Bonny Cassidy 24 December 2013
How soon is now?
Published in last Saturday's Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, Andrew Riemer’s review of The Best Australian Poems 2013 is a blink-and-miss-it generalisation about the way language is locally shaped.
Firstly, I must declare that I am one of the poets represented in the anthology. I don’t wish to review Riemer’s review; but it seems impossible to point out its critical shortcomings without doing so. A cropped and functional summary of the Black Inc Best Australian series of 2013, his review is about all that could be expected from the bizarre editorial decision to address three anthologies in one go. The unfortunate product, however, is an unexamined statement about poetry here and now.
Riemer’s main point is that the anthology’s “poems are isolated utterances, remote, in a way, from notions of literary or poetic traditions.” While he carefully explains that this is an observation rather than a tacit criticism, Riemer rehearses a tired view of the abstraction of language: apart from an aging, male generation of lyric poets, we are amidst a “zeitgeist” of linguistic play in which “few seek to disclose an individual perspective on the world”. It’s not that Riemer is wrong in his observation of “isolated utterance”— just forty years late. It makes you feel as if the National Gallery of Australia had only just bought Blue Poles.