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John Kinsella

John Kinsella’s most recent collection is Shades of the Sublime and Beautiful, which came out last year. He is the editor of ThePenguin Anthology of Australian Poetry.

Poem: ‘Yellow’

John Kinsella, 14 May 2009

Tim has been filed in Yellow Faction at school. He is frustrated and angry: he wants to be in Red Faction, especially for the Cross Country, which even five-year-olds train for in the Bush. Character building. Robust. Preparatory. I take him out to the garden where I have piled the spent broad bean stalks, grey ropes of pea vines, dead clumps of wild oats, for a quick burning-off. We are...

Head down on the desk, he hides tears that force their way out, warping ink of words he can’t read.Isoglosses: smudges of dialect, script across areas of page, title deeds to land his grandfather collated: blocks of mallee, caprock, breakaways, map the farm: vast cleared spaces, fencelines, patches of scrub, irrepressible cairns of rock picked when paddock-making, maintaining: each year...

Poem: ‘Le Rêve du jaguar’

Leconte de L’Isle, translated by John Kinsella, 10 April 2008

Beneath dark mahogany trees, in the stagnant, Humid air, saturated with flies, hang flowering Lianas coiling up from vine stumps, lulling The splendid and quarrelsome parrot, The yellow-backed spider and wild monkeys. Here is where the slayer of oxen and horses, Sinister and weary, returns with measured Steps along the mossy bark of old dead trunks. On he goes, rubbing his muscular arched...

3. Night Recall Station Road: typed in darkness

Walwalinj silhouette blown sharp          flooded gum overhang a blackly sparkling canker, short shirted birdcall in damp,                     like running the car slow along Station Road to complete a...

Poem: ‘Intermitting’

John Kinsella, 3 November 2005

Outside, intermitting thunder; habituating      the place of lightning a spectrum flourished      where wire stretched thirty-three years ago,      just broken through – rust;      a pair of massive wedge-tailed eagles flew towards each other then counter-circled,...

Hoodwinked by the flat-lining, inside out Silver lining of every absent cloud, A clear day halo, a vulcanised rout Of dust and eucalypt, diesels and loud Stereos hyping up an eager crowd: Addendum to truck and trailer, it rears Up and contorts, hydraulically proud, Eyes in the back of the head, cobra peers Out into the hills and paddocks: it fears

Less with each scream. Down there –...

Over the mountain they vacillate. Not quite flies over dung – the mountain is too good for that. And flies land – these hover, and resist landing as long as possible. They need the mountain to stay up there – in their bullshit freedom, coming down as far away from their launch place as they can. Setting club records. Causing distress to old men in fields and kids alone in...

Poem: ‘Rain Gauge’

John Kinsella, 19 September 2002

Millpoint throaty guzzler, wishful choker as dust films throat, to measure up, squalls with hooks and introversions, bale-hooks, moebius comeback though sharp and sliced from the same stretch, to hang up or catch skin to ripen blood-eating earth, so sharp needles of rain crosscut, score soil and tease seeds, to calibrate the empty out and add up, it says enough but penetration’s not...

Poem: ‘Hectic Red’

John Kinsella, 2 March 2000

Quartz sparks randomly on the pink and white crust of the salt flats, spread out beyond the landing, where bags of grain – wheat and oats in plastic and hessian – lips sewn shut, packed tight, flexing dust and dragging their feet to the edge, are tipped onto the truck – feed- grain, filling out the flattop, another body sack waiting to be fed, from top to bottom, the sheep...

Two Poems

John Kinsella, 15 July 1999

Shoes Once Shod in a Blacksmith’s Shop

Shoes once shod in a blacksmith’s shop rust on hooves lying on the rough edge            of a paddock, horse skeletons mingle with broken hoppers & elevators & the iron-ringed wheels of surface strippers –...

Deep in the Valley rich soil drives the mechanism. Grain spills from the husks. Despite the season of recovery, the family is forced to sell up – a lost century becomes a dynasty and the rich soil becomes polluted. They’ve cleared and shaped the place, a portrait of themselves. On a summer evening they’ll look out over the paddocks, over burnt stubble, over stands of mallee,...

The History of Tragedy

John Kerrigan, 20 December 2018

In​ the first book of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh, the heroine remembers her childhood. Orphaned in Italy and educated by her aunt in an English country house, she was given...

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MacSweeney, Kinsella and Harrison

Nigel Wheale, 1 October 1998

A tear caught in a mussel shell turns to pearl, the Ancients believed. Barry MacSweeney’s The Book of Demons begins among the living with ‘Pearl’, a 22-poem sequence evoking a...

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