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Showing posts from October 7, 2012


What is the comparative of prolific? John Kinsella, in this latest extension of his “counter-pastoral” project (The Hierarchy of Sheep, Fremantle Arts Centre Press 1-86368-315-1 85pp) manages a tricky balancing act between the extreme givens of the bush and the fashions of art gallery and English Department. A belligerent posturing is implicit in Kinsella’s term, while there is only so far a poet can be anti-Georgics or extra-Georgics or post-Georgics before the game becomes exhausted or obvious. Nevertheless,   “counter-pastoral” is an extended essay that takes the Pastoral concerns and illusoriness of ancient and 18 th century Europe and tests them against our own realities: environmental degradation, both random and systematic destruction of nature by humans, and a seeming indifference on the part of many Australians to do anything about these things. In the midst of this, at least one vital concern ties us to those earlier Augustan times: livability. At or just below

A Local Habitation

A Local Habitation: Poems and Homilies, by Peter Steele. Edited by Sean Burke. Newman College. $39.95 hb, 168 pp, 9780734041708 Once in a seminar long ago I heard Peter Steele quote one of the more disagreeable opinions of Winston Churchill, noting that Churchill was allowed to say such things ‘because he was Churchill.’ This Churchillian self-definition, or certitude, or authority, or prowess, animates much of Peter Steele’s writings: Steele says this because he is Steele. Nor does he need to be disagreeable to do so. Importantly in the context, we need to balance this with another quote he used once in lectures, this time from the mouth of Benito Mussolini: ‘I have extinguished in myself all egoisms!’ Steele assumed, correctly, that his students would grasp the ludicrous pomposity of Il Duce, someone somewhat lacking in self-awareness. A second message though was that the ego is loose in the world, not least amongst writers, and what shall be done with it?   One answer is