Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Anthology Wars...

At the moment I am reading for my PhD various Poetry anthologies of the 1960s and 1970s that helped establish and define new generations of poets. A notable influence on Australian poetry and Australian anthologies was Donald Allen's The New American Poetry (1965) that contains Black Mountain poetry, Beat poetry and work from the New York School. When this anthology landed in Australia, it was for many poets their first opportunity to read across contemporary American poetry from the 50s and 60s that had otherwise been unreleased here or unavailable due to censorship.

The impact of anthologies like this (and Donald Hall's Contemporary American Poetry (1962)) resonated through young Australian poets and this is seen nowhere more obviously than The New Australian Poetry (1979) by John Tranter and also the earlier Australian Poetry Now (1970) ed. by Thomas Shapcott.

Out of these Australian anthologies there emerged in print the 'Generation of '68', at least 24 poets that were looking for alternatives to "the world of Henry Lawson and A.D Hope" (Tranter, 1965, xvii) and being influenced by new American forms, technology, rock and roll music, drugs and "a shift in attitudes to authority" (xvi). Australia's answer to Ginsberg, Kerouac, O'Hara and Ferlinghetti in the form of writers like Bruce Beaver, Michael Dransfield, Nigel Roberts, Robert Adamson and Charles Buckmaster (etc.). It is a fascinating period in Australia's literary history and one that my thesis will revolve around. Here is a poem from one of the '68ers:

by Michael Dransfield

Inertia of a warm day: the
lassitude that comes of
prior opiates and robs my veins
of meaningful blood, or posons
with perilous narcotics. Falling over
a desk, trying to
stay awake when to sleep means death.
Overdose. Nothing left but the
whim of survival. Consciousnes
dedmands vigilence,
the courage of a beaconing lightship
on the wide Sargasso Sea.
unintelligibly through afternoon, across the day's
almost endless expanses, wishing for
the cool shore of dusk. Becalmed now
on Coleridge's painted sea in Rimbaud's
drunken boat. High like de Quincey or Vasco
I set a course
for the Pillars of Hercules, meaning to sail
over the edge of the world


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