I discovered, via A Pair of Ragged Claws, that the 702 Book Club on ABC Radio is compiling the Top 10 Australian Poems.

For me, lists, whether they be a top 10, 100 or 500, can be catalysts for discussing what a culture still feels is important, relevant and uplifting. Many of us spend pleasant hours finding new books, tunes and in this case poems but the real pleasure is spending time with old favs – and sharing them.

Kenneth Slessor

I voted for Out of Timeby Kenneth Slessor for the simple reason that it was the first poem that truly captured my imagination (as a teenager). I had enjoyed Faces in the Streetand Clancy of the Overflow in primary school but Slessor was deliciously mysterious. My fav. line:

‘Fixed in a sweet meniscus, out of Time,

could almost be a description of poetry itself, if that makes sense?

Other poets that populate my imagination and could easily have any number of their poems in a personal ‘top ten’ include Michael Dransfield, Gig Ryan, Geoff Page and Les Murray, whom my Mum went to school with, in Taree.

I have a vivid memory of the power of Murray’s poetry. As my grandmother lay dying, I read her his Buladelah-Taree Holiday Song Cycle to which she responded with the occasional moan and sigh at particular lines. It felt like she was listening to every word and image. I suspect what was happening was more about what I needed, then she did.

Poetry is intensely personal and while writing this post, I made a trip to the garage where a bookshelp of poetry patiently awaits my visit. It has been most pleasant, if dusty hour or two reading. A few Australian poetic favs just revisited, in no particular order:

Five Bells – Kenneth Slessor

In the Purple Bar – Gig Ryan

Grand Remonstrance – Geoff Page

Christ at Gallipoli (scroll down) – Geoff Page

An absolutely ordinary rainbow – Les Murray

Pas de deux for loversMichael Dransfield

Going away – Michael Dransfield

Platform 16, Central Station – Michael Dransfield

‘Five Bells’ has topped previous Australian poetry polls. Does anyone have a link to Lucy Bell’s reading of this Slessor masterpiece?

An aside: wonder if Ern Malley still warrants a mention?

Slider credit: surrealmuse



    • Deb

    • 13 years ago

    Hi Darcy
    Thanks for this post – and for the thread you started on Yammer around this theme. It has stimulated many fond memories of time spent in the company of great poems, and remembering people and experiences attached to them. I have a tattered copy of a poetry text that my Dad owned when he was a lad at school in the 40’s. His was not a happy experience of school – memories of no shoes and punishment. However, when I found this textbook amongst other books at home, he spoke of the rare moments of pleasure that this little book of poems brought to school for him. Just another reminder of the power of poets and their words.
    Regards, Deb

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