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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 hollow-gutted in the ...

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 there and lateral ...
22 May 2008
... 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 upturning ...

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 –            sprouted grain thick on the ground, like chemically stimulated hair. The warped screens of a seed cleaner buried to the ...
3 September 1998
... 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, through a flock of ...


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,      creating a cylindrical reservoir, a dead zone.      The unsolved beacon, an avatar, prodigious interlude ...
18 November 2004
... 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 – about to wake ...


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 making ash ...
23 September 2004
... 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 farmhouses when their ...

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 Back, and ...
23 February 2006
... 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 second program, to rebus and whorl the Cross Road unlocking, road driven like an arched back under which all is hollow, the ...

Sweeno’s Beano

Nigel Wheale: MacSweeney, Kinsella​ and Harrison

1 October 1998
The Book of Demons 
by Barry MacSweeney.
Bloodaxe, 109 pp., £7.95, September 1997, 1 85224 414 3
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Poems 1980-94 
by John Kinsella.
Bloodaxe, 352 pp., £9.95, April 1999, 1 85224 453 4
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The Silo: A Pastoral Symphony 
by John Kinsella.
Arc, 108 pp., £7.95, January 1997, 1 900072 12 2
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The Kangaroo Farm 
by Martin Harrison.
Paper Bark, 79 pp., £8.95, May 1998, 0 9586482 4 7
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... beauty and wounded humour which his writing also offers. MacSweeney’s poetry from the last twenty years would be worth putting together in an accessible collection, as Bloodaxe has done for JohnKinsella. Poems 1980-94 reprints his first eight books and some early poems. The collection is evidence of an energetic, wide-ranging spirit intent on extending several strands of Australian poetry. According ...

Green Martyrs

Patricia Craig

24 July 1986
The New Oxford Book of Irish Verse 
edited by Thomas Kinsella.
Oxford, 423 pp., £12.50, May 1986, 0 19 211868 4
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The Faber Book of Contemporary Irish Poetry 
edited by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 415 pp., £10.95, May 1986, 0 571 13760 1
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Irish Poetry after Joyce 
by Dillon Johnston.
Dolmen, 336 pp., £20, September 1986, 0 85105 437 4
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... anthologies and a critical study – is notable for its exclusions, among other things; each takes a strong line over questions of definition and evaluation; and each contains much to applaud. Thomas Kinsella’s New Oxford Book goes right back to the beginning, to a rath in front of an oak wood singled out for comment by some anonymous poet of the sixth century, and cherished as a survival from an even ...

Faint Sounds of Shovelling

John​ Kerrigan: The History of Tragedy

20 December 2018
Ladies’ Greek: Victorian Translations of Tragedy 
by Yopie Prins.
Princeton, 297 pp., £24, April 2017, 978 0 691 14189 3
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Greek Tragic Women on Shakespearean Stages 
by Tanya Pollard.
Oxford, 331 pp., £60, September 2017, 978 0 19 879311 3
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Eclipse of Action: Tragedy and Political Economy 
by Richard Halpern.
Chicago, 313 pp., £34, April 2017, 978 0 226 43365 3
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Samson Agonistes: A Redramatisation after Milton 
by John Kinsella.
Arc, 109 pp., £10.99, October 2018, 978 1 911469 55 1
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... chapters. Think of Colm Tóibín’s rewrite, in House of Names, of the Oresteia in the shadow of the Troubles, or Home Fire, Kamila Shamsie’s version of the Antigone in an Islamist setting, or JohnKinsella’s new update of Samson Agonistes. As it happens​ , Halpern’s insights can unlock much in those works. His account of Samson Agonistes, for example, goes a long way towards explaining ...

Long Goodbye

Derek Mahon

20 November 1980
Why Brownlee left 
by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 48 pp., £3, September 1980, 0 571 11592 6
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Poems 1956-1973 
by Thomas Kinsella.
Dolmen, 192 pp., £7.50, September 1980, 0 85105 365 3
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Constantly Singing 
by James Simmons.
Blackstaff, 90 pp., £3.95, June 1980, 0 85640 217 6
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A Part of Speech 
by Joseph Brodsky.
Oxford, 151 pp., £4.95, September 1980, 0 19 211939 7
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Collected poems 1931-1974 
by Lawrence Durrell.
Faber, 350 pp., £9, September 1980, 0 571 18009 4
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... with waist-length beard and hair who forgives the narrator and tells him to bring a dish of banana-nut icecream? Is O’Leary of the Police Department on the level? (An Irish-American, he is, like John F. Kennedy, ‘not much better than ourselves’.) Who is the dame on the phone who tells the narrator to come to the Atlantic Club between six and seven: ‘And when you come, to come alone’? Why ...

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