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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 long dry, green-feed deficient and this the diminishing stock of back-up tucker; the best paddocks up beyond the salt all hoofed and bitten, stray tufts targeted and levelled, dry roots crumbling and dropping to dried-out stream-beds beneath, so no new encrustations of salt emerge back down in the low places, just the old crust, pinking off – at night, the crazy pick-ups spinning wheels and throwing headlights, the bonnets rising and falling in choppy waves, the light as unstable as a camera and the darkness dropping in like black sacking; bleak rabbits dashing about, their blood infra, the forecast – hectic red ...
... 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 more relic-like granite, more history ...

A Swarm of Paragliders: A Poem of Abuse

John Kinsella, 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 cellphones are out of range ...

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 spread, its absorption which is not a formula of depth, width, impact, even with the resistance, the failure of soil to wet, taken into consideration ...

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 ...

Riding the Cobra at the York Show

John Kinsella, 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 ...


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 ...


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,      oxidation: here,      twenty-three years ago you walked in pitch black, sensing salmon gum boundaries, gravel gutters,      tinge of cold heat      buried in fenceline; distantly, the crossroads, and a single intermittent light flashing –      less than flashing, blinking dully – a compulsion      driving the heart rate      up, a languid attraction, low and tremulous ...

Rich Soil, the Mechanism: A Farm Is Sold

John Kinsella, 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 sulphur-crested cockatoos, into the rich red sunset ...
... 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 sound of the cavernous even where the ground is low and saline, she-oak huddle brushing silver magneto, sand and gravel dust kicked out of the rain paste, yes, like water rushing, exhumation of subterranean fractals, wheel ruts filled with rocks, wagon flashbacks, axle through thirteen separate land titles, striking wrong keys like totems not belonging to you, knowing after type is hot set there’s no going back, harvester still perched on rose quartz outcrop,                          tilted away from the sun of pinpointing shadow from fence to shaft,           glow through sustain plasticated Elders For Sale sign anaphoric round boundaries, sober post-restraint            up to salmon gum canopy, cavernous ride through cresting fallaways of ploughing or straight-in seeding, no mucking around, stubble misses like wire bristles so sharply upright, inevitable given data to start with, no accidental imply or implore, well water table hillock osmotically stonewalled or inclined, thick in the throat like spout or distended gullet,                     regurgitating, reflexing sheep picking over red dirt first green carpeting salutations against perfectly stacked hay world, samphire offshoots so sharp with finches still opposite thinning ‘rabbit bush’, Needlings backbone hanging there against gunshot, crossover anatomies hoeing desiccated structure against rain, in shed of pitch and tar, fire roll to circular breaks a holding-off of paranoid potentials,                     slick movements of nomadism, introduced weeds, burrs carted across property on ignorant hobnailed boots prised souls mis-striking wheat no-sprouted, lassitude of foliated salt patch hard on all families, sure, but high on Station Road they sell well at the expense of the low ...

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 ...

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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... twenty years would be worth putting together in an accessible collection, as Bloodaxe has done for John Kinsella. 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 to ...

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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... the Troubles, or Home Fire, Kamila Shamsie’s version of the Antigone in an Islamist setting, or John Kinsella’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 what impelled ...

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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... 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 more distant past, while the Faber book takes as its ...


Seamus Deane, 21 April 1983

The Pleasures of Gaelic Poetry 
edited by Sean Mac Reamoinn.
Allen Lane, 272 pp., £8.95, November 1982, 0 7139 1284 7
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... a voice in Finnegans Wake, managing to lament the issue in something other than English. Thomas Kinsella announces here that ‘there is a sense that it is up to us together to overcome the old dividing idiocies and employ our energies directly, as best we can, on the actual material of the vital inheritance that unites us and divides us.’ The Gaelic poet ...

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