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NOT sure if Banjo Paterson’s colt from old Regret was worth a thousand pound or a thousand pounds? Recall reading at school a terrific Judith Wright poem but can’t remember its name? Need a suitable verse for a wedding, or a funeral? Well, help is at hand via the new Australian Poetry Library, a wonderful online archive established by the University of Sydney and the Copyright Agency Limited.
At the time of writing, the library comprised 42,000 poems by 217 Australian poets from Arthur H. Adams to Fay Zwicky. The website is easy to use, allowing you to search for a poem or poet by name, and also to locate poems based on theme (animal poems, say) or form (rhyming poems or haiku, for example). There are useful biographical portraits of poets and valuable mini-essays on forms of poetry. And entire poetry volumes are included, which comes in handy: I couldn’t remember the name of a beautiful David Malouf poem, but I was fairly sure it was in his 2007 collection Typewriter Music. So rather than scroll through all 424 Malouf poems in the library I clicked on the link to Typewriter Music and quickly found the one was looking for: Seven Last Words of the Emperor Hadrian.
The library was the idea of Sydney poet John Tranter, who curated the initial selection. Most of Australia’s best known poets are represented (there are 1687 poems by Les Murray, for starters) but there are some notable omissions: no Clive James (and please no cracks about that being axiomatic in a poetry repository), no Bruce Dawe, who has been on the school curriculum forever, and no Dorothea Mackellar of My Country fame. It is to be hoped that CAL, which handled the negotiations with poets and the publishers, eventually will get everyone on side. An editorial board will oversee the growth of the collection, which will regularly add new poets and poems and other material, including interviews and critical assessments. The library was established with a $600,000 grant from the Australian Research Council and CAL is putting in $150,000 over three years. This seems money well spent. Check it out for yourself at www.poetrylibrary.edu.au/.
Oh, and the colt from old Regret was worth a thousand pound. IT’S poetry of a different sort, but one book generating a lot of buzz on social networking sites is Go the F..k To Sleep, by American novelist (and father of a three-year-old daughter) Adam Mansbach. Illustrated by Ricardo Cortes, it’s a parody of all those kids’ books designed to encourage your little one to go nighty night. Here’s the rather optimistic opening: The cats nestle close to their kittens, the lambs have laid down with the sheep. You’re cozy and warm in your bed, my dear. Please go the f..k to sleep. It gets increasingly desperate from there, and I suspect this one will fly off the shelves when Text releases it here next month.