A review by Dylan Dartnell of The Fremantle Press Anthology of Western Australian Poetry, edited by John Kinsella and Tracy Ryan.
My first real introduction to poetry was in my high school literature class. My teacher romanticised French winters, nestled by an open fire; drawing on a cup of tea. As she spoke, we could almost catch the fondness of the memory glimmer in her steely, blue eyes. It seemed as if her passion for T.S. Eliot’s collected works were what gave her life and, truthfully, what inspired me to study poetry at a tertiary level.
The Fremantle Press Anthology of Western Australian Poetry (2017) is a reminder that poetry is its own. It breathes, shifts, matures, and beckons the reader to abide in the language. Living in an instantaneous culture of snapshots and captions, the anthology entrusts the reader with the heart of Western Australian poets, spanning across two centuries; a time-capsule of the state’s soul. The reading is not meant to be rushed. It is to be charmed as the experience of reading such rich writing is charming. It is an extraordinary glimpse into the “great diversity and skill… and many cultural threads that inform life in the West”. With the added pleasure of a few familiar names even for the likes of someone who is as fresh to the Western Australian poetry landscape, such as me, including Fay Zwicky, Amanda Joy, 2011 Miles Franklin recipient, Kim Scott, and featuring the rising prowess of Shevaun Cooley and Scott-Patrick Mitchell.
Where possible, the poems are laid out in the order of the poet’s birth or at the time of publication. The editors, John Kinsella and Tracy Ryan, write the anthology’s introduction and provide a thorough explanation of the “historically oriented” composition, acknowledging the life of Western Australian poetry long before “the colonial marker of the Swan River Colony, and prior to that outpost at Albany, and prior to that the contact made by Europeans with Indigenous peoples of the Western seaboard dating back to the sixteenth century…”
Albeit it’s not a French winter, this is still the collection to peruse over the summer holidays, in the sweet moments of quiet that ebb and flow during Christmas and the New Year. The Fremantle Press Anthology of Western Australian Poetry is sure to inspire the next century’s worth of poetry that divulges the heart and soul of Western Australia and the stories of the diverse people groups who call this state home.