Poetry for these times and all times

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Poetry can be edgy, important and helpful in times of crisis. It offers new images to displace cliches, tools to break up old ideas that loop around in the same old ways. Poetry can take us to another place and offer oblique insights into the extraordinariness of ordinary moments. It connects us emotionally, take us beyond ourselves. It might bring solace but it will also bring surprises, shake us up, call us to account. The fragmented forms of poetry seem to be just the right size and space for these times. Approach a book of poetry like a divining rod – let it fall open anywhere and trust that something will speak back to you. Try this sampler of new Australian poetry, in any particular order. Read the poems out aloud.  


Guwayu — For All Times, edited by Jeanine Leane, published by Magabala Books (2020)  

A multilingual collection of poetry by First Nations Australian poets commissioned by Red Room Poetry.


Kindred, by Kirli Saunders, published by Magabala Books (2019) 

A deeper dive into the work of an important contemporary Aboriginal Australian poet. More coming soon.


Sun Music: New and Selected Poems, by Judith Beveridge, published by Giramondo (2018)

An overview of the work of the most generous and precise contemporary poets in this country.


Towards the End, by Ali Alizadeh, published by Giramondo Publishing (2020)

An sharp-tongued collection that documents damage produced by racism and capitalism in contemporary Australia.


Empirical, by Lisa Gorton, published by Giramondo (2019)

A poetic engagement with place, memory, history and culture that is anchored in Melbourne’s Royal Park.


Heide, by π.O., published by Giramondo Publishing (2019)

Another iconic place, Heide Museum of Art, explored by this chronicler of life in Melbourne.


A Kinder Sea, by Felicity Plunkett, published by UQP (2020)

Now we are by the sea, and exploring relationships bound and linked to the sea, in this lyrical collection.


apparently, by joanne burns, published by Giramondo (2019)

Smart, surreal and concise rearrangements of everyday life.


Collected poems, by Les Murray, published by Black Inc (2018)

Updated to encompass the robust and lifelong contribution of this major Australian poet.


A Trillion Tiny Awakenings, by Candy Royalle, UWA Publishing (2018)

This dynamic, queer, far-too-young feminist performance poet passed away in the year this collection was published.  


Homeland The Saturday portraits, by Maxine Beneba Clarke, published by Hachette Australia (2019)

Everyone who became addicted, as I did, to these spacious and sharp weekly portraits in ‘The Saturday Paper’ will be thrilled with this collection.  


Calling: Words from a New Generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voices, edited by Ellen van Neerven, published by Explore Australia (2020)

Hip hop song lyrics and poems from First Nations young people from around Australia, a project from Desert Pea Media with accompanying Spotify and YouTube playlists.


Slam your poetry: Write a revolution, by Miles Merrill and Narcisa Nozica, published by New South Publishing (2020)

Not strictly a poetry collection but a guidebook to developing performance poetry co-authored by slam poet and originator of Word Travels, and an award-winning Sydney high school teacher.


List compiled by Susanne Gannon

Associate Professor, School of Education, Western Sydney University

WestWords Board of Directors