Australian Print Poetry and the Small Press: Who’s Doing the Books?

By | 24 February 2012

Poetry Only

There are relatively few small Australian presses that strictly publish poetry. Pardalote Press in Tasmania is one such press, specialising in ‘haiku, haiku-related forms, and translations of ancient Chinese poetry with bilingual text’. John Leonard Press is another such example with an impressive stable of authors, to whom the press is most loyal and vice versa. More than any other small press in Australia, JLP has sculpted its own school. Micro publishers Sunline Press also maintains a small list of poetry-only collections and criticism.

Poet Carol Jenkins is five years into running River Road Press, a publisher that is not only all poetry, but all audio recordings as well – its print runs being CDs rather than paperbacks. Says Jenkins of River Road, ‘[We] recognise the need to record and preserve the richness and diversity of contemporary Australian poetry and, over time, it will grow into an important cultural record.’

Indeed, Jenkins has beat me to the punch of success – by miles – in the audio archival space when efforts at getting my own Lomax Redux (as homage to Alan Lomax, folk-music field recorder) project off any semblance of a runway flopped (e.g., funding, which I failed to obtain at every turn). The plan was to record and press a lengthy poem or two from notable Australian poets onto 7” vinyl records, creating something fun for the authors to sell at a reasonable price after a reading, similar to chapbooks, but also to capture the rich textures of voice on a format – and, as importantly, permanently within an artifact – that digital recordings cannot provide. First up was Dorothy Porter, who was very excited at the prospect of going into the studio like a rock star. Three rounds of unsuccessful grant applications and then … Australia lost a fine poet. That was pretty much that. My own attempts to run a small poetry press kaput, and inconsequential compared to the ravages of cancer and lives.

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