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The Canberra Times

Southerly Melbourne

Australian-German links
by Ralph Elliott

GEOFF PAGE’s recent A Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Australian Poetry discusses the work of 100 contemporary poets, neatly arranged alphabetically from Robert Adamson to Fay Zwicky. For good measure, the book concludes with a list of 100 other poets suggested as no less worthy of the reader’s attention, and I can think or other poets who deserve a place in either list, like Canberra’s Michael Thwaites and Geoff Page himself, who modestly excluded himself, but who does figure in Made In Australia.

That Gisela Triesch’s and Rudi Krausmann’s bilingual anthology is restricted to a mere 80 poets is due to each poem being faced by a translation into German. Forty-six of these poets also figure in Page’s Guide and there is more than coincidental, at times verbal, similarity between Page’s lengthy introduction to contemporary Australian poetry and Volker Wolf’s German introduction to the bilingual anthology. Who is echoing whom is not for me to speculate.

Wolf as one of the group of translators which also includes the two editors, charged with the gargantuan task of rendering into German verse the enormous variety of language and styles represented in poems as diverse as Les Murray’s “The people are eating dinner in that country north of Legge’s Lake” and Ania Walwicz’s performance poems (i.e., poetic prose pieces) “Australia” and “The Tattoo”.

... read The Canberra Times review

Made for Export
by Evelyn Juers

Made in Australia is a bilingual English-German edition of selected work by eighty contemporary Australian poets. This literary crowd, and its host of German apparitions, is squeezed into a mere three hundred pages, as a kind of export package. Each poet’s name is actually stamped with the familiar, triangular “Australian Made” trade logo. Poetry as merchandise. Please consider.

In the past, if you lived in an isolated place, hawkers used to go from town to town, offering a selection of wares. In “Morning Becomes Electric”, the poet Bruce Dawe writes about “door-to-door salesmen,/ irrational, obsessed, opening sample cases in the kitchen,/ giving you an argument of sorts/ before you have even assembled your priorities”. This book is like a hawker’s suitcase, offering the customer a bit of everything: two Zwickys, one Malouf, three Kefalas, a Nigel Roberts, a joanne burns, plenty of Les A. Murray, much Tranter, a Couani, a couple of Beveridges, and a few items of dubious value. If you scratch your head, unable to choose, the top layer’s just for show; there’s more to entice; you’ll end up buying something. I like this inversion of the usual priorities, that Australian poetry should be dispersing these samplings from its rich literary centre to the remote German readership of the global village.

If they buy, what will they get? How is Australia being presented through its poetry, and how is poetry being transmitted from an Australian base?

... read the Southerly review