His most personal poetry to date, Adam Aitken’s Archipelago is entirely preoccupied with the experience of living and marrying in France. Much of it written while resident at the Keesing Studio in Paris, and then in the south during a seriously cold spring, many of the poems deal with art, Romantic and Modernist writing and writers, and concepts of nostalgia, spirituality, revolution and resistance. One key question is what France (and Europe generally) mean to an Australian writer, which leads the poet to consider the ‘French inspired’ work of other Australian writers. At a simpler level, the collection attempts to weigh cosmopolitan culture against that of its fictive alternative: semi-rural France, where the poet asks how we might reconcile isolation with social engagement, conservative values with more outward looking perspectives? Adopting the lens of those who live there, Aitken reflects on the region’s Gallo-Roman history, its myths, its communal virtues and constraints, its weather, and on the threats to its ecology.
"France is the context of this intense new volume of poetry from the audacious and culturally investigative poet, Adam Aitken. But this is France seen through the eyes of the traveller and the culturally imbued — a post-colonial sensitivity encountering geography and aesthetics in that way Aitken has of considering both the impact of an environment on the self, and the impact of the self on environment. This is a remarkable book in which a form of différance works in each poem and across the whole — the act of creating poems becomes part of the meaning of the world seen around the poet. Acutely sensitive not only to visual art and literary creativity but to the very persons of the creators, there is a subtextual dialogue that goes on throughout, between the poet and other creators. The act of making is often complex and in compromised environments, where a past of war and devastation edge onto a present of hope and creative affirmation."
Adam Aitken is a poet and non-fiction writer who was born in London and now lives in Sydney. He spent his early childhood in Thailand and Malaysia, before settling in Sydney. He is the author of four full length collections of poetry and a PhD thesis on the Asian Imaginary in Australian literature. He was Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Hawaii, and Poet in Residence at the Keesing Studio in Paris. He co-edited the contemporary Asian Australian Poets anthology (Puncher & Wattmann) in 2013. His memoir One Hundred Letters Home (Vagabond Press) was published in 2016. He studies French at the Alliance Française in Sydney.
In 1996 his second poetry collection In One House was considered one of the best poetry collections of that year. In 2001, his third collection Romeo and Juliet in Subtitles, was shortlisted for the John Bray South Australian Literary Festival Award, and was runner-up for The Age Book of the Year poetry prize. His fourth collection, Eighth Habitation, was published by Giramondo Publishing in April 2009. His writing shows a deep interest in contemporary cultural issues, especially issues of identity and cultural hybridity. Adam's work has been translated into French, Swedish, German, Polish, Malay and Mandarin, and is published internationally, most notably in Poetry Magazine.
Adam Aitken, Archipelago
2017. 112pp. ISBN 978-1-922181-94-7
Release date: July 1.