Friday, July 16, 2010

What epitomises an Australian writer?

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.


  1. I hate poets (and writers) who just write about their countries icons. It seems to me its the fall back if you have nothing else left and just want publicity.

    To me Australian poetry should not try and show to the masses what the country is like and what the people are like from an observers perspective. Instead each poets poems should be a personal insight to their own experiences within the culture. The perspectives of each individual person, shows the true Australia at its heart. The people.

    I really hope that made sense, its early in the fucking morning and im taking a break from my game to write this comment.

  2. LOL! That's quite a picture, a warbling magpie. We have these giant crows or ravens that wake me up in the morning. Very annoying voice. Nothing at all like the songbirds I'd rather hear. Birds can be a gret way to communicate an analogy of a voice of a poet. Nicely done.

    Stephen Tremp

  3. Hmmm... I'd never thought about this. I guess by some definitions my own writing would not be considered 'Australia.' I write like me. Not the country I write from. I am happy with that. :)

  4. Warbling Magpies aside, your writing is informed by who you are, which is based in part on where you're from. You could no more remove Australia from your voice than you could remove you. Defining the Aussie in your voice may prove more difficult, but isn't that part of what makes writing worthwhile? :)

  5. Hi Ethan, great to see your comment, and as you and Victoria have pointed out every writer does embody the voice of the country. The post was more to provoke discussion about the topic, as I have read in a few places lately, that "X" poem or "Y" poem is a great example of Australian poetry, mostly for its powerful evocation of the "Aussie voice".

    The commentators then go on to discuss the powerful use of the iconic references that further strengthen the Australianess of the piece. I think that we need to look at how all of our writers embody the voice.

    Very true , what you've said Tabitha. I am happy that I write like me too, just waiting for someone to see it the way it do :)

    Welcome Stephen, I appreciate your comment and I'm so glad you joined us.

    And, despite my post. I quite like the warbling Magpie; it certainly makes me feel at home :D

  6. like your use of metaphors very much! and your Australian poetry...

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  8. Great to see you here Smita, I tried to look you up a while ago and couldn't get into your blog. Hope you're back - will go searching again.

    Thanks reberto.alberto, I will check it out.

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