John Tranter (editor), The Best Australian Poems 2012 (Black Inc 2012)
My note on this book in the little blog where I keep a note of my reading provoked an anonymous comment full of rage and despair. (I’m linking to it, because it seems a pity that such passion should go almost unheard.) It may be that the commenter didn’t actually have this book in mind, since the poem s/he singled out for particular spleen is actually in last year’s Best Australian Poems, but it’s probably inevitable that any anthology claiming to be the best of something will annoy someone, especially if they’ve got a dog in the fight themselves.
Although I’d secretly love someone to decide that my November Sonnets were works of genius, I didn’t actually have a dog in this fight. So I wasn’t annoyed. I can’t say that I was swept away either. I’d read and enjoyed about half a dozen of the poems, and was delighted to see them included. And there are fine poems by many writers whose work I know, and by many I don’t. John Tranter’s own contribution, at the conclusion of his introduction, is a kind of cento – an assemblage of lines and images from the chosen poems, but with Tranteresque impersonality they don’t form a coherent whole but are ‘chosen more or less at random’.
Some previously unpublished poems were submitted directly to this anthology. But most appeared previously in a wide range of publications, including books, literary journals and newspapers. Both Quadrant and Overland get a guernsey, likewise both Fairfax and Murdoch – a touch of poetry making the whole world kin? But why, I ask querulously, is there nothing from the paper I subscribe to, the Sydney Morning Herald? And I answer even more querulously because poems turn up in the Sydney Morning Herald only slightly more often than teeth in hens. SMH, Susan Wyndham, literary editor of the SMH.
Added a couple of hours later: I know this post isn’t a review. As it happens, Ali Alizadeh’s excellent discussion of the book went up on the Cordite Poetry Review site not long after I posted my little piece. I recommend it.