With the Best Australian Poems series, we’re handed a grouping of Australian poetry in a snapshot that defines us as a nation of writers and readers. The 2015 result is, unfortunately, watered down by its marketing aims, feeling more like a high-school textbook than the difficult genesis of poetic tradition. (The great irony is that if it was a high school text book, it would probably out-sell all other Australian poetry titles as a result).
With all this said, before you get on your soapbox and curse me at the poetry slam, reviews are personal (honest ones, anyway), though understood to be written for public consumption. What I’m saying is I would have done a different job than Geoff Page. I’m certain there are readers out there who will pick up this anthology in the way Page intended, and for those humble few, I’m glad, if a little disappointed at the poets they’ll miss out on.
The thing I respect most about the best contemporary Australian poetry is its bravery, its successes in spite of a lack of reach and marketability. The best Australian poetry has melody as well as melodrama, a tradition of a language caught in multicultural maelstrom, a poetry that dares to just go on its nerve. If we dare to try to sum up its parts, we should simply and fearlessly do so.