a pair of

ragged claws

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Stephen Romei

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.

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