Geoff Page, ‘New Selected Poems’ in The Canberra Times

Work crowns Page a prince among Australia's poets

Peter Pierce, February 15 2014


In the vividness and variety of its poetic gallery, in its formal assurance and moral heft, Geoff Page's New Selected Poems is a fitting (though one hopes provisional) summary of a career that is now moving steadily towards its half century. The work collected here is, as he says, ''drawn from more than 40 years of writing''. Excluded are excerpts from his five verse novels (a form flourishing as never before in Australian poetry), as well as his ''tandem translations and … eight-liner travel chapbooks''. What is left is a rich traverse of his roots, in a pastoralist family based by the Clarence River in northern NSW, from which he turned away for the city; numerous plangent investigations of the personal costs of war; poems of travel; light verse, for which Page has as deft a touch as any of his contemporaries.

The book begins with compact images – the ''final bow'' of the ''softshoe possum'' before it becomes road kill, William Carlos Williams on his dual role as poet and general practitioner in Rutherford and jazz – a lifelong love for Page. Poems drawn from his collection Smalltown Memorials (1975) follow. There are character sketches – of a country nun and a man called Bert who is familiar with ''the vagaries of fences and old cows'' and laments for ways of life that are slowly passing away. As always, his eye is both keen and compassionate: ''Out on back-roads/the churches are dying'', ''Yards of dusty/Fords thin out''….


Peter Pierce

Read this review in The Australian

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