Tuesday, 23 February 2010

out of the box

The critic Jed Rasula noted in his (somewhat prolix) book The American Poetry Wax Museum the dispiriting feeling induced by those anthologies in which poets represent the nation. He was spot on with that particular comment. How the heart sinks when news is leaked of another Australian anthology purporting to represent the whole, yet in reality arguing for special interests. I fear the new John Leonard anthology is just that especially if, as it seems, he has included in it all the poets from his own publishing house. However, Out of the Box, coming from the same publisher (Puncher & Wattmann) is something else entirely. The subtitle says it is an anthology of ‘Contemporary Australian Gay and Lesbian Poets’. It seems to me that it is the best Australian anthology for some years now. Of course it includes some poets whose work I’m not particularly enamoured of, but the arrangement of the texts (in alphabetical order of title) while seemingly arbitrary avoids altogether the hierarchies anthologies inevitably impose on their components and this makes all the poems work to contribute to the whole. The introductions by the editors, Michael Farrell and Jill Jones, are exemplary and the volume is beautifully designed, i.e. it isn’t an insult to the writers whose work it contains (Penguin take note!).

No comments: