John Kinsella, Supervivid Depastoralism
Book description: I don't sleep much or very well (I have a recent book of poetry entitled Insomnia!), but, when I do, I often have supervivid dreams. It is said that in the time of Covid-19, many people are speaking of having more vivid dreams than usual, and though the poems in this manuscript are not-specifically 'Covid-19 poems', at certain points of the manuscript they certainly make contact with this overwhelming reality and condition of crisis. But this is essentially a book in a lifecycle of trying to confront and consider the impacts of colonial agribusiness mono agricultural practices on Australia, and how it is or isn't possible to write about these issues within the conventions of the pastoral tradition of literature. Can 'pastoralism' and environmentalism intersect in meaningful ways or is it all a colonial ruse? As a committed environmentalist and human rights landrights justice campaigner, my poetry necessarily considers the place I work out of (largely wheatbelt Western Australia), and the problems of writing poetry 'about' rurality and ecology, as well as addressing the ongoing colonialism. This new book is an attempt to push my anti, post, counter, and radical pastoral to the point where it also becomes a means of considering where agricultural culpabilities intersect with personal histories and behaviours, where creativity that comes out of a critique of invasive and damaging wrongs is in itself up for question. So this is a work of self-critique, questioning, and also aspiration to vividly confront and find ways through this crisis of presence. The 'Australian Pastoral' is a construct, a propaganda device that suits all sorts of oppressive modes, and is easily a place to retreat into even when it is being questioned: I am trying to bring all this into eclogic discussion, to contest it further as part of a long and linguistically diverse process of contestation. This book 'connects' with other books on 'pastoral' I have written over the decades, including other recent work (in progress) on odes and eclogues (longer pieces largely) - but this is a collection of shorter poems. The book could be subtitled: Eclogix.
John Kinsella is the author of over seventy books of poetry, fiction, criticism, plays, edited works (such as The Penguin Book of Australian Poetry), and collaborative works. His many awards include the Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Poetry, the Victorian Premier’s Award for Poetry, the John Bray Award for Poetry, the Judith Wright Calanthe Award for Poetry (twice) and the Western Australian Premier’s Award for Poetry (three times). Among his recent books published in Australia are Hollow Earth (a novel: Transit Lounge, 2019), Lucida Intervalla (a novel: UWA Publishing, 2018); On the Outskirts (poetry: UQP, 2017), Old Growth (stories: Transit Lounge, 2017), Drowning in Wheat: Selected Poems (Picador, 2016), Crow’s Breath (stories: Transit Lounge, 2015) and Displaced: a rural memoir (Transit Lounge, 2020). He is a Fellow of Churchill College,
Cambridge University, and Professor of Literature and Environment at Curtin University (where he finishes December 31st, 2020). A frequent collaborator with other poets, writers, artist, musicians, and thinkers, he lives on Ballardong Noongar land at ‘Jam Tree Gully’ in the Western Australian wheatbelt (north of Toodyay). In 2007 he received the Christopher Brennan Award for Lifetime Achievement in Poetry.
This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.