volumes of poetry and literary comment … between 1938 and 1953.
John Dally, Ingamells, Reginald Charles (Rex) (1913–1955), Australian Dictionary of Biography).

It had been argued that the Jindyworobak literary legacy also influenced Australian music because of its advocacy to find a way to create a unique identity by incorporating Australian landscape and environment in the music of Australian composers.  (D J Symons, The Jindyworobak connection in Australian music, c.1940-1960, 2002)

Roland Robinson, c. 1991, photograph: gelatin silver, sepia toned by John Meredith (1920 – 2001). Image courtesy of NLA: an12653534-v.

Roland Robinson, the storyteller: poetry, dance and film

Another Jindyworobak poet, Roland Robinson (1912–1992) published Beyond the Grass-tree Spears: Verse (1944) and Language of the Sand: Poems (1949). In Legend and Dreaming (1952) and Black-feller, White-feller (1958), he used words and symbols from Aboriginal culture as well as transcribing Dreaming stories.

As well as a writer and poet, Robinson was a dance critic in the 1950s and 1960s. In the 1940s he took classes with Helene Kirsova and appeared in a number of productions by the Kirsova Ballet.  In 1954 Robinson was a scriptwriter with fellow poet Douglas Stewart and directors John and Janet Heyer on Back of Beyond, one of Australia's most successful documentaries.

The Angry Penguins, modern poetry and the Ern Malley hoax

A literary journal called Angry Penguins

Covers of Angry Penguin: Autumn 1944 promoting Ern Malley, December 1944, and 1945, source Max Harris estate.

During the 1930s and 1940s, a group of young Adelaide poets including Max Harris, Geoffrey Dutton, Sam Kerr and Paul Pfeiffer, founded a literary journal called Angry Penguins. The first issue of Angry Penguins in 1943 was a literary anthology devoted to modernist writings and published writers from overseas including Dylan Thomas, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and James Dickey.  American poet Harry Roskolenko wrote for Angry Penguins and was guest editor for one issue. In this, the Angry Penguins challenged orthodox views of what constituted poetry and literature.

Angry Penguin modernism: poetry linking art and jazz

After the first issue of the Angry Penguins, the Melbourne lawyer John Reed visited the group of young poets in Adelaide. Through Reed, Harris met the artist Sidney Nolan, as well as Albert Tucker, later regarded as part of a group of modernist 'Angry Penguin' painters.

The link stimulated Harris to marry the two modernist movements, art and literature, and the second issue of Angry Penguins featured reproductions of a surrealist painting by James Gleeson and a Klee-like work by Sidney Nolan along with writings poetic, philosophical and ideological. Artist and critic Ivor Francis and jazzman/artist/poet Dave Dallwitz were among the contributors.
Samela Harris, Angry Penguins, Ern Malley website.

Reed thereafter joined Harris as editor of the Angry Penguins. Harris saw in Modernist approaches to writing and poetry the possibility for experimentation, for abstraction and impressionism - an anti-realist approach to poetry. Subsequently, Harris perceived Jindyworobak notions as parochial and limiting and this created resentment in the literary establishment.

The Ern Malley hoax  

Sidney Nolan,, portrait of [the fictitious] Ern Malley. Courtesy of the Art Gallery of South Australia

As a hoax, A D Hope and two other poets, James McAuley and Harold Stewart, sent in a raft of poetry by a fictional poet to gain Max Harris' opinion. Not only did Harris like the poetry but so did Reed, Nolan and other members of the Angry Penguins. However, the publication of fictional poet Ern Malley's poems by Harris in Angry Penguins, and Harris's endorsement of them, was THE great hoax of Australian literary history. Harris was not in on the hoax and experienced an extraordinary level of ridicule for his defence of Malley's work as modern poetry despite any literary merit it may have had.

Literary legacy

Max Harris went on to work with Mary Martin, the business manager, to establish Mary Martin Books as well as other publications: the Australian Book Review and the literary magazine Australian Letters. Max Harris also played a central role in establishing Penguin and Sun Books paperback imprints in Australia.

Today, ironically, the legacy of Ern Malley and his enduring verse lives on through a range of specifically created works around the theme of the artist as hoax.  This includes paintings by Sidney Nolan, Gary Shead's Archibald prize-winning painting, a literary publication The Group established by Larry Buttrose, a Griffith Review homage publication of six poems by John Stephenson and an Ern Malley exhibition at Heide in 2009. Peter Carey fictionalised the Ern Malley affair and explored the theme in his novel My Life as a Fake.

Post-war giants – A D Hope and Judith Wright

A D Hope

A D Hope (1907 – 2000) born in Cooma, NSW was seen as one of the great love poets of the century.

Love often seemed to him a religious mystery, sex its sacrament. He produced haunting lines like 'You near me, you always, you watchful and invisible one'.
Tribute to A.D. Hope by Mark O'Connor

Alec Hope also explored the pull of religious faith and spirituality, conceding that his strongest statements were better left as questions:

Do other beings inhabit our biosphere
Whose life is one and whole? I cannot tell.
I only know at moments everywhere
I sense their presences in earth and air...
From The Wild Bees

Portrait of Judith Wright, 1998, photograph by and image courtesy of Terry Milligan and the National Library of Australia: an13997783.

Hope was instrumental in launching the first full university course in Australian literature.

Judith Wright

Judith Wright's poem Oppositions from her last collection of poetry Phantom Dwelling illustrates the immediacy of her work which struck chords with her readers. It is as if 'the lightning so lightly mentioned in the poem has jumped the page and made some of the ground under me smoke'. The poem is

lucid - marvellously lucid. Both rich and clear. And indeed beautiful - with a crystalline and precise earthing in the tubby body of the frog.
2001 Judith Wright Lecture by Dorothy Porter

Judith Wright was the first white Australian poet to publicly name and explore the experiences of its Indigenous people in her poem Nigger's Leap, published in her first collection The Moving Image (1946).

Like other great political poets, like Dante, like Anna Akhmatova, Wright's poetry tells, and tells lucidly, stories and truths that only poetry can really tell so they sear into he soul and can never be untold'.
Dorothy Porter

As a critic, Wright published Preoccupations in Australian Poetry (1965) with the intention of promoting the re-reading of such early Australian poets as Charles Harpur, Adam Lindsay Gordon, and Henry Kendall. Wright also supported Oodgeroo in getting her poetry published. Wright received several awards, including the Grace Leven Prize (1950), the Australia-Britannica Award (1964), the Robert Frost Memorial Award (1977), the Australian World Prize (1984), and the Queen's Medal for Poetry (1992).

Kenneth Slessor (1901-1971), poet and official correspondent. Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial

Slessor in Sydney – solemnity and satire in the 1950s and 1960s

In the 1950s and 1960s, distinct poetic strains developed in Sydney and in Melbourne.

In Sydney, where Kenneth Slessor, R D Fitzgerald and Douglas Stewart were influential, a more relaxed, popular, and various style of poetry flourished. Kenneth Slessor was:

probably the most talented one to have written in Australia, and the first renovator of twentieth-century Australian poetry. Slessor's career as a poet ran in tandem with his life as a hard-working journalist. He seems to have been able to turn off the raucous babble of everyday Sydney, like a radio, and to produce the piercing, rinsed-clean order of words that characterises his best poetry.Philip Mead (ed.), Kenneth Slessor: Critical Readings, UQP, 1997.

Rosemary Dobson. Courtesy of National Library of Australia

Rosemary Dobson

In Sydney, Rosemary Dobson's first book of poems was In a Convex Mirror (1944), and her second was Ship of Ice (1948). Her work is often reflective and pictorial, and many of her poems are based upon paintings, particularly from the Renaissance. Her writing spans 75 years if we include a volume, Poems, published when she was a schoolgirl at Frensham. Her writing evolved from a formal approach to accommodate free verse, an example of which is the The Greek Vase. (Rosemary Dobson: Collected, review by Martin Duwell, 1 June 2012)

In the introduction to her 2012 volume Rosemary Dobson: Collected, David McCooey describes her as a poet of light and lucidity whose poems are also haunted by 'visitations, apparitions, omens, annunciations, prophecies and premonitions'. In 1979 she was awarded the Fellowship of Australian Writers Award (then known as the Robert Frost Award). 

Gwen Harwood

Gwen Harwood (1920–1995) was born in Brisbane, and moved to Tasmania when she married in 1945, where she raised four children. Her first book was Poems (1963), and she published six more books of verse. She was awarded the Robert Frost Poetry Award (1977) and the Patrick White Award (1978). Her fourth book Bone Scan (1989) won the Victorian Premier's Literary Prize for poetry.

Gwen Harwood's poetry is widely recognised now for its stark intimacy and brilliant resonance. It is about human totality, wide knowledge and raw experience in all its vibrant paradoxical qualities; ideas and craft, creativity beyond gender, and yet gendered 'woman' when required at crucial existential moments.
Colleen Keane, Gwen Harwood, Selected Poems, in Sydney Morning Herald, 11 February, 2013

Poetry as intense, biting and literary realism, 1960s–1970s

Francis Webb (1925–1973), from Sydney, produced intense, demanding poems exploring religious experience and the nature of creativity.

Melbourne verse

Melbourne verse expressed a solemn, ironic, concern for social and moral issues and, in the work of Vincent Buckley and Chris Wallace-Crabbe, an academic literariness.

In Melbourne, Bruce Dawe wrote biting and often funny social and political satires as well as reflecting the realist tradition – showing strong social awareness, with religious overtones. His first book of poems was No Fixed Address (1962), a title reminiscent of his own early years. He went on to publish many poetry titles and win many awards including the Dame Mary Gilmore Medal in 1973 and the Patrick White Award in 1980.

Sandgropers and Islanders – Dorothy Hewett, Jack Davis and Oodgeroo

Jack Davis. Photograph courtesy of University of Queensland Press.

Jack Davis (1917-2000), of the Nyoongah people, spent his childhood in the Western Australian mill town of Yarloop and began writing when he was 14 years old. He worked as a stockman in the north before returning to Perth and settling into fulltime writing. He worked as a stockman in the north and later, in Perth, became a fulltime writer of poetry, plays and memoirs as well as an actor and Indigenous rights activist.

His first book was The First Born (1970), a volume of poetry. Jagardoo: Poems from Aboriginal Australia (1978) and John Pat and Other Poems (1988) followed. His poetry expresses 'a yearning for a past connectedness with the land' and is inherently political. Jack Davis received numerous distinctions including the British Empire Medal, the Order of Australia, and honorary doctorates from the universities of Murdoch and Western Australia.

Dorothy Hewett

Dorothy Hewett, portrait courtesy of University of Western Australia

Dorothy Hewett (1923-2002) was raised on her parent's isolated wheat farm in Western Australia. By the time she was 20 she was a prize-winning playwright and poet and had joined the Communist Party. She attended university, travelled to Melbourne and Sydney, worked in factories, left the Communist Party in 1968, and moved permanently to Sydney in 1974. Her personal life was as turbulent as her politics: she had three husbands and six children.

Hewett wrote dozens of successful plays, books of poems, novels, and memoirs. Among her published works are Hidden Journey (1967), Rapunzal in Suburbia (1975), Alice in Wormland (1987) and Greenhouse (1979). Hewett's works combine romanticism with irony.

Dorothy Hewett's Greenhouse (1980) has love and betrayal, death, travel, politics and passion as its subjects although the main source of energy in this book is sexual. (John Tranter reviews)

Oodgeroo (Kath Walker)

Oodgeroo (1920-1995), of the tribe Noonuccal, was born Kathleen Jean Mary Ruska, on Minjerribah (the Stradbroke Islands), was a domestic servant at the age of 13, and served in the Australian Women's Army Service from 1942 to 1944.

Her first book of poetry was We Are Going (1964), the first book of published poetry by an Aboriginal Australian and it was reprinted seven times in as many months. Oodgeroo published seven books of poetry in all and was the recipient of numerous awards, including the Mary Gilmore Medal (1970), the Jessie Litchfield Award (1975), and the Fellowship of Australian Writers Award.

Intense and demanding poetic searches, 1980s–1990s

Prominent poets from this period include Davis Campbell, John Blight, Bruce Beaver, Les A Murray, David Malouf, John Tranter and Robert Gray.

John Tranter describes the focus of this period. The mood is one 'of passive recollection' which tells of an adult life tormented by decay, women gained and lost and dead animals. Adamson

does not ruminate on history, philosophy or nature, unless it is to search for a mask that he can use to dramatise his life ... he sketches his environment as a backdrop against which he can act out a ritualised search for experience made meaningful in poetic terms.
John Tranter, review of Robert Adamson's Where I Come From (1980).

The poetry of snakes and making sense, 1990s

Fay Zwicky. Image courtesy of University of Queensland Press.

Fay Zwicky

Fay Zwicky (b. 1933) began publishing poetry and short stories as an undergraduate at Melbourne University. She was a concert pianist before becoming a Senior Lecturer in English literature at the University of Western Australia. One of her most-admired poems, Kaddish, is an elegy for her father that also draws on her experience of growing up in Melbourne's Jewish community. Another poem, No Return, deals with the paradoxes of loyalties to grandparents and parents – those 'once-/huge troubling presences'.

Fay Zwicky was the winner of the 1982 NSW Premier's Literary Awards for poetry, for Kaddish and Other Poems (UQP, 1982), and the 1991 Western Australian Premier's Book Awards, Poetry Award, for Ask Me (1990). In 1993 she published the collection Fay Zwicky: Poems 1970-1992 (1993). She won the Patrick White Award in 2005.

Roberta (Bobbi) Sykes

Roberta (Bobbi) Sykes (b. 1943) was born and grew up in Townsville. Formally educated to the age of 14, she then completed a Masters degree and then her doctorate in education at Harvard University. While studying, she won the Patricia Weickert Black Writers Award (Australia 1982). In 1994 she won the Australian Human Rights Medal. Her publications include her earlier poetry book Love Poems and Other Revolutionary Actions (1988), which has been translated and published in Germany and the three-volume autobiography Snake Dreaming (1997–2000).

Billy Marshall-Stoneking

Billy Marshall-Stoneking (b. 1947) is an Australian/American poet/playwright and author of seven books, including Singing the Snake: Poems from the Western Desert. In 1988, he was awarded the prestigious Bill Harney Prize for Poetry.

Verse novels

Dorothy Porter

Dorothy Porter (1954–2008) is credited with causing Australian poetry's comeback in the late 1990s by re-visiting one of the oldest forms of literature – the verse narrative. Porter's style is described as:

brash and confronting ... nudging its way onto general best-seller lists and threatening to shatter a stereotype modern poets are all too familiar with.
Australian poetry makes a comeback, ABC 7.30 Report transcript

Porter was the author of nine collections of poetry and five verse novels, including Akhenaten, The Monkey's Mask, What a Piece of Work and El Dorado.

'My palms sneak up on me', Frank reveals one morning after he's had a sleepless night. …
'They smell like women going out in puffs of powered and too much scent'
Dorothy Porter, The Monkey's Mask (1994).

Her verse novel Wild Surmise (2002) won the Adelaide Festival Awards 2004 John Bray Memorial Prize for Poetry as well as the overall Premier's Award – the first book of poetry ever to be awarded this. Porter also worked with the jazz composer Paul Grabowsky on a song cycle, Before Time Could Change Us (2004).

Les Murray

Les A Murray (b. 1938) has received numerous literary awards, including the TS Eliot Award in 1996 and the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 1999. In addition to poetry and prose, Murray has written two verse novels: The Boys Who Stole the Funeral (1979) and Fredy Neptune: A Novel in Verse (1999).

He [Murray] is a poet of dispossession and ungainliness as well as of landscape and animals. With great authority his poems hold intellectual, social, personal and religious elements in play, while they take the stubbornly unglamorous perspective of the 'poor white' Australian underclass from which he comes.
Ruth Padel, Odysseus of the Outback, The New York Times, May 16 1999

Poetry titles from 2000 onwards

In the age of the Web, publishing is in flux and poetry is no exception. While a cento as a poetical form is nearly 2000 year old, creating one – which is wholly composed of verses or passages taken from other authors – has taken on a new meaning in the digital age. Martin Duwell makes the point that

To write a cento is perversely difficult enough but to read it respectably – almost impossible in the pre-google age – is simplicity itself nowadays … erudition is not going to be as impressive as it once was and poems will be forced to work for themselves …
Martin Duwell, Australian Poetry Review, 1 February 2012)

Shifting patterns of publishing

Between 1993 and 1996, more than 250 books of poems were published in Australia each year. By 2006, this figure has been reduced to about 100 titles. Major publishers stated that maximum sales of between 200 to 400 copies per edition were not sustainable. Bob Sessions of Penguin said Penguin ditched its poetry list in the 1990s because it wasn't selling.

David Malouf in his study with manual Erika typewriter. Courtesy of Oz Typewriter

The exceptions for the major publishers were the verse novels. Dorothy Porter and Steven Herrick published verse novels with Picador and Allen and Unwin. Porter's verse novel El Dorado, about a serial killer, sold 4000 copies in its first month. Alan Wearne published The Lovemakers (2001), which took out the SW Premier's Literary Awards for poetry in 2002. University of Queensland Press maintains three or four poetry titles each year. The list includes John Tranter and David Malouf.

David Malouf's first poetry collection in 26 years, Typewriter Music, was released at the Sydney Writers Festival in June 2007, selling out of its print run of 3000 in three days. Naturally it included the poem Typewriter Music.  Malouf wrote his work on a typewriter.

Small independent presses such as Black Pepper, Giramondo and Brandl & Schlesinger have become the home for Australian poetry because it is more feasible for them to produce small print runs (Bronwyn Lea, Making Books, University of Queensland Press, 2007). Other poetry presses include: Five Islands Press, Fremantle Press (for WA poets only), Picaro Press, Salt Publishing, and UQP (University of Queensland Press).

E-zines, video, radio and the world of poetry slams

Advertisement for Australian Poetry Slam 2013 featuring Ursula Rucker

Poetry on the Internet is promoted as a way for the future. Jacket, an online poetry e-zine edited by John Tranter until 2010, remains a great online resource of more than 1000 pieces of contemporary poetry plus more than 1000 original poems. Jacket 2 is now running from the University of Pennsylvania.

John Tranter also started a radio program on ABC Radio in 1975 which became Books and Writing, the forerunner of Radio National's Book Show.

A video-only online forum for contemporary poetry, The Continental Review, was launched in June 2007 by Nicholas Manning. Australian Poetry, launched in 2011, is a merger between the NSW Poets Union and the Australian Poetry Centre. It offers a large list of web links including many e-zines and blogs.

Performance poetry is re-animating the art form. Miles Merrill is an Australian poet of African-American descent and performs for school students around the country. Merrill is also director of the State Library of New South Wales' 'poetry slam'. Poets have two minutes to impress judges for $10,000 in prize money. The 2006 New South Wales finalists included a 12 year old from Broken Hill and a 70 year old from Armidale. The sponsor of the Slam is the Copyright Agency Limited.

Anthologies from 2008 onwards – humour and nostalgia as well as the 'laconic pastoral'

Vivian Smith's Here, There and Elsewhere, 2013

Today, 'we are often told, poetry leads a fugitive existence in Australia, unremunerated, scantly regarded' (Peter Pierce, A poetic return), yet three new Australian poetry collections were published in 2008. In The Best Australian Poetry 2008, David Brooks notes a commonality in his choice - 'an obsession with a kind of laconic pastoral'.

Ross Clark is here for Danger: Lantana, which won the poetry prize from the Australian Book Review (edited by Rose); Stephen Edgar with Nocturnal, a beautiful elegy for Glen Harwood; and Vivian Smith in sparkling form with The Real Life of Ern Malley. Vivian Smith;s book, Here, There and Elsewhere (2013) is described by reviewer Sarah Day as  'a reflective collection that is mostly linked by notions of memory, age and time, enduring themes that Smith handles with dignity and sleight of hand'.

The acclaimed Thirty Australian Poets, released in 2011 (Felicity Plunkett, editor, UQP), shows the work of poets born after 1968 (with a wave to the Generation of '68's anthology The New Australian Poetry, edited by John Tranter, 1979). Professionalism and multilingualism characterise these poets, and the collection is

a wonderful diversity of voices and styles, from re-imagined versions of traditional forms to the experimental and avant-garde. This groundbreaking anthology captures the spirit of an exciting generation who, between them, have won every major poetry award, and made the renaissance of Australian poetry impossible to ignore.
Martin Duwell, Thirty Australian Poets, Australian Poetry Review, 1 February 2012.

Useful Links

Look, listen and play

Resources for Australian literature and poetry

Poetry publications

Writers' organisations


Poetry anthologies

  • Wearne Alan (ed), The Best Australian Poetry 2009
  • Dennis Haskell in Bruce Bennett and Jennifer Strauss (editors), The Oxford Literary History of Australia, 1998, South Melbourne.
  • John Kinsella (ed), The Penguin Anthology of Australian Poetry (Penguin, Melbourne, 2009) covers the 1900s but covers recent poetry thoughtfully and has superb introductions.
  • Geoffrey Lehmann and Robert Gray, Australian Poetry Since 1788 (UNSW Press, Sydney, 2011) is an enormous compendium and controversial in its conservatism.
  • The Penguin Book of Australian Women Poets (1986). Reviewed by John Tranter.
  • John Tranter (ed), The Best Australian Poems 2011
  • Jennifer Harrison and Kate Waterhouse (editors), Motherlode, 2009, includes poets like Judith Wright, Lisa Gorton, Rhyll McMaster and Fay Zwicky.

Poets' papers and reviews

Poetry presses

Australian poetry sampler

Australian poetry is vibrant and alive with poets working across approaches and genres. Visit these websites to sample a range of Australian poetry from:
John Tranter, Martin Johnson, Bernard Cohen, Gig Ryan, David Rowbotham, Komninos, Antigone Kefala and Pam Brown.

Have some fun and write your own poem

If you want to write your own poetry read some poetry writing tips in The Art of Writing Poetry. If you need to find that perfect rhyme visit the Rhyming Dictionary.

Last updated: 14th November 2013
Creators: Kathryn Wells

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