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This review is taken from PN Review 158, Volume 30 Number 6, July - August 2004.

SELF-SUFFICIENT IN POETRY The Best Australian Poems 2003, edited by Peter Craven (Black Inc.) Aus$29.95
The Best Australian Poetry 2003, edited by Bronwyn Lea and Martin Duwell (University of Queensland Press) Aus$22

The great generation of Australian poets that included Gwen Harwood and James McAuley ended in the millennium year with the deaths of its last remaining members, Judith Wright and A.D. Hope. The sense that a golden age had passed pervaded the obituaries, and it is, perhaps, in response to a need to distinguish a new poetic era and decide who its principal figures are that these two books have come into being. They contain, between them, more good poems than the sensible reader has a right to expect. A year, after all, is a short time in poetry, and a very short time in the poetry of one country.

Both books are the first in a projected series of annual anthologies, but in my view The Best Australian Poems, edited by Peter Craven, is the better candidate for reincarnation. Triple the width of the rival anthology, it contains, on the whole, the better poems, and the large selection of work by such poets as Peter Porter, Robert Gray and Les Murray (seventeen pages in the case of Murray) is something for which I'm enormously grateful. By contrast,
The Best Australian Poetry, edited by Martin Duwell, employs a policy (I'm assuming it's that) of just one poem per featured poet. The book is thus more democratic (there are more poets featured in this anthology than in The Best Australian Poems - despite its being a third of the size), though arguably less meritocratic. An innovation of questionable ...


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