A question I know a lot of my blogging friends may not be able to answer, but it is something my next piece aims to address.
To be honest, why not? And the simple fact is that here in Australia 'we', as in the media, our people, our critics, and our education system are so seemingly intent on categorising this 'quintessential Australian Literature / Film / *insert item or genre here*, that we need to spend some more time working out what that is.
The result can sometimes be ironic in its very nature. I am Australian. I was born here, raised and educated here, and I write here. I am an Australian writer. I am an Australian female writer. The very factual nature of my life makes this so. Yet my poems do not describe the Australian countryside, don't marvel over the warbling song of the magpie, nor liken myself to the land. If it did it might be Australian.
And this is where I hit hurdle number one. If Australian poetry can only be defined by its use of the 'Australian voice', recognisable with a metaphoric link to the land, there are a whole lot of Australian poets who may just never be seen as such. Now this is such a shame. We are Australian poets, we use the quintessential Australian voice; we just don't channel A.B. 'Banjo' Paterson in the same way.
Does an Australian poet have to use the iconic references that we as a country clutch at - seeing these icons as being able to clarify who or what it is we are? Is it possible that the Australian voice is much more?
I suggest that the Australian voice is a quietly observant, political dissent. An observation of people and their motivations. A discussion of the impact of the world on who 'we' or 'I' are /am (respectively). Surely this same voice can be found in the Colonial past, the questioning of the role that has been played by the myriad groups that have added their piece to this fair land of ours?
As well-written, and interesting, the 'Australian' poetry that is published and discussed in well respected journals is, it is a shame that it seems to need to list a series of Australian icons in order to be labelled as such. Anything else is poetry. Good poetry admittedly, but not discussed in any great depth for its critique and/ or commentary on our land.
My next piece comments on this practice, and while it uses the 'expected' icons and references to be classed as an Australian poem, in reality it is the intent behind it that makes it an Australian poem. That is, the method of using what you are criticising to make a point that in itself is much, much more Australian than the icons Australian poems are expected to use.
That is why I am an Australian poet. Not because I was born here, raised here and write here. But because my poetry is a version of the Australian voice; it is a discussion of how society does things, and it doesn't need a warbling magpie to do it.