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This review is taken from PN Review 41, Volume 11 Number 3, January - February 1985.

AUSTRALIAN STOCK TAKING The Collins Book of Australian Poetry, chosen by Rodney Hall, £13.50

Like lexicographers, anthologists often compile their works by collating earlier ones. Australia has been very well served for anthologies and by histories of its literature, so collation must have been a tempting course. Two quite different editions of the Penguin Book of Australian Verse have appeared; the second, edited by Harry Heseltine in 1972, has a good introductory survey and 400 pages of poems. There's a Penguin collection of Australian Ballads as well. (Heseltine's Penguin Book of Modern Australian Verse doesn't seem to be available in the UK.) Judith Wright edited an anthology for Oxford, and both Sun Books and Angus and Robertson have issued good collections. In the last thirty years there have been a number of books claiming to document the latest movements. John Tranter's The New Australian Poetry in 1979 was typical in its assertion that it illustrated 'that commitment to the overhauling of poetic method and function that seems to become necessary from time to time in any culture'. Eleven years before, the 1960s were collected and represented in similar terms by the young poets Rodney Hall and Tom Shapcott; ten years before that there was Vincent Buckley's Australian Poetry 1958. This is not meant to suggest infinite regress, but to illustrate that although Australia's population may be comparatively small, aspiring poets there as much as elsewhere have regularly suffered from the sense that an Establishment, monolithic and entrenched, rules and keeps the young - read 'innovative' - down.

In asking Rodney Hall ...

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